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2024 NFL Playoffs Preview

With the conclusion of the NFL’s regular season, the 14 remaining teams in the playoff picture will look to end the season on a high note by fighting their way to the Super Bowl and hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in the end.  

 

Schedule 

Wild Card Round: Jan. 13-15 

Divisional Round: Jan. 20-21 

Conference Championships: Jan. 28 

Super Bowl: Feb. 11 

 

NFC Predictions 

Wild Card: Cowboys defeat the Packers 35-10 

Wild Card: Rams defeat the Lions 20-17 

Wild Card: Eagles defeat the Buccaneers 35-14 

Divisional: 49ers defeat the Rams 38-17 

Divisional: Eagles defeat the Cowboys 31-28 

NFC Championship: 49ers defeat the Eagles 31-21 

 

AFC Predictions 

Wild Card: Texans defeat the Browns 35-21 

Wild Card: Chiefs defeat the Dolphins 20-14 

Wild Card: Bills defeat the Steelers 35-10 

Divisional: Ravens defeat the Texans 42-17 

Divisional: Chiefs defeat the Bills 20-17 

AFC Championship: Ravens defeat the Chiefs 24-20 

Super Bowl Prediction  

Teams: Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers 

Preview: This potential Super Bowl matchup would be a rematch of the 2013 Super Bowl in which the Ravens defeated the 49ers with a final score of 34-31. John Harbaugh would be looking to mirror his brother Jim Harbaugh’s recent success in the College Football National Championship by bringing home his second Super Bowl title to Baltimore. Meanwhile, the 49ers would be looking to stop history from repeating itself. The most recent matchup between the two teams was on Christmas, where the Ravens won in dominant fashion with a final score of 33-19. With the amount of talent on both rosters, this potential matchup could become one of the more entertaining Super Bowls. 

Prediction: 49ers defeat the Ravens 38-35 

 

NFC Team Overviews 

 

1.) San Francisco 49ers 

Record: 12-5 

The 49ers showed off their incredible cast of players on both sides of the ball as they claimed the number one seed and a first round bye in the playoffs. The big playmakers on the offensive side of the ball include Brock Purdy, Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Sameul, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle. Brock Purdy proved a lot of people wrong throughout the season as he became the league leader in the total quarterback rating (QBR) and led the team to the spot they’re at now. Christian McCaffrey continued to be a gamechanger as he became the league leader in rushing yards and was a threat in the receiving game as well. Deebo Sameul, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle were the leading receivers for the 49er offense as they were dominant in the passing game against almost every team they faced. Much like the offense, San Francisco has many star players on the defensive side of the ball with Nick Bosa, Fred Warner, and Charvarius Ward leading their position groups. Their defensive line has a great group with Nick Bosa, Chase Young, Javon Hargrave, and Arik Armstead. Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw were a great linebacker duo throughout the season as well. Charvarius Ward was the most notable defensive back on the team as he was able to lock down many opposing receivers. Overall, the amount of talent that the 49ers have on both sides of the ball can take them all the way to the Super Bowl.  

 

2.) Dallas Cowboys 

Record: 12-5 

The Cowboys were another great team throughout the regular season as they passed the ball utilized their passing game on offense and had a great pass rush and secondary on defense. The most notable component to the Cowboys offense is the great quarterback-receiver duo between Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb. This resulted in CeeDee Lamb’s most impressive year yet as he had the most receptions, the second most receiving yards, and the third most receiving touchdowns in the NFL. Their chemistry also had a huge benefit on Dak Prescott as he emerged as one of the top names in the MVP conversation and led the league in touchdowns while being second in QBR. The two standout playmakers on the Dallas defense were the cornerback Daron Bland and Micah Parsons at outside linebacker. Daron Bland had a breakout year this season as he led the NFL with nine interceptions in just his second year. Micah Parsons continued his dominance on the defensive line as he ended with 14 sacks and tied with Myles Garrett for the seventh most sacks in the league. With the great players on their roster, the Cowboys can continue their success from the regular season and make a deep run in the playoffs.  

 

3.) Detroit Lions 

Record: 12-5 

The Lions continued to improve this season under the leadership of their head coach Dan Campbell as they won the NFC North and clinched their first home playoff game since 1994. The key playmakers on the Detroit offense were the veteran quarterback Jared Goff, the talented young receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, the standout rookie tight end Sam LaPorta, and the great running back duo of David Montgomery and rookie Jahmyr Gibbs. Jared Goff proved to be solid under center throughout the season as he showed that he can do enough to get the team a win. Amon-Ra St. Brown continued to build on his great career so far as he was in the top five in the league in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. Sam LaPorta has also been a great target for Jared Goff as the season went on as he showed plenty of talent in his rookie year. David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs made a good one-two punch in the run game as Montgomery rushed for over 1,000 yards Jahmyr Gibbs rushed for just over 900 yards. The Detroit defense had a couple good players this season with the talented second year pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson and Kerby Joseph, Brian Branch, and Jerry Jacobs being the most notable defensive backs. Even though the Lions had a great season and have shown a great climb in improvement in the last couple of years, I don’t believe that they are talented enough to make a very deep run in the playoffs. 

 

4.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  

Record: 9-8 

Even though they don’t stack up as one of the better teams in the NFC, the Buccaneers were able to secure the fourth seed after taking control of the weak NFC South which results in their Wild Card matchup with the Eagles being in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers were able to surprise many doubters this season as Baker Mayfield took control of the offense and ended the year in the top ten in passing yards and touchdowns. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin also proved to be great receiving threats as Evans led the league in receiving touchdowns and both ended with over 1,000 receiving yards. The Tampa Bay defense was successful in limiting opponents from scoring as they ended the season with the sixth least points allowed per game in the NFL. Even with the surprising success of the Buccaneers this season, I think that it will be pretty hard for them to get past the Eagles in their Wild-Card round.  

 

5.) Philadelphia Eagles  

Record: 11-6  

The Eagles started off the 2023 season very hot with a 10-1 record. However, they lost that momentum at the end of the season as they went 1-5 the rest of the way. Even with the losing skid at the end of the season, Philadelphia has plenty of talent across the board and can still hold their own against any other team out there. They have many incredible playmakers on the offensive side of the ball with Jalen Hurts under center, A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith as the lead targets, and D’Andre Swift as the lead running back. Another great component to their dominant offense is their ability to control the line of scrimmage with Jordan Malaita protecting the blindside at left tackle, Landon Dickerson at left guard, Jason Kelce as the leader of the line at center, Cam Jurgens at right guard, and Lane Johnson protecting at right tackle. Much like their offense, Philadelphia has many great players on their defense with Haason Reddick, Jalen Carter, Fletcher Cox, and Josh Sweat highlighting their defensive line and Reed Blankenship, Kevin Byard, Darius Slay, and James Bradberry highlighting their secondary. With the amount of talent that the Eagles have all over the board, I believe they can make a deep run in the playoffs and potentially take revenge for their Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs last season.  

 

6.) Los Angeles Rams  

Record: 10-7 

The Rams were able to bounce back from their disappointing season last year after injuries to their top players by putting themselves back in the playoff run as the team stayed healthy for the most part this season. They will have their veteran quarterback Mathew Stafford leading them in the playoffs for the second time in just three seasons as they will be going back to the team he played 12 years for in their Wild-Card matchup against the Detroit Lions. One of the other bright spots about the Los Angeles offense is the rookie resurgence of their wide receiver Puka Nacua. Nacua was able to break the rookie receiving record and was incredible throughout the season after Cooper Kupp was plagued with injuries. Another bright spot going into the playoffs for the Rams is that they do plan to have Cooper Kupp for their matchup against the Lions. Los Angeles also has some great players on their defensive line that can cause a lot of trouble for opposing offensive lines with the superstar Aaron Donald, Kobie Turner, and Byron Young. With the hot streak they went on to end the season, I do think that the Rams will make it past the Lions before getting knocked out in the divisional round. 

 

7.) Green Bay Packers 

Record: 9-8 

With the last seed in the NFC, the Packers were able to secure a playoff spot in just their first year under the leadership of their starting quarterback Jordan Love. Love did much better than many expected before the season started as he ended in the top ten of all quarterbacks in passing yards and QBR while having the second most passing touchdowns in the NFL. The leading targets for the Green Bay offense are Jayden Reed and Romeo Doubs. They will also plan to have star running back Aaron Jones in their Wild-Card matchup against the Cowboys. Jones, who only played in 11 of their games due to injury, plays a pivotal role in the Packer offensive scheme as he can be utilized in the passing and running game very often. The best players on the Green Bay defensive line are Kenny Clark, Preston Smith, and Rashan Gary. They also have Quay Walker as their best linebacker with Jaire Alexander and Rasul Douglas as their main cornerbacks. Even though they did a lot better than many people expected, the Packers just don’t have enough talent around the board to stack up with some of the better teams in the playoff race.  

 

AFC Team Overviews 

 

1.) Baltimore Ravens  

Record: 13-4 

The Ravens were able to become arguably the most dominant team in the NFL on the last stretch of the season as they separated themselves from the rest of the AFC and clinched the number one seed. Lamar Jackson was incredible throughout the season with his ability as a dual threat quarterback to pass all over teams and extend plays frequently. After their dominant win over the 49ers on Christmas, Jackson emerged as the MVP favorite and never looked back as he proceeded to lead Baltimore to a 56-19 win over the Miami Dolphins in week 17. Another thing that contributed to their success this season has been the addition of rookie Zay Flowers and veteran Odell Beckham Jr. to the receiving room. Even though they haven’t put up league leading stats, they have played a key role in boosting the offense from what it has been in the past and it gives Lamar Jackson some usable receivers for once. Much like their offense, Baltimore has also showcased some incredible defense throughout the season. They have a great linebacker core with Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen commanding the defense, as well as Kyle Van Noy and Jadeveon Clowney both ending with nine sacks on the season. The final thing that stands out for the Ravens defense is the young safeties Kyle Hamilton and Geno Stone. Geno Stone ended the season with the second most interceptions in the league with seven while Kyle Hamilton ended seventh in the league with four. With the way that the Ravens were able to separate themselves from the rest of the league in the last stretch of the season, they would be the best bet to win the AFC.  

 

2.) Buffalo Bills  

Record: 11-6  

After not looking like the same Bills from the past couple years over the beginning to middle part of the season, Buffalo seemed to flitch the switch later on and showed that they can compete with the higher-level teams in the league while securing the second seed in the AFC. Josh Allen still proved to be great at quarterback as he ended in the top five in the NFL in passing yards, touchdowns, and QBR. However, one thing that can have a negative impact on the team is that his aggressive playstyle leads to a lot of interceptions. The Bills also had some great production out of James Cook towards the end of the season and he ended up with over 1,000 yards rushing. Buffalo also has some great targets with Stefon Diggs leading the team with over 1,000 yards receiving, and Gabe Davis and Dalton Kincaid serving as the secondary targets. On the defensive side of the ball, Ed Oliver, Leonard Floyd, and AJ Epenesa are the most notable players on the defensive line. The leading defensive backs for Buffalo are Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde as the safeties, and Rasoul Douglas as the interception leader of the team with four. Even with how well the Bills ended the regular season, I think some of the better teams in the playoff race are more complete and will have the advantage over them.  

 

3.) Kansas City Chiefs 

Record: 11-6 

Even after their shaky ending to the regular season, the Chiefs were able to clinch the AFC West and secure the third seed in the AFC playoff picture. One of the main problems for Kansas City in the last stretch was the poor play of the receivers around Patrick Mahomes. Even though many have started to write off the Chiefs after this, I do think that they can stack up against any team out there if their receivers are able to right the ship. The biggest reason for this is the track record that Patrick Mahomes has in the playoffs and his ability to come through in almost every clutch moment in a game. The Chiefs will also be in a lot better position if Mahomes and Travis Kelce are able to get back in the rhythm that they have had in their past playoff runs where it was almost impossible to guard them. The rookie receiver Rashee Rice is also a player to watch out for as he has emerged as one of the lead targets as the season went on and could continue that into the playoffs. The Chiefs have also had great defensive play throughout the year as they have the second most sacks in the league and the fourth ranked overall pass defense. With how well Kansas City has played in the playoffs over the past couple of years, I do expect them to make it to the AFC Championship at least.  

 

4.) Houston Texans  

Record: 10-7 

After having the second worst record last season, the Texans were able to flip it around in just one year with the additions of DeMeco Ryans as their new head coach and the two rookie superstars C.J. Stroud and Will Anderson. Stroud, the rookie quarterback out of Ohio State, was incredible throughout the year as he showed great accuracy and took care of the football very well. He is also heavily favored to be the offensive rookie of the year due to his incredible rookie campaign. Nico Collins was Stroud’s favorite target, and he went for over 1,000 receiving yards by the end of the season. The Texans did lose the talented rookie receiver Tank Dell due to a season ending fibula injury. The Texan defensive line was great at getting to the quarterback with Jonathon Greenard, Will Anderson, Sheldon Rankins, and Maliek Collins highlighting the group. Derek Stingley also shined in the defense as his five interceptions tied for fourth in the NFL. Even with not many big names on the defense, DeMeco Ryans specializes in it and serves as a very solid leader of the group. Houston fans should be very optimistic about how well the Texans did this season, but it would be hard to see them going all the way and winning the Super Bowl.  

 

5.) Miami Dolphins 

Record: 11-6  

Even though the Dolphins started off the season red hot and looked like they would be bound for the Super Bowl, they started to show that they consistently were not able to get it done against some of the better teams in the league. Even though that pattern can be problematic, they do have some great weapons on their offense that are built to outrun defenders with some of the fastest players in the league. Miami was also glad to have their young quarterback Tua Tagovailoa finally be able to stay on the field for a whole season. Tagovailoa played great in the first half of the season and even ended with the most passing yards in the league. Miami also has a very good receiving room with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle leading the group. Hill was the best receiver in the league this year with almost 1,800 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns which were both first in the league. Raheem Mostert and De’Von Achane were also great in the run game as they were able to gash defenses often with great speed. Bradley Chubb and Christian Wilkins were the best players on the Miami defensive line while Jalen Ramsey, Brandon Jones, Jevon Holland, and Xavien Howard made up a great secondary. Even with the amount of firepower the Dolphins have all over their roster, their inability to beat some of the better teams makes me hesitate to have them go very far.  

 

6.) Cleveland Browns  

Record: 11-6 

The Browns surprised many people at the end of the season as they brought Joe Flacco out of retirement and fought their way into the sixth seed of the AFC and a wild card matchup against the Texans. They even did all this after Nick Chubb’s season ending injury early on in the season. During this winning stretch at the end of the year Joe Flacco passed the ball all over teams and the team was at its best at that point. However, one thing I am skeptical of is how many interceptions Flacco threw in these games. The player that shined the most while Flacco was under center was Amari Cooper. Cooper was easily the favorite target in the last few games and showed off his best play since his days with the Cowboys. The component that sticks out the most for Cleveland is how dominant their defense is. Teams will make sure to double team Myles Garrett as he was dominant as usual with 14 sacks by the time the season ended. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was also incredible at linebacker and shows plenty of promise for future years. Even with how well the Browns ended the season, I can’t see Joe Flacco continuing the Linsanity run and taking them far in the playoffs.  

 

7.) Pittsburgh Steelers 

Record: 10-7 

The Steelers were yet another team that were able to defy all odds after a loss to their starting quarterback Kenny Pickett and having Mason Rudolph lead them to victories in three straight games to secure the final spot in the AFC playoff picture. George Pickens was shown to be Rudolph’s favorite target through that run while Diontae Johnson still didn’t stand out very much. Jaylen Warren also started to emerge as the lead running back as Najee Harris continued to be pretty disappointing. The Steelers will also have to go into the playoffs without T.J. Watt, their dominant pass rusher that led the NFL with 19 sacks. Overall, the Steelers simply don’t have enough talent to compete for very long in the playoffs.  

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About the Contributor
Josh Giuliacci, Sports Editor
Joshua Giuliacci was born on September 12, 2006, and is currently a junior at Tracy High School. Giuliacci is part of a family of seven that includes his mom, dad, two brothers and two sisters. He is a dedicated student-athlete and has played a variety of sports, which include football, baseball, basketball and soccer. Giuliacci has recently decided to only play baseball exclusively due to his love of the game and dream of one day playing college ball. Sports have always been a huge part of Giuliacci’s life because his dad previously worked for the Golden State Warriors and currently works for the San Francisco Giants. After high school, Giuliacci would like to go to college and study in a field that would help him get a job in baseball, similar to his father. His top career choices in baseball would be coaching, broadcasting or reporting for professional teams.  

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