One year after it should have gone down, it will, indeed, happen this season once the 2019 NFL Playoffs march forward.

Robby Sabo

It should have happened last year. Just one Dee Ford penalty combined with the worst non-defensive pass interference of all-time robbed the NFL world of a dream matchup fit for all senses.

Instead, the overhyped Los Angeles Rams with an average quarterback put up a pathetic fight against a New England Patriots club well past its prime.

This January will produce different results. This tournament will hand us the promised matchup. And most importantly, these playoffs will not bring us the same faces that torture the area year after year (Tom Brady, Bill Belichick). Although, it’d be completely foolish to discount the battle-tested duo.

AFC Wild Card

3. New England Patriots (12-4) vs. 6. Tennessee Titans (9-7): Listen… don’t you dare count out the Patriots. Sure, Ryan Fitzpatrick torched their usual bye week and home-playoff strategy dreams in Week 17, and, absolutely, they don’t look like the once-dominant team they showcased early in the season, but this is the tournament. Never count out these guys.

The greatest X-factor in this one is the Tennessee Titans head coach, Mike Vrabel. Knowing Belichick inside and out will go a long way. Expect a close, defensive struggle that’ll somehow go in the Pats’ direction in the end, but don’t be surprised if the Titans steal one here. Patriots 17, Titans 13.

4. Houston Texans (10-6) vs. 5. Buffalo Bills (10-6): Give me the squad that carries around a thirsty fanbase ready to make January noise. The Buffalo Bills are on the road, but Sean McDermott’s team is one of the best-coached teams in the land.

The third-best defense in the league (298.2 yards per game) will execute a solid defensive gameplan against Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans offense. While Josh Allen isn’t the most accurate quarterback, the one thing he projects is confidence, moxy, etc., and it’ll carry over into the playoffs. Bills 23, Texans 10.

NFC Wild Card

3. New Orleans Saints (13-3) vs. 6. Minnesota Vikings (10-6): As crazy as it sounds, the Minnesota Vikings knocking off the New Orleans Saints would represent the greatest upset of the wild card round. Kirk Cousins’s primetime and big-game woes have gone on long enough to prove it isn’t a fluke.

In New Orleans, Sean Payton’s team will be on a mission to avenge its NFC Championship Game job from a year ago and they’ll do it with fire considering the bye was stripped away late in the regular season. Saints 31, Vikings 17.

4. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) vs. 5. Seattle Seahawks (11-5): Everybody is on the Seattle Seahawks. Not ESNY. The Philadelphia Eagles remain one of the best-coached teams in the league and they’ll figure it out in this one.

Russell Wilson won’t disappoint, but Carson Wentz won’t either. Seattle on the road against a championship-tested team will make for the weekend’s most entertaining contest. Miles Sanders ends it in overtime on a spectacular, slicing run through the Seahawks defense, similarly to the way Marshawn Lynch did it to the Saints all those years ago. Eagles 27, Saints 21, OT.

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 01: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates against the San Francisco 49ers after throwing a first quarter touchdown pass at M&T Bank Stadium on December 01, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland.
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

AFC Divisional

1. Baltimore Ravens (14-2) vs. 5. Buffalo Bills (11-6): The shocker of the tournament happens here. The wild card Buffalo Bills will stun the Baltimore Ravens in Round No. 2. Interestingly, the Ravens defense is a bit overhyped. While they finished fourth in the league in total defense, playing from a lead while the offense runs the ball all over the opponent helps skew those numbers incredibly. Josh Allen, Devin Singletary and John Brown can do damage.

Defensively, McDermott will put together a gameplan that’ll help slow down Greg Roman’s offense. The read-option game with Lamar Jackson needs special attention and McDermott understands it’ll be up to his edge players and safeties to get it done. A tremendous rush defense isn’t enough against Roman’s scheme. McDermott will have to sell out, and he will, placing the onus on Jackson to beat him from the pocket and through the air.

This one will produce entertaining results and Baltimore can easily get out in front early and coast. But hey, upsets are the name of the game in the NFL Playoffs. This is the upset ESNY is highlighting this time around. Bills 30, Ravens 24.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) vs. 3. New England Patriots (13-4): Not this time. The key for the Kansas City Chiefs this time around will be Steve Spagnuolo’s defense serving as the team’s unexpected strength. It didn’t look good early in the season, but now, similarly to the way his defenses evolved with the New York Giants, they are championship-ready.

It’s not that Tom Brady has regressed tremendously. It’s the idea that his offensive line has completely vanished, an unusual occurrence in Pats land. When Brady is hit regularly, he becomes an average quarterback, something Spagnuolo knows well.

The Chiefs will rout the Pats. Chiefs 37, Patriots 14.

Drew Brees
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

NFC Divisional

1. San Francisco 49ers (13-3) vs. 4. Philadelphia Eagles (10-7): The Eagles will hang tough, but it won’t be enough in Santa Clara, CA. The San Francisco 49ers’ rushing attack will do the trick early and it’ll carry them throughout. 49ers 34, Eagles 21.

2. Green Bay Packers (13-3) vs. New Orleans Saints (14-3): There will be no Lambeau magic in 2020. There was, perhaps, no stranger team than the Green Bay Packers this season. Aaron Rodgers didn’t put up his usual dominant numbers, Devante Adams found himself injured for a ton of action and they eeked out wins week after week.

The Pack’s tremendous offensive line helps Aaron Jones and the rushing attack pace the team. Defensively, the edge rush from both key free-agent signings lifts the play of everybody behind them. But the Saints’ mission will not be derailed here. An exciting finish will showcase another Drew Brees game-winning score (field goal). Saints 24, Packers 23.

Championship Sunday

2. Kansas City Chiefs (13-4) vs. 5. Buffalo Bills (12-6): How in the world did the Buffalo Bills get here? Remember their near-victory in Foxboro against the Patriots a couple of weeks ago? It was that day that provided them enough confidence to get here. They—along with their quarterback—showcased enough grit on the big stage to get through sticky spots. It just won’t carry them through Arrowhead.

The Chiefs got hot at the right time this season, fighting back after a season of dominance and a slow start in 2019. It’s their season. It’s Andy Reid’s time. Chiefs 31, Bills 16.

1. San Francisco 49ers (14-3) vs. 3. New Orleans Saints (15-3): The 49ers put forth a tremendous season, one ESNY picked back in August (a 10-6 playoff-bound prediction). We warned the NFL world to remain suspicious of the hype. Forget the Cleveland Browns and expect a regression from the Super Bowl-hangover Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Chargers.

Still, the 49ers, even at home, won’t stop the Saints, a 13-win team forced to play on wild card weekend. Jimmy Garoppolo won’t enjoy one of his best games, hurting his team with a few interceptions, and the Saints win a lower-scoring slugfest. Saints 23, 49ers 16.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - DECEMBER 22: Head coach Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs looks on before playing the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 22, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois.
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Super Bowl

2. Kansas City Chiefs (14-4) vs. 3. New Orleans Saints (16-3): It’s the matchup we were promised a season ago, and no, I’m not talking about the Chiefs and Rams via the Monday Night Football matchup that gave us points and a disgusting display of defensive football.

This Super Bowl features two great quarterbacks, two great offenses, two great coaching staffs, two great offensive lines and two defenses that snuck up on everybody at the right time.

Give us the Chiefs in a thriller. Andy Reid will finally touch that elusive Vince Lombardi Trophy after hiring the correct man to run his defense, the man who did the same for Tom Coughlin so many years prior. Patrick Mahomes snags his first Super Bowl MVP, throwing for close to 300 yards and three touchdowns. Chiefs 33, Saints 31.

ESNY Staff Picks

Ryan Honey, Editor, Giants Columnist

AFC WILD CARD
3. NE vs. 6. TEN: NE (28-20)
4. HOU vs. 5. BUF: HOU (17-6)
AFC DIVISIONAL
1. BAL vs. 4. HOU: BAL (37-20)
2. KC vs. 3. NE: NE (21-20)
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP
BAL vs. NE: 3. NE (20-17)
NFC WILD CARD
3. NO vs. 6. MIN: NO (27-20)
4. PHI vs. 5. SEA: PHI (28-24)
NFC DIVISIONAL
1. SF vs. 4. PHI: SF (28-7)
2. GB vs. 3. NO: NO (35-32)
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP
SF vs. 3. NO: NO (32-31)
SUPER BOWL
3. NE vs. 3. NO: NE (20-17)
SUPER BOWL MVP: Stephon Gilmore (10 tackles, 1 pick, 1 fumble recovery)
THOUGHTS: Everyone loves to write off the Patriots every year. Don’t ever underestimate Bill Belichick and his ability to figure his opponents out.

Kyle Newman, Editor, Jets Columnist

AFC WILD CARD
3. NE vs. 6. TEN: Patriots
4. HOU vs. 5. BUF: Texans
AFC DIVISIONAL
1. BAL vs. HOU: Ravens
2. KC vs. NE: Patriots
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP
BAL vs. NE: Patriots
NFC WILD CARD
3. NO vs. 6. MIN: Saints
4. PHI vs. 5. SEA: Eagles
NFC DIVISIONAL
1. SF vs. PHI: 49ers
2. GB vs. NO: Saints
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP
SF vs. NO: Saints
SUPER BOWL
NO vs. NE: Saints
SUPER BOWL MVP: Drew Brees
THOUGHTS: Never bet against the Patriots in the playoffs. Tom Brady is the master of the end of the season tournament and the Patriots have the best defense in football. Expect them to come out of a very competitive AFC. The Saints have been robbed two years in a row. The Minneapolis Miracle cost them a shot in 2018, and the refs screwed them out of s Super Bowl appearance in 2019. 2020 is their year.

Aaron Gershon, Staff Writer

AFC WILD CARD
3. NE vs. 6. TEN: NE (23-17)
4. HOU vs. 5. BUF: BUF (28-20)
AFC DIVISIONAL
1. BAL vs. BUF PICK: BAL (34-20)
2. KC vs. NE: NE (31-28)
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP
BAL vs. NE: NE (SCORE: 30-27)
NFC WILD CARD
3. NO vs. 6. MIN: NO (45-20)
4. PHI vs. 5. SEA: SEA (27-20)
NFC DIVISIONAL
1. SF vs. SEA: SEA (24-21)
2. GB vs. NO: NO (34-24)
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP
NO vs SEA: NO (30-26)
SUPER BOWL
NE vs. NO: NE (30-24)
SUPER BOWL MVP: Tom Brady
THOUGHTS: Haven’t Football fans learned never to doubt Tom Brady? I see the Patriots magic carpet ride continuing and Brady finally calling it quits after earning his eighth ring.

Leen Amin, Staff Writer

AFC WILD CARD
3. NE vs. 6. TEN: TEN
4. HOU vs. 5. BUF: BUF
AFC DIVISIONAL
1. BAL vs. BUF: BAL
2. KC vs. NE: NE
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP
BAL vs. NE: NE
NFC WILD CARD
3. NO vs. 6. MIN: NO
4. PHI vs. 5. SEA: SEA
NFC DIVISIONAL
1. SF vs. SEA: SF
2. GB vs. NO: NO
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP
SF vs. NO: NO
SUPER BOWL
NO vs. NE: NE
SUPER BOWL MVP: Tom Brady
THOUGHTS: The logical bones in my body tell me the Patriots don’t stand a chance, but I just can’t count out Brady. We’ve never seen anything like him and he is unstoppable when it matters most. Many of these teams are better on paper, but that’s never an obstacle for Brady. Why should it be now?

James Schapiro, Staff Writer

AFC WILD CARD
3. NE vs. 6. TEN: NE (21-13)
4. HOU vs. 5. BUF: HOU (24-20)
AFC DIVISIONAL
1. BAL vs. HOU: BAL (42-14)
2. KC vs. NE: KC (31-24)
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP
KC vs. BAL: BAL (35-21)
NFC WILD CARD
3. NO vs. 6. MIN: NO (38-13)
4. PHI vs. 5. SEA: SEA (27-10)
NFC DIVISIONAL
1. SF vs. SEA: SF (20-17)
2. GB vs. NO: NO (34-31)
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP
SF vs. NO: SF (24-20)
SUPER BOWL
BAL vs. SF: BAL (28-24)
SUPER BOWL MVP: Lamar Jackson
THOUGHTS: Lamar Jackson seems absolutely unbeatable. Ordinarily, I’d say the Patriots and the Chiefs would be the two best bets to beat the Ravens, and honestly, I could see the Patriots beating the Ravens. But I don’t think they get through the Chiefs this time. From there, I don’t think the Chiefs can keep up with the Ravens. I’d say Baltimore’s path through the AFC is relatively clear, although obviously not a sure thing. In the NFC, I think the Saints are really strong, but the 49ers have been so good this year that they beat both the Saints and the Seahawks. Green Bay just never wins in situations like this, and I don’t see that changing. I think the NFC has close games all the way through, but ultimately, the 49ers come out and lose to the Ravens, although they manage to keep it close. The Niners are really good, but no one can beat the Ravens.

Brian Paget, Staff Writer

AFC WILD CARD
3. NE vs. 6. TEN: TEN
4. HOU vs. 5. BUF: BUF
AFC DIVISIONAL
1. BAL vs. 6. TEN: BAL
2. KC vs. 5. BUF: BUF
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP
BAL vs. 5. BUF: BAL
NFC WILD CARD
3. NO vs. 6. MIN: NO
4. PHI vs. 5. SEA: SEA
NFC DIVISIONAL
1. SF vs. 5. SEA: SF
2. GB vs. 3. NO: NO
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP
SF vs. 3. NO: NO
SUPER BOWL
BAL vs. 3. NO: NO
SUPER BOWL MVP: Michael Thomas
THOUGHTS: After two-consecutive devastating losses in the NFC Championship Game, it’s finally the Saints’ year. New Orleans’ triple-threat offense led by Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas is simply unstoppable. This dynamic attack is paired with a stout defense, making the Saints the team to beat.

Frank Curto, Rangers Columnist

AFC WILD CARD
3. NE vs. 6. TEN: TEN
4. HOU vs. 5. BUF: BUF
AFC DIVISIONAL
1. BAL vs. 6. TEN: BAL
2. KC vs. 5. BUF: KC
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP
BAL vs. 5. KC: BAL
NFC WILD CARD
3. NO vs. 6. MIN: NO
4. PHI vs. 5. SEA: SEA
NFC DIVISIONAL
1. SF vs. 5. SEA: SF
2. GB vs. 3. NO: NO
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP
SF vs. 3. NO: NO
SUPER BOWL
BAL vs. 3. NO: BAL
SUPER BOWL MVP: Lamar Jackson

 

Josh Benjamin, Staff Writer and Yankees Columnist

AFC WILD CARD
3. NE vs. 6. TEN: TEN
4. HOU vs. 5. BUF: BUF
AFC DIVISIONAL
1. BAL vs. 6. TEN: BAL
2. KC vs. 5. BUF: KC
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP
BAL vs. 5. BUF: BAL
NFC WILD CARD
3. NO vs. 6. MIN: NO
4. PHI vs. 5. SEA: SEA
NFC DIVISIONAL
1. SF vs. 5. SEA: SF
2. GB vs. 3. NO: NO
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP
SF vs. 3. NO: SF
SUPER BOWL
BAL vs. 3. NO: BAL
SUPER BOWL MVP: Lamar Jackson

Thoughts: If it walks like destiny and quacks like destiny, then you just know. Baltimore has been on an absolute tear as of late and having a first-round bye will help them stay fresh. At the Super Bowl, Lamar Jackson will cement his MVP status as he goes toe to toe with Drew Brees. His victory over the future Hall of Famer will usher in a new generation of quarterbacks and add a new layer of fun to the NFL.

NYY

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