By Mico Carpiniello (Reporter ‘25)
**This report was last updated on Thursday, January 6. As such, certain speculations and statistics covered in this article may be dated.**
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the rollercoaster of the NFL playoffs. In my opinion, the thrill of the postseason is the uncertainty, the unpredictability, and the upsets. But I’m going to throw that all out of the window and try to predict the outcomes anyway. I’ll go game by game, round by round, leading up to the Super Bowl itself. And just so you know, I’ve made these predictions before the last week of the NFL season, so the final seeding could be a little different—enough of that, though, let’s get started.
(And by the way, if you don’t know Roman numerals, LVI means 56.)
Green Bay Packers
Los Angeles Rams
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
San Francisco 49ers
What you should know:
The Eagles, Rams, and Packers are coming in hot. At the time of writing, the Eagles have a four-game winning streak, and the Packers and Rams have five-game winning streaks. Carrying your momentum into the playoffs is vitally important, as you’ve got to be playing at your best come January.
Coming in cold are the Cowboys and Niners. San Francisco had a great stretch in the middle of the season but has cooled off recently with losses to the Titans and Seahawks. Dallas had their four-game winning streak snapped by the Cardinals in Week 17, and they’ve been a Jekyll and Hyde team the entire season. I wouldn’t trust either of these teams heading into the playoffs.
Much drama has surrounded the Buccaneers’ offense recently. In their 9–0 loss to the Saints, Chris Godwin, Leonard Fournette, and Mike Evans all sustained injuries of varying seriousness. Godwin, Fournette, and Evans are arguably the Bucs’ three most important skill players besides Tom Brady. Godwin and Fournette were ruled out for the season with the hope Fournette will return in the playoffs, while Evans made a return to the field in Week 17. The same week Evans returned, wide receiver Antonio Brown left the field mid-game, taking off his jersey and undershirt before jogging to the locker room. Much controversy has surrounded Brown’s apparent mid-game quit, and it seems as though the Bucs have cut him. This leaves many questions surrounding the Buccaneers’ offense.
Is this the Rams’ year? They’ve shown they’re willing to go all-in this year, trading Jared Goff to the Lions for Matthew Stafford, signing star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., and trading two draft picks to the Broncos for veteran Von Miller. The Rams will also host the Super Bowl in the brand-new SoFi Stadium. Could this be the year they hoist the second Lombardi Trophy in the franchise’s history?
The Cardinals looked like clear Super Bowl favorites early in the season, but their form dipped midseason after Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins had multi-week absences due to injuries. Dropping from the 1-seed to the 5-seed has been painful, but they could rediscover their early-season form in the playoffs. When the Cardinals are at their best, there’s no team they can’t beat.
Kansas City Chiefs
New England Patriots
Los Angeles Chargers
What you should know:
The Bills are coming in hot, but the Bengals are coming in scorching. After dropping 41 points on the Ravens, the Bengals downed the Chiefs, with Ja’Marr Chase going for 266 yards and 3 touchdowns. However, this came after losses to the Niners and Chargers, so I’m not sure how long this streak will last. Meanwhile, the Bills have quietly racked up a three-game win streak while establishing a run game through Devin Singletary. When this team can throw and run… better watch out.
No AFC teams are coming in particularly cold, but the Patriots and Colts have cooled off from hot mid-season streaks. Both have potentially elite run games, so let’s see if they can get their ground games going again in the postseason.
The big question for the Tennessee Titans is Derrick Henry. The King was sidelined right after Halloween with a foot injury that required surgery. He hasn’t returned yet, but the Titans are optimistic he’ll return for their playoff run. But even without him, the Titans earned the 1 seed in the AFC, so how good will they be when he returns?
The Chiefs have been up and down all season, but much more up as of late. They got ran all over by Ja’Marr Chase and the Bengals, but otherwise have almost looked like the formidable Super Bowl winners we saw two years ago. The Chiefs couldn’t get it done last year, but many see them going all the way this year.
Now let’s be clear, the playoffs are markedly different from the regular season. To do well in the playoffs, a team has to be able to win the big games, as well as avoid the upsets. Or, in the case of the minnows, pull off the upsets. You can’t count any team out! I’m sure that there will be a big upset no one saw coming, so, with that said, let’s get started.
Wild Card Round
2) Los Angeles Rams vs 7) Philadelphia Eagles
This isn’t a particularly hard call, as I see the Rams winning this all day. Yes, I’m a homer, and I like the Eagles. The Birds have been hot, too. But they also have had an easy schedule and have only beaten bad teams. The Rams have been tested against the best and come out on top more often than not. There’s simply no way the Eagles can handle the Rams.
The Call: RAMS win
3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs 6) San Francisco 49ers
The Niners’ dreams are bound to end pretty quickly. Even though the Bucs have had some recent drama, they still have their golden goose: Tom Brady. The Bucs are simply built for the playoffs, and with the possible return of “Playoff Lenny,” they’re just too much for the Niners.
The Call: BUCCANEERS win
4) Dallas Cowboys vs 5) Arizona Cardinals
This one is a much tougher call, as the Cowboys and Cardinals are both real contenders with potent offenses. They’ve both been inconsistent. They’ve both had their defenses come up big at times. But because of Dallas’ recent playoff record and because I’m an Eagles fan, I’m gonna give this one to the Cardinals.
The Call: CARDINALS win
2) Kansas City Chiefs vs 7) Los Angeles Chargers
These teams know each other well, and the Chargers are sort of like KC’s little brother. The Chiefs are a good margin better at pretty much everything. Not to take away from the Chargers— they’re a great team—but this one goes to the big brother.
The Call: CHIEFS win
3) Buffalo Bills vs 6) Indianapolis Colts
I mentioned before that the Bills are hot and the Colts aren’t so hot, but I’m gonna throw that out the window. When these teams played in the regular season, the Colts steamrolled the Bills 41–15. Jonathan Taylor had 185 yards and four touchdowns. Lights out. Jonathan Taylor’s going to run the Bills into the ground.
Here’s an interesting stat: in the last four years, all but one six-seeded team has won its wild card matchup.
The Call: COLTS win
4) Cincinnati Bengals vs 5) New England Patriots
I mentioned before that the Bengals are hot, and the Pats aren’t so hot. Once again, I’m going to throw all of that out of the window. The Bengals are good, but not as good as the hype surrounding them says they are. I see them cooling down in their season finale and lacking a spark against the stellar Patriots defense. Bill Belichick knows how to win big games, after all, while the Bengals haven’t won a playoff game in over three decades.
The Call: PATRIOTS win
1) Green Bay Packers vs 5) Arizona Cardinals
The Packers won their regular-season matchup against the Cardinals to hand Arizona its first loss. There’s no reason to think it won’t happen again. It’s just like the big brother metaphor I mentioned with the Chiefs-Chargers game: being a little bit better in every aspect wins you the big games.
The Call: PACKERS win
2) Los Angeles Rams vs 3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Ooh, what a juicy matchup! LA and Tampa played to a 34–24 Rams victory in Week 3, but as I said before, the Bucs are a playoff-built team. Nonetheless, I don’t think the Bucs are at the same level as they were last year, and a few banana-peel games have got them this season. This is the Rams’ year.
The Call: RAMS win
1) Tennessee Titans vs 6) Indianapolis Colts
The matchup of Taylor v. Henry will be a great one, but I don’t think that’s where the game will be decided. Without the King, the Titans' defense has stepped up and won them quite a few games. The Titans are a more complete, cohesive team, and they’ll take this one.
The Call: TITANS win
2) Kansas City Chiefs vs 5) New England Patriots
Belichick can do it once, but not twice. We saw this against the Bills: the Pats pulled off a spectacular victory in the snow, only to be shamed a few weeks later by the same team. The Patriots just aren’t good enough to compete at this level yet. Mac Jones and Co. are sent back to Foxboro to everyone’s delight (or at least mine).
The Call: CHIEFS win
1) Green Bay Packers vs 2) Los Angeles Rams
This is the game everyone has been waiting for: the top two teams in the NFC facing off for a shot at the Super Bowl. The Packers won their regular-season matchup against the Rams, keeping Cooper Kupp to only 96 yards. “ONLY” 96! That’s impressive. Man, that guy’s good. There’s something bigger to consider, though: Green Bay has appeared in four of the last seven NFC Conference Championships. Good thing, right? They must have won a couple of Super Bowls, too, huh? Nope. They’ve lost. Every. Single. Time. Including last year. And something else concerning is Aaron Rodgers’ performance in these games. Green Bay’s success is closely linked to its quarterback’s play. Here’s the truth: Rodgers has, in his career, thrown eight touchdowns and 6 interceptions in NFC Championship games. That’s a TD:INT ratio of 1.33. His career ratio is 4.81. His playoff rate is 3.46. That his TD:INT ratio is so off in this particular game is very concerning. I think you know what the call is.
The Call: RAMS win
1) Tennessee Titans vs 2) Kansas City Chiefs
The Titans won this matchup in the regular season, with the Chiefs unable to stop AJ Brown and Derrick Henry. As you can see, I like referencing regular-season matchups between playoff teams. But the Titans are also prone to mistakes, and the Chiefs will punish you for mistakes, whether on offense or defense. I see the Chiefs' defense coming up big, with Tyreek Hill being the X-factor on offense. The Chiefs stomp to their third Super Bowl appearance in a row.
The Call: CHIEFS win
The Super Bowl
2) Los Angeles Rams vs 2) Kansas City Chiefs
You might think I’ll spend a lot of time on this game because it’s the big one. You know, the one for the trophy. But by now, I’ll probably have gotten so many games wrong, and two different teams will be playing in the Super Bowl, so my prediction won’t matter. But, on the off chance that I’ve gotten everything right so far, here it goes:
The Chiefs and Rams haven’t played since 2018 when their heavyweight clash ended in a 54–51 thriller ending in favor of the Rams. Both teams are drastically different now, but still top-tier teams. Kansas City just hasn’t regained that spark of their Super Bowl LIV run, unfortunately, and the Rams are the team of now. The Rams win it in their own stadium, just like the Bucs, and the dreams of Chiefs’ fans are crushed once again. Boohoo. Now they can make a big deal of resigning Tyrann Mathieu and do the same thing next year.
The Call: RAMS win
Well, that’s it! I’m sure I got most of these wrong, but I’ll be following each game anyway. I’ll give myself a grade on my predictions in my next column. Until then, sayonara!