It’s that time of year again: NFL Playoff season is here. As teams battle it out over the coming weeks for a chance to play in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota, fans get fierce when it comes to supporting their teams. What about those of us who want to enjoy what is sure to be a series of epic playoff games, but aren’t NFL experts? As usual, we’ve got you covered; whether you want to look like a pro for your boss, coworkers, or for Sundays spent with friends and family, here’s what you need to know coming into this NFL playoff season.
Let’s start with the basics. Eight teams move onto the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs – four from the American Football Conference (AFC) and four from the National Football Conference (NFC). This year, those teams are (in no order):
The Patriots, Steelers, Eagles, and Vikings are the division leaders for the AFC and NFC; all four teams ended the series with a 13-3 win-loss record. The Titans, Jaguars, Falcons and Saints earned their playoff spots by winning their respective Wild Card games last weekend.
New England Patriots
You don’t need to know football to have heard of the Patriots. A powerhouse team in the league led by 5-time Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady, the Patriots seem like the team to beat this year. Winning Super Bowl LI in a stunning, come-from-behind victory last year, the Patriots are no stranger to the pressures of playoff football and will certainly bring their A-game.
The Steelers are another franchise that is no stranger to the NFL post-season. With 8 Super Bowl appearances and thirty playoff appearances throughout the team’s history, this is another team to watch. Notable players include: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.
Despite being NFC Division leaders, the Eagles are actually considered an underdog this post-season with the devastating injury QB Carson Wentz sustained earlier in December. His torn A.C.L has put him out for the rest of the season putting a serious damper on any hopes Eagles fans had of their first franchise Super Bowl title… or did it?
Another injury stricken team, the Vikings have proven themselves worthy contenders this season even after their star QB Sam Bradford suffered a knee injury midway through the season. Case Keenum led the team to many victories throughout the rest of the season; playing in his first career playoff start this weekend — against a long-time rival team the New Orleans Saints no less — this game is the Viking’s first, and possibly biggest, test this post-season.
Heading into their first playoffs in 9 years, the Titans rely heavily on the rushing attacks of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. However, their success will depend on the performance of QB Marcus Mariota as the Titans attempt to run their way straight to Super Bowl Sunday.
After last year’s upsetting overtime loss at the Super Bowl against the Patriots, the Falcons enter this playoff season with one objective: don’t repeat last year. The Falcon’s defence is a force to be reckoned with; especially going into their game this weekend with the Eagles, a team that relies on their running game.
New Orleans Saints
The most important game for the Saints will be this weekend versus the Vikings. The team’s rivalry dates back years as the aggressive offence of the Saints will battle the dynamic defence of the Vikings on Sunday. There’s no way around it, this game will be a true test of skill for both teams.
The Jaguars have a tough road ahead of them this postseason. Their solid defensive line will not be enough to compensate for the recently spotty offence. Having only scored one touchdown over their last two regular season games, the Jaguars need their offence to work in order to move through to the next playoff round.
Stay tuned for more 2017 NFL Playoff updates as the road to Super Bowl LI continues.