We did it guys!
The 2019 regular season has come and gone and the playoffs are set. Overall, I can’t really gripe with the twelve teams that made it, and I don’t believe any teams were truly snubbed due to injuries (except Pittsburgh, but they really choked towards the end).
This week, I’m giving you all a massive article chock full of goodies. I’m going to give my final award predictions, power rankings of the aforementioned playoff teams, dole out my new coach predictions for the teams with openings, and last but not least, pick the games for the four matchups this upcoming weekend. Let’s get right to it!
2019 NFL AWARD PREDICTIONS
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR – TE Darren Waller – Oakland Raiders
Waller overcame major substance abuse problems in his first few seasons in the league only to form into one of the game’s best weapons at tight end. The clear #1 target in Oakland, Waller finished the season with 90 receptions for 1145 yards. The Raiders are on the upswing it appears, and Waller will need to continue this level of play for that to come into fruition.
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR – QB Kyler Murray – Arizona Cardinals
Giving up on Josh Rosen and taking Kyler Murray first overall in the 2019 draft looks very smart right now for Steve Keim and the Cardinals. Despite a lackluster 5-10-1 record, Murray showed flashes of why he was the #1 overall pick with 24 total touchdowns and a respectable 55.5 QBR, which ranked #15th in the league.
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR – ED Nick Bosa – San Francisco 49ers
When you, as a rookie, are the driving force behind the defense of the #1 seed in the NFC, you get rewarded for it. We all knew the younger Bosa brother was a force to be reckoned with when he got drafted, and he did not disappoint, earning Pro Bowl honors with 9 sacks, one forced fumble, and one interception.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR – RB Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers
I don’t care if the Panthers lost their last nine games in a row because it certainly wasn’t McCaffrey’s fault. The best running back in football became the third player after Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk to run for over 1,000 yards AND earn 1,000 receiving yards as well.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR – ID Aaron Donald – Los Angeles Rams
Boohoo, the Rams didn’t make the playoffs and they had the #17th ranked defense this year. Guess what? In 2018, when they made it to the Super Bowl, they had the #20th ranked defense!
This race is wide-open, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see someone like Stephon Gilmore or Chandler Jones win. Yet to act like Donald had a down year by any means is ludicrous, and is a testament as to why he is arguably the best overall player in the NFL.
COACH OF THE YEAR – Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers
While there is certainly a slew of great candidates, such as John Harbaugh, Matt LaFleur, and even Brian Flores (five wins for Miami!), this has to go to Shanahan. He has overtaken Sean McVay as the NFL’s best offensive play-caller and is the major reason for the Niners’ 2019 success.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER – QB Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Not much of a debate after Patrick Mahomes missed three and a half games, Jackson put himself into elite territory this year. The engine behind the best rushing-attack in NFL history, the sophomore signal-caller accounted for 43 total touchdowns while only fumbling nine times. He broke Michael Vick’s quarterback rushing record with 1,206 yards on the ground and led the Ravens to an NFL best 14-2 record this season. Deserving MVP? You bet your dairy-air.
2019 PLAYOFF TEAM RANKINGS
In descending order, here are my power rankings for the 2019 NFL playoff teams. Outside of pure talent, I also factored in health, point differential, momentum, and strength of schedule. If two of these teams have faced off during the regular season, that doesn’t mean the winner of that game will be ranked higher.
12. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (9-7)
Although clearly the worst team in the field, the Eagles have rallied around their injuries and snuck into the playoffs thanks to the exceptional play of Carson Wentz.
11. BUFFALO BILLS (10-6)
Put an above-average quarterback in the game, this team could be a real sleeper. Unfortunately, I just don’t see Josh Allen propelling this team to great heights on offense.
10. TENNESSEE TITANS (9-7)
Who would’ve thought benching Marcus Mariota for Ryan Tannehill would lead to the kind of success the Titans had? With Tannehill’s performance, plus Derrick Henry’s elite play and a stifling defense, that’s exactly what happened.
9. HOUSTON TEXANS (10-6)
No one’s saying that Houston has a dearth of elite talent, as any team with Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt should be good. However, their lack of depth and weak defense puts them in this spot.
8. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (10-6)
Mike Zimmer’s team was able to get back into the playoffs thanks in large part to a great defense and breakout seasons for Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook, but can they finally show out in big-stage games?
7. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (11-5)
Normally a team with only a +7 point differential would be lower on this list. Yet Pete Carroll Is an incredible coach and you can never, ever count out Russell Wilson.
6. GREEN BAY PACKERS (13-3)
It’s surprising that this team went 13-3, but not as hysterical as the media would have you to believe. Finally, we get a Green Bay team with a strong running game and elite defense in the playoffs. Also, Aaron Rodgers is… exactly that.
5. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (12-4)
Forget about how bad they looked as a unit against Miami in Week 17. New England may have lost the bye, but they certainly can’t be counted out with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick still breathing.
4. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (13-3)
Ever since Drew Brees returned from his broken thumb, this team has looked like a force to be reckoned with. Hopefully, no referee shenanigans happen this year.
3. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (12-4)
If their elite offense wasn’t enough, the KC defense has been playing at a tremendous level as of late. This could very well be the year for Andy Reid to get his ring.
2. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (13-3)
Kyle Shanahan has proven his status as an elite coach in this league, taking a team with not many household names outside of George Kittle and Richard Sherman and turning them into a powerhouse.
1. BALTIMORE RAVENS (14-2)
Talk about establishing the run. The NFL record-holder for most total rushing yards in the season, there has yet to be a team that has proven to slow down this Lamar Jackson-led offense.
2019 NFL COACH HIRING PREDICTIONS
As of now, there are four head coach openings in the NFL, and the Cowboys aren’t one of them. It has been suspected that Dallas will simply allow Jason Garrett’s contract to expire in a few weeks. When the inevitable happens, I like Lincoln Riley or Urban Meyer to make the jump to the NFL.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS – Ron Rivera* (made official Tuesday)
The first official hiring of the 2020 coaching cycle, the Redskins made a superb choice, and any day you fire Bruce Allen and bring in Riverboat Ron is a good one. This is a five-year deal, so Rivera will get a lot of rope for this organization. Others appear confused as to why Rivera would choose Washington instead of any of the other job openings? Well, he probably didn’t want to move his family far from their home in Carolina. Don’t forget the Redskins won the Chase Young sweepstakes so that defense has the potential to be very much improved next season. All in all, a fantastic hire for the Redskins.
NEW YORK GIANTS – Matt Rhule, HC of Baylor Bears
This one appears to almost be at the finish line barring anything odd happening. Rhule is a native New Yorker with history in the Giants organization (offensive coach in 2012) and has taken two no-name NCAA teams in Temple and Baylor and each respective time has turned them into great, double-digit winning teams. Lauded for his coaching style and personality, Rhule would be a good hire for a Giants team that needs to earn some respect back.
CAROLINA PANTHERS – Eric Bienemy, OC for Kansas City Chiefs
As of right now, new Carolina owner David Tepper looks like he’ll have the patience for a full-fledged rebuild. It’s hard to blame them, and going from Cam Newton to either Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields is about as seamless a transition as possible. When a team isn’t expected to be competitive, the best route to go is choosing a leader who will get the most out of your team (see: Flores, Brian). Eric Bienemy could be that guy for the Panthers. Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid has already said Bienemy is one of the best leaders he’s ever been around, and his current offensive system would blend well with the speed of D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel in Carolina.
CLEVELAND BROWNS – Josh McDaniels, OC for New England Patriots
Think about what we thought of the Browns this time last year. 2019 could be the year! Well, it wasn’t, and now after firing Freddie Kitchens and John Dorsey, they have become the most dysfunctional team.
How do we help with that? Let’s hire an offensive coordinator with anger issues who was not only bad in his first tenure as head coach, but bailed on his second opportunity! This isn’t what I would do, but it looks like McDaniels may be the guy that the Haslam’s want. Their defense is solid, so having somebody who can clean up whatever mess their offense was in 2019 is a necessity.
2019-2020 NFL WILD-CARD WEEKEND GAME PICKS
Week 17 was a crapshoot as I expected, but I did a respectable 8-8 (10-8 if you count the CFB Playoff) to finish out the regular season at 147-109. These games will also be picked in descending order based on my opinion of their appeal and competitiveness. Furthermore, not only will I continue these picks during the playoffs, but I’ll also give my final score predictions.
So without any further ado, let’s try not to be embarrassed!
BUFFALO BILLS (10-6) vs. HOUSTON TEXANS (10-6) [-3.0]
All four games this weekend are entertaining and have their own special appeal, but this one to me is the lowest on the totem pole.
This season, the Buffalo Bills proved a lot of haters wrong, including myself. I’m still not sold at all on Josh Allen being a franchise quarterback, and their offense can be very bland and inconsistent at times, but Sean McDermott’s defense was sensational all year. A unit ranked #2nd overall in the entire NFL, it’s a squad full of overachieving veterans and budding stars such as Tre’Davious White and rookie phenom Ed Oliver.
The Houston Texans are kind of the Bizarro version of the Buffalo Bills if you think about it. We all know how potent their offense can be with Deshaun Watson throwing to De’Andre Hopkins and company, but their defense has been nauseating, to say the least. As a matter of fact, the Texans have a -7 point differential which is terrifying if you’re a Houston fan. The team has dealt with a slew of injuries on that side of the ball, including a returning J.J. Watt.
Matching up these teams, it’s very clear the formulas needed for each team to win. Houston will need a great game out of Deshaun Watson, as running back Carlos Hyde will most likely be neutralized by the Buffalo d-line upfront. Buffalo will need Josh Allen to have one of the best games of his career, and that is certainly doable against this old and weak secondary. This game is closer than it seems, but I’m going to take Houston in a fairly close one. Sean McDermott has been exceptional as a coach this season, but what about Bill O’Brien. The team has won their next game following a loss every time this season. Since Houston just lost to Tennessee… expect that streak to continue.
THE PICK: Texans (-3.0)
FINAL SCORE: Texans def. Bills 24-17
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (11-5) [-1.5] vs. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (9-7)
The Seattle Seahawks are basically the NFC version of the Texans. Great quarterback, strong running game (even with the injuries), but an even worse defense. Out of the eleven Seahawk victories, only the one in Week 4 at Arizona was by more than one possession. The team has lost three out of their last four, largely in part of their rushing depth being so depleted, they re-signed Marshawn Lynch.
This version of the Philadelphia Eagles isn’t the #1 seed in the NFC that I predicted, but they’re peaking at the right time. You can say they squeaked into the playoffs with the schedule they possessed, but they also have beat several playoff-caliber teams this year, including the Packers, the Bills, and the Dallas game where their dominance secured them the NFC East title. Carson Wentz has been fantastic as of late, making the best of a bad situation with all of the Philly offensive injuries. Their defense has also improved, winding up at #15th in the NFL.
This matchup is the most difficult one to choose for this week. As I just said, I like the momentum and heart that Philadelphia has been playing with, but they are the most injured team BY FAR. That gives me some pause, and let’s not forget Russell Wilson is still the best player on the field in this game. He gives you a chance to win whenever you’re out there, but I don’t trust the offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to allow him to pass like crazy the entire game. The Seattle mantra is to always establish the run, and I think that could be their undoing this weekend. Fly, Eagles, fly.
THE PICK: Eagles (+1.5)
FINAL SCORE: Eagles def. Seahawks 30-26
TENNESSEE TITANS (9-7) vs. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (12-4) [-5.0]
This game is going to be chock-full of takeaways for the future.
The Tennessee Titans were able to sneak into the playoffs largely in part to the exceptional play of Ryan Tannehill. The former Miami Dolphin has been playing a truly elite level ever since he stepped in for Marcus Mariota. Running back Derrick Henry has improved since his late-season 2018 breakout, leading the league in rushing with 1,540 yards. I forgot to mention the Tennessee defense as well, which is littered with underrated stars such as Jurrell Casey, Malcolm Butler, Kevin Byard, Adoree’ Jackson, and rookie stud Jeffery Simmons.
As for New England, you’d have to be living under a rock to not know their problems this year. Despite possessing the best overall defense in the NFL led by Stephon Gilmore at corner, it is clear that this offense cannot keep up with the best of ’em. Tom Brady has regressed, Sony Michel never breaks tackles, and outside of Julian Edelman, nobody else has emerged as a receiving threat for this team so far.
The Titans are very much a sleeper pick to upset the Patriots and give them their first loss in the Wild Card round since 2009. The way they have been playing they deserve that right, but I’m not all aboard the “R.I.P. Pats Dynasty” train yet. If there would be one team for the Titans to falter against, it would be this ferocious defense, and despite Brady losing a step or two, he still doesn’t turn the ball over very much. I entrust that this won’t be a blowout, but I’ll be reasonable and take the Patriots.
THE PICK: Patriots (-5.0)
FINAL SCORE: Patriots def. Titans 28-21
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (10-6) vs. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (13-3) [-7.5]
The best game on the slate this weekend, we all know what happened last time when these two teams met in the playoffs.
The Minnesota Vikings in 2019 have looked more competitive than previous years for one very simple reason: a potent offense. Kirk Cousins played the best ball of his career, and Dalvin Cook entrenched himself as an elite running back in the league. Let’s not forget their stacked defense lead by the likes of Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen, Harrison Smith, Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Linval Joseph… you get the point.
Outside of San Francisco, the Saints performed like the best team in the NFC this year. Drew Brees missed half the season, but Teddy Bridgewater stepped in and went 5-0 as a starter. Michael Thomas is the best wide receiver in the league, their running game is still deadly, and their defense is one of the best units in the league.
Kirk Cousins has an awful track record in games with the spotlight on him, and Drew Brees being in the dome with one clear mission in sight spells out bad news for this Vikings team. My pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, I trust that this team will take care of business in Round 1.
THE PICK: Saints (-7.5)
FINAL SCORE: Saints def. Vikings 34-17