2017 NFL Playoff Preview

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The NFL is entering another year with the best teams from the regular season wiping their slates clean and starting over in pursuit of the Lombardi Trophy.

After all, the regular season can only show so much for the playoff teams with pressure building and everything being magnified.

A team can run through their entire season and find themselves at the top of the league only to falter when the pressure increases and the best teams are the only teams left to play.

As these twelve teams headed into the regular season this year some were predicted to be great and others were more of a question mark.

That division at the start of the year was a simple one as the teams that had been around seemed like the teams that were going to start and stay on top.

Meanwhile, there were a number of teams that had not seen the playoffs for a long time that a lot of analysts saw as potential playoff teams.

There were, of course, the teams that nothing was expected of either as they headed into the season with low expectations.

This year the playoffs are a mix of all of these teams as there are the old guards like the New England Patriots who, despite four weeks of uncertainty, were a top team from start to finish.

They are the ultimate of old guards as they have been one of the best teams over the last decade and this year was no different.

They weren’t the only old guard to make the playoffs though although they were the only one of those teams to have an easier walk into the playoffs.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers both had to fight to the very end of the season to find their spots but their experienced teams are back in the playoffs.

Some of the newer constant members of the playoffs are also back as the Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, and New York Giants are all returning to the playoffs this year.

These teams all have plenty of playoff experience throughout their teams and they will be dangerous but they are not the most interesting part of this year’s playoff.

That comes in the form of those new teams that have found their way to the playoffs for the first time in a long time.

This year there are two teams in particular that are the most interesting new playoff teams in a long time.

That is because both of them are in the history books as some of the best teams in the NFL with eras of the league defined by their teams.football-sidebar

The Oakland Raiders were one of the top teams at the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s.

They were the bad boys of the league and their three Super Bowls in 1976, 1980, and 1983 helped to define the era.

Yet despite that history, their time after 1983 was a struggle with the Raiders sitting at the bottom of the league for the majority of the last few decades.

Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins were the team to beat in the early 1970s and there were few teams that could actually accomplish that feat.

The Dolphins are the only team to go undefeated in a season and have some of the biggest names to ever play in the NFL as a part of their alumni.

Yet since 1973 they have not been able to win a Super Bowl even going through the entire Dan Marino era without getting a title.

Like the Raiders, they have spent the better part of the last few decades sitting at the bottom of the league trying over and over to build a winner.

Finally, both of these teams seem to have done it and despite their issues as they head into the playoffs, two legendary franchises are back after some long droughts.

The true test may come after these playoffs though as one year in the playoffs does not a comeback make.

If they can continue to make the playoffs these franchises might officially be back as contenders in the league if they falter again they are just flashes in the pan.

Everyone will be watching, including some of the currently suffering teams, to see what kind of impact these formerly great teams can make this year.

If it is up to those usual suspects though they won’t have much of an impact as the old guard hopes to find their way back to the Super Bowl and keep a familiar name at the top of the heap.

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The American Football Conference will be the one with some of the more interesting playoff teams in the second seasons. The conference playoffs will be home to some of the old teams that used to rule the conference for years. Yet neither of them have seen the playoffs in years and this year there could be some major issues that both will need to deal with. They won’t be alone as the AFC will be full of teams that have issues that they need to overcome with half of the teams dealing with questions at quarterback. The Miami Dolphins had a quiet resurgence this year and part of it was due to the play of Tannehill but for the last four weeks he has been unavailable and he will not play in the wild card round. In Houston, the big signing of the year was Brock Osweiler but he was benched after struggling throughout the year. He returns to the starting lineup as his backup, Tom Savage continues to undergo concussion protocol as he gets his second chance. The worst of all of the QB issues is in Oakland though as the Raiders are enjoying one of the best turnarounds this year thanks to a young team led by Derek Carr. Unfortunately for them, Carr was injured in Week 16 ending his season after breaking his fibula on a sack. Their leader was gone as they turned to Matt McGloin to lead them only to see him hurt in Week 17. That leaves rookie QB Connor Cook to lead one of the most promising teams in the playoffs against some very good teams. The problems at quarterback don’t extend to the bigger teams this year as Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger are two of the best in the game while Alex Smith remains an underrated QB for the Chiefs. Still, they all have their issues as the Patriots are great but lack those big players aside from Brady. The Steelers are not nearly as strong on defence as they used to be when they won their last Super Bowl. The Chiefs lack a threatening passing game altogether with Smith lacking the big arm to throw far downfield. Every team in the AFC has an issue that they have to deal with but questions at quarterback are never a good thing meaning that those teams will likely suffer for it. Don’t expect them to represent the conference in the Super Bowl while the Chiefs lack the talent to compete with the top two teams. The Pats and Steelers will fight to get in and although the Patriots don’t have the superstars that the Steelers have they are the better team as they will move into the Super Bowl for another year thanks to a motivated Brady.

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Brady may not have stars around him but he doesn’t need them when he has something to prove after a four-game suspension.

It is a well-rounded team but one that still struggles without that QB who can really take over a game.

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The Steelers are the reverse of their history as their offence is dangerous but their defence is not as shut down as they used to be.

The best defence in the league would love some support on the other side as Osweiler doesn’t seem to be the answer under centre

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Before the Carr injury this team was a great dark horse but now they don’t have that leadership that can take them to Houston

A great run game is their bread and butter but without it, they struggle through the air and on defence

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While the AFC seems a little bit easier to predict due to the issues that so many teams are facing and the dominance of one team, it is not the same in the NFC. The National Football Conference is a massive mystery for many people simply because there are massive questions about every team in the playoffs. They are all great teams and can all win the Super Bowl with the talent on the teams but when looking at them there are some things that send up massive red flags. From the bottom, the Detroit Lions are certainly a team with talent led by Matthew Stafford but they struggled all year to be consistent and aren’t necessarily a convincing Super Bowl team. The New York Giants are in the same boat as their inconsistency has many looking at them as easy outs, then again every time that someone has said that about Eli Manning’s teams they have gone on to win Super Bowls. The Green Bay Packers are one of the hottest teams in the league right now with Aaron Rodgers lighting it up through the air. But how long can he hold together a team without a true running back or with the injuries piling up to the point where a practice roster receiver is now signed to play corner in the playoffs. The Seattle Seahawks are still a team with great players but they are not the force they used to be and without Earl Thomas, the “Legion of Boom” is almost invisible. The Falcons have had one of their best seasons ever but they have also made a habit of dropping the ball in the biggest games. Can they shake off that history and meet their potential or will it just be more of the same for the Falcons? The Cowboys are back as the top team in the conference but they are also led by a rookie tandem that has yet to experience a playoff run. Some will wonder if these rookies can lead a team with more pressure on them than anyone else in the NFL. The NFC is a mess of tricky questions about every team and the answer to those questions will be the difference on this side of the playoffs. It is a tough one to predict but the Lions do not seem to have it this year and will likely not move on past the first round. Rodgers’ hot streak will give the Packers at least one more game even against a Giants team that loves the underdog role. Both Seattle and Green Bay won’t last much beyond that though as the talent is just not there this year. Atlanta and Dallas will fight it out for conference supremacy and despite their inexperience, the Cowboys will find a way to make the Super Bowl down their road from their home.

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The Cowboys have talent but that talent is very young and could crumble under the pressure of the playoffs

The Falcons are hoping to finish off a great season but history has not been in their favour when the game get important

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The Seahawks still have a good defence but there is no doubt that it is not the same as it was with Earl Thomas

One of the hottest teams with a QB on fire but Aaron Rodgers can only make up for so many injuries that have depleted this team

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When everyone doubts them they tend to show up and they hope to do the same despite their consistency issues

With Stafford throwing, they can be great but can their defence stand up and support their offence

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Super Bowl LI:
The Dallas Cowboys are a very surprising but very talented team as Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have been two of the best all year. They are good enough to take the NFC title but they won’t be ready for Tom Brady and the machine that is the Patriots. They will have a pretty easy path to the Super Bowl with Pittsburgh looking like the only real challenge and when they take on the Cowboys Bill Belichick is sure to have something that the rookies haven’t seen yet. From the fifth week on nothing has been able to stop Brady and nothing will as the Cowboys will put up a fight but won’t take the win as the Patriots return to the top of the heap for another year only adding to the legacy of a man who was suspended for four games this year.

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