2021 NFL Playoffs Preview and Predictions: NFC Edition

As the year turns to 2021, it signifies the end to the dreadful year of 2020, and the conclusion of the NFL regular season. The 2020 NFL Season was very different from ones prior but it was still able to complete a full 17 week regular season. This is the first year with 14 teams now eligible to compete for a Lombardi trophy instead of 12, which will make Wild Card weekend much more action packed. With 12 of the 14 teams set to kickoff their playoff campaign this weekend, let’s see what each team had to accomplish to get to January football. And also predict the outcome of the games that lie ahead.


1. Green Bay Packers (13-3) 

This season has been Aaron Rodgers’ and we are all witnesses of it. During the offseason last season, the Packers traded up in the NFL Draft to select quarterback Jordan Love to possibly succeed Rodgers instead of drafting a wide receiver or tight end to bolster the Packers offense. Aaron Rodgers has responded to these decisions by the front office by absolutely torching opponents defenses and could run away with his third MVP award. 

But Rodgers is not the only player on Green Bay who has had a career year. Davante Adams finished with the most receiving touchdowns in the NFL with over 1,300 receiving yards. This came with Adams missing two games as well. The Packers overall are the most complete team in the NFC by far with an explosive offense and a defense that looks to be getting better every week. With the NFC being much more top heavy than the AFC, there seems that there are not many opponents that will be capable of taking the Packers down in January. 


2. New Orleans Saints (12-4) 

The Saints once again are the NFC South Champs. However, this is not without some adversity. The team has struggled through injuries and issues with the coronavirus. Star wide receiver Michael Thomas has been out with an injured ankle and calf for the majority of the season but should be set to return for the playoffs. Quarterback Drew Brees broke his ribs which resulted in quarterback/tight end hybrid Taysom Hill to start multiple games. And dual threat running back Alvin Kamara tested positive for COVID-19 this past week.

But despite all these issues on offense the Saints were still able to produce on the field. The New Orleans defense has been great at holding low point total on opponents which will be crucial for them to get past teams like Seattle and Green Bay. The Saints will probably get back Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara in time for Sunday’s matchup against the Bears which will be a huge plus for the team. But they still will need a lot of production to get past a team like the Packers.


3. Seattle Seahawks (12-4) 

The Seahawks have been a bit of a confusing team this season. At the start of the year, the offense was on an absolute tear with Russell Wilson being a leading candidate for MVP. The defense was one of the worst units in the NFL that gave up an average of 30 points per game through the first half of the season. However, the offense and defense took complete turns in the second half of the schedule with Wilson and the offense struggling to put up points against teams like Washington, the Giants, and Rams. While the defense was much better against teams like the Cardinals, Washington, and Rams. 

If Seattle can have consistent offensive production throughout the playoffs, the team can compete against everyone. The Seahawks need their big name players to produce. D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Chris Carson, and Jamal Adams need to have consistent production for Seattle to advance past the divisional round. 


4. Washington Football Team (7-9) 

What a year it has been for Washington. Their team decided to retire their past nickname of 88 years, their new head coach coached while undergoing cancer treatments, and former starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins was released by the team. Still, the Washington Football Team won the NFC East and is in the playoffs. Thanks to easily one of the worst performances from a division ever. The 7-9 Washington Football team will host a playoff game. Washington started the season 2-7 with little to no hopes for the playoffs. However, thanks to the help of Alex Smith at quarterback and the performance of the Washington defense, they finished the season winning 5 of their last 7 games. 

Washington will face Tom Brady and the Buccaneers on Saturday which many are believing will be an easy win for Tampa. But Washington has been supported with a Top 3 Defense in the NFL. Washington also has their two best offensive weapons back in Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson. Ron Rivera is a great coach that has changed the culture in Washington for the better. And he may get a playoff win against Tom Brady as a result.


5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) 

Tom Brady is once again back in the playoffs. There is just one difference from his past playoff appearances: He is on another team. Brady is hoping to lead the Bucs to the Super Bowl (Which will be held in Tampa Bay) in their first playoff game since 2007. The Bucs are filled with talent on both sides of the ball. Tampa has the likes of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, and even Antonio Brown. Their run game is a shared backfield with explosive back Ronald Jones and powerful Leonard Fournette. The Defense is covered with veterans and young rookies in every area of the field. Their pass rush is led by Shaq Barrett with a dual threat of Lavonte David and Devin White at Linebacker. Finally, the secondary is locked down with young players like Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting that is responsible for the 5th most takeaways in the NFL. 

There is however, one problem with Tampa Bay. They are wildly inconsistent with team performances. They have a win versus a team like the Packers but have lost to the Bears and have been humiliated by the Saints twice. If this team can get their offense and defense to perform at a high level for sixty minutes, they can beat any team. If not, it is possible the Buccaneers can fall to a team like Washington. 


6. Los Angeles Rams (10-6) 

The Rams have struggled the past few weeks with their offense and injuries to key players. Despite this, they still were able to beat the short handed Cardinals and make it into the playoffs. If Quarterback Jared Goff returns to play on Saturday, the Rams have a legitimate shot of winning. If he doesn’t, the team’s hopes look bleak. 

Los Angeles is the definition of a “wildcard team”; nobody is sure on what team they will get. Assuming that Goff comes back for their game, you could see the Rams team that beat Seattle and Tampa Bay earlier in the year. Or we could see the team that lost to the 2-14 Jets. For the most part, the Rams defense has consistently been great against opponents and hopes to continue that against an inconsistent offense in Seattle. I think the Rams defense has what it takes to stop teams like Seattle, New Orleans, and even Green Bay. It will just depend on how the offense compliments them. 


7. Chicago Bears (8-8) 

If there is any team in this group of 14 that honestly doesn’t look like it belongs in the playoff it would probably be the Bears. Chicago started the season 5-1 with the team benching Mitchell Trubisky after the third game. The Bears then lost six straight games to fall all the way to 5-7, making the postseason an afterthought. Just when many wrote the Bears off, Chicago won three straight to put themselves into position to make the playoffs. The Bears would have to beat the Packers or hope the Cardinals lost to get in. Chicago got smoked by Green Bay and displayed the performance of a team that does not deserve to be in the playoffs. Despite this, the Cardinals lost to the Rams as their starting Quarterback got injured early in the game and they never recovered. This resulted in the Bears getting the final spot in the playoffs. 

The Bears will most likely be without Linebacker Roquan Smith and Receiver Darnell Mooney for their matchup against the Saints this weekend. Trubisky and the offense has looked a lot better in the past month. But when you look at the defenses they have played you would understand why it has improved. With wins versus the Texans (4-12), Vikings (7-9), and Jaguars (1-15) all of those teams are in the bottom 10 of points per game allowed in the NFL. Chicago will need to play a near perfect game against the Saints to win and even hope for some luck to go their way. 


NFC Wild Card Matchups: 

New Orleans Saints vs 7. Chicago Bears 3:40 CBS (Sunday) 

If the Saints play the type of football they have played for most of the season, they should not have too much trouble with the mediocrity defined Bears. Especially if they get Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas back for the game. The Saints Defense should stuff the Bears passing attack and the offense should be able to control the ball pretty easily against the struggling Bears defense. 

If the Bears want any hope of winning this game, Chicago will need David Montgomery to continue to have another great game on the ground and Mitchell Trubisky may need to play the best game of his career. It still is not known whether Trubisky will be back with the Bears next season. So Trubisky will need to have the game of his life if they Bears want to steal a win in New Orleans. I wouldn’t count on it. 

Final Score: New Orleans 27-10