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Lepiscopo’s Playoff Picks by Logan Lepiscopo

2021-2022 NFL Playoff Predictions

Playoff time is upon us, if your team made the playoffs this is your favorite time of the NFL season. As for those whose team is at home starting their offseason early, well at least you get to enjoy the playoffs without the possible pain of your team losing. In this article I am going to give my predictions for the playoffs, and not just this wild-card round but all the way to the Super Bowl where I will crown a champion and MVP. So without further ado let’s get into these picks.

Wild Card Weekend

#5 Las Vegas Raiders @ #4 Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati looks like it has all the tools to win a playoff game this year, but the Raiders have caught fire recently and with that dramatic win over the Chargers they are carrying a lot of momentum. The Bengals and Raiders met earlier this year with Cincinnati winning 32-13, the Raiders were able to contain the Bengals passing game only allowing Burrow 148 yards and 1 touchdown, but Joe Mixon took over with 30 carries for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Bengals did everything right, shutting down the running game, and forcing Carr to make some silly mistakes. I do think that this game could go either way, but as a Raiders fan I have to have some bias here and believe in my team’s capabilities to win. The Bengals could very well win once again, and picking them to lose now could ruin the rest of my predictions but I am riding with the Raiders for at least the divisional round…

#6 New England Patriots @ #3 Buffalo Bills

This is round three between the Patriots and Bills this season, during the regular season the series was split 1-1, however this game is different as the winner moves on and a loser goes home. The first game between the two teams had very high winds, which allowed the Patriots to win with their running game, whereas the Bills struggled as usual to establish the run. However, in the second game Josh Allen and the Bills offense were able to pass the ball successfully as they had done all season. Currently in Orchard Park, the weather for Saturday night’s game is going to be frigid, 4 degrees at kickoff but will feel like negative 10. Mac Jones only has one game prior to this one that was below freezing, and it was in week 13 versus the Bills… he threw the ball just three times in that game. Both teams have a lot to prove in this game, the Patriots bouncing back after an awful season last year, and the Bills trying to climb back into that AFC championship game they were in just last season. It is said that betting against Bill Belichick in the playoffs is equivalent to betting against Nick Saban in the college football national championship… Well, Saban lost this year, and I will say with confidence that the Bills will win this game against Mac Jones and the Patriots. Both defensive units have been amazing this year allowing the fewest and second fewest points in the regular season, it is going to come down to player experience and I think that the Bills have more of that compared to the Patriots.

#7 Philadelphia Eagles @ #2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I just talked about never betting against Bill Belichick or Nick Saban, well now we have another name to add into people not to bet against and that is none other than Tom Brady. I think this game is going to be closer than many may think, only due to the Eagles defense playing very well of late and the Buccaneers wide receiver group taking hit after hit. I am amazed at what this Eagles team was able to do this season, sneaking into the playoffs, but I think that is about as far as they get. Jalen Hurts is a great young quarterback, and this offense has shown what potential it has, but on the NFL level not many guys on this Eagles team have played on a stage like this. If the Eagles want to pull off what could be the biggest upset this postseason, the defense is going to need to make plays so Hurts and the offense can start with good field position. Putting this Eagles team potential to the side, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers are going to win this game. Lombardi Lenny (Leonard Fournette) is back, Lavonte David is back, and so is receiving back Giovani Bernard. Also not to mention they added veteran WR John Brown to the practice squad so we could see him in action Sunday. Vegas Odds has the Buccaneers as 8.5-point favorites, and typically I would say hammer the over but like I said earlier, this game will be close and could come down to the last drive of the game. Ultimately the Buccaneers will advance and have another home game to what could end up being back-to-back Super Bowl victories.

#6 San Francisco 49ers @ #3 Dallas Cowboys

Unlike the previous three matchups these two teams have not met in the regular season so we have no preview of what this matchup will be. The Cowboys are a team that everyone makes constant jokes about not making a Super Bowl since 1995 despite being “America’s team.” This season a lot of people think the Cowboys have a legitimate chance at making it to the Super Bowl, and the journey starts with getting a victory against the 49ers. San Francisco was just in the Super Bowl in 2019 and many people forget because of that 6-10 season in 2020, but this team I think is just as capable as the Cowboys to make a Super Bowl run. The 49ers defense has stepped up big this season, and the offense has found its true identity of running the ball 40 times a game and constantly getting Deebo Samuel involved in some aspect of the game. It is going to be a dog fight between these two teams, another game that I see coming down to the final drive of the game. I would love to see the 49ers bounce-back into the Super Bowl conversation, and I would love to see the Cowboys lose… but I cannot bring myself to pick against this red-hot Cowboys defense. The offense has done enough to get points on the board, though it has not been great all season long I believe if the defense can continue to put the offense in good situations the Cowboys will put up points drive after drive. I am taking the Cowboys but do not think it will come with ease, the 49ers have a lot to prove this season after a rough 2020.

#7 Pittsburgh Steelers @ #2 Kansas City Chiefs

As Ben Roethlisberger said, out of the 14 playoff teams in this season, they are the 14th best. As much as I hate to pick the Chiefs and say how good of a team they are, it is the world that we live in. The Chiefs caught fire at just the right time, but I think this team is still the most vulnerable to being upset since Patrick Mahomes took over at quarterback. The Steelers squeezed into the playoffs, 2 seconds and 1 field goal away from being on the couch this weekend. As critical as this may sound this Steelers team has no business being in the playoffs, and certainly has no business being in discussion to possibly beat the Chiefs. Roughly 4 weeks ago the Steelers and Chiefs played at Arrowhead and the Chiefs won 36-10, the Chiefs offense won this game with Travis Kelce out, and Tyreek Hill having just 2 catches for 19 yards. I am very sorry to say this, but Big Ben’s career is over unless he pulls a Favre and changes his mind on retirement. I know it is a different situation, but all signs point to Ben retiring after this season and a playoff game against the Chiefs at Arrowhead stadium is not the ideal send off for the Steelers franchise quarterback. The Chiefs favored by 12.5 according to the Vegas odds, and if you are a sports bettor I quite honestly would hammer the over in this game.

#5 Arizona Cardinals @ #4 Los Angeles Rams

This will be the best game of the wild card round, meeting three of the two teams and similar to the Patriots and Bills the series is split 1-1. The first matchup between the two teams was way back in week 4, the Cardinals won 37-20 giving the Rams their first loss. The more recent meeting was week 14 and in this one the Rams got the best of the Cardinals winning 30-23. This game is going to be a coin flip, I think it relies on if Matthew Stafford is going to play good football or if it is going to be an interception filled day. The Cardinals are in a much different situation compared to week 14, though Chase Edmonds is back in the lineup they are without DeAndre Hopkins. I would love to see Kliff Kingsbury, and this young Cardinals team win this game and make a deep playoff run but this Rams team has figured things out and is clicking on all cylinders after a mid-season slump. The Rams seem to have everything figured out and they could get young second year running back Cam Akers back to help out Sony Michel and add something to the offense that the Cardinals have not seen this season. Give me the Rams and the young mastermind Sean McVay to advance to the divisional round.

Divisional Round

#5 Las Vegas Raiders @ #1 Tennessee Titans

The Titans ended the season not just winning the AFC South but clinching the number one seed in the AFC. As a Raiders fan I am terrified of the thought of a fully healthy Titans team, and so should the rest of the NFL. This round does not take much explanation to it, the Raiders are just happy to have made it this far (theoretically) despite the team still going out to prove what they can do against the number one seeded Tennessee Titans. Like I said, the Titans being fully healthy is terrifying to think of especially when it is in the discussion of Derrick Henry being back in the lineup. Give me the Titans to win this game and move on to the conference championship game, putting them just one away from the Super Bowl.

#3 Buffalo Bills @ #2 Kansas City Chiefs

Early in the season when the Chiefs were in their slump the Bills handled the Chiefs with ease winning 38-20 in Arrowhead Stadium. (Theoretically) The Bills will head back to Arrowhead stadium to look and get revenge from the AFC championship last season. But once again I think the Bills are going to fall short of the Super Bowl and lose to the Chiefs in the divisional round. Like I said in the wild card round I hate putting the Chiefs back into a chance for another super bowl but the team is so good, the team is completely different than the last time they faced the Bills. Mahomes has cleaned up turnovers, the running game has been successful with Darrel Williams, and the defense of the Chiefs would win a second half of the season award for how much changed the first 8-9 weeks to the last 8-9. This game could go either way, and it would be great to watch the Chiefs get eliminated from the playoffs, but Kansas City caught fire at just the right time, and I cannot pick against Patrick Mahomes with the way he has been running this offense of late. The Kansas City Chiefs head to the AFC championship for the 4th straight season.

#4 Los Angeles Rams @ #1 Green Bay Packers

Two teams that met earlier in the season face off once again, this time with a lot more on the line than a win for a playoff seed, this is for a chance at the Super Bowl. Back in week 12 the Packers beat the Rams 36-28 courtesy of Mason Crosby scoring 12 points (3 field goals & 3 extra points). Unlike the first game snow and negative temperatures should be expected throughout the entire game, and though seeing Matthew Stafford get to an NFC championship game would be nice I am taking Aaron Rodgers and the Packers at Lambeau field. The Rams have everything the Packers have, minus what I think this game is going to come down to… consistent quarterback play. Matthew Stafford has his games, but I think the Packers pass rush is going to be too much for him causing bad throws resulting in turnovers. Both the Rams and Packers defensive units are capable of changing the game and gaining momentum, but ultimately you cannot win a football game without putting up points and I trust the Packers offense a lot more than the Rams to put up points each and every drive. The road to the Super Bowl for the NFC goes through Lambeau Field and Aaron Rodgers will appear in the NFC championship for the third consecutive year, this time looking for different results.

#3 Dallas Cowboys @ #2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This pick is going to raise some eyebrows, if you did not catch on the team that is put in bold font is the team I am picking to win the matchup. The Cowboys and Buccaneers played all the way back in week one to open the NFL season, the Cowboys forcing the game to come down to one last Buccaneers drive but ultimately losing on a game-winning field goal 31-29. The Cowboys team now is significantly better than what it was in week one, and I truly think with losing Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown that the Buccaneers are worse as a team. The Cowboys are without Michael Gallup for the playoffs, but he didn’t play much of a factor in the first meeting, and I have confidence Cedrick Wilson can fill in just fine. I never want to fully count Tom Brady out, but I think realistically this game is going to come down to which team can establish a running game. In week 1 it was a passing fest with Tom Brady and Dak Prescott combining for 782 passing yards, 7 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. If the Cowboys lose this game, it is for one reason, and one reason only… Greg Zuerlein missed field goals. All season long Zuerlein has been one of, if not the most inconsistent kicker in the league and during playoff time he cannot afford to miss a field goal because that will be the Cowboys make or break. I am still riding with the Cowboys to advance to the NFC championship and play the Green Bay Packers.

Conference Championships

#2 Kansas City Chiefs @ #1 Tennessee Titans

There are so many rematches from the regular season in the playoffs, and frankly for the Chiefs history is not on their side. Week 7 the Titans beat the Chiefs 27-3, the Chiefs could not run the ball, Mahomes looked like he forgot how to play football and Byron Pringle was the leading receiver. As for the Titans Ryan Tannehill was good at passing and Derrick Henry just being present on the field was enough to keep the Chiefs on their toes. A.J. Brown is going to be the X-factor in this game, if the Chiefs can shut him down then it will be an easy Chiefs victory, but if Brown gets going like last time the Chiefs don’t stand a chance. That may sound extreme but the Titans have everything to get to the Super Bowl this season, and with Derrick Henry missing practically the entire regular season the Chiefs have no idea of what plays and formations they are going to incorporate with Henry running the ball. I have contemplated back and forward and back and forward about this game and no matter what my gut keeps going back to the Chiefs. A very winnable game for both sides, but the Titans losses this season were quite honestly embarrassing, to the point I cannot trust them to get the job done against a Chiefs team that is back in 2020-2021 form. Expect the Chiefs to appear in the Super Bowl for the third consecutive year.

#3 Dallas Cowboys @ #1 Green Bay Packers

This is going to be a good one, with no history this season between the two teams it is going to come down to breaking down position by position who has the strongest roster top to bottom. After carefully considering everything, I think that the Green Bay Packers are the more complete team. There are positions you could favor either way or you may think the Cowboys have a clear advantage, but from quarterback, to safeties, to punters, even to coaches, I think that the Packers are clearly ahead. Would you rather have a corner that has allowed the most yards in football but leads the league in interceptions, or two corners that have proven to be able to handle their own against any wide receiver lined up against them? I get the hype around the Cowboys, and history has not been on either team’s side recently as far as appearing in Super Bowls but one of those droughts has to come to an end, and I think that will be Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. After two straight losses in the conference championship this is the year for Rodgers to bring the Lombardi trophy back to Green Bay.

Super Bowl

#2 Kansas City Chiefs vs. #1 Green Bay Packers

It all comes down to this, the State Farm Bowl if you will, Patrick Mahomes versus Aaron Rodgers. After two wins at home the Packers travel out to Los Angeles for a game that weather will have no true factor, as for the Chiefs they got to host two games at Arrowhead and then a trip to Tennessee now Super Bowl ready in Los Angeles. The Super Bowl that many predicted last season is now here with a lot on the line. The Chiefs are looking to continue a new dynasty by winning its second Super Bowl in three years, as for the Packers this may be the last time we see Aaron Rodgers in a Packers uniform. The Packers experienced a very odd offseason with all of Aaron Rodgers drama that happened, and Kansas City, well they had a normal offseason but had a slump during the season that had a lot of people doubting if they would even make the playoffs. The Packers and Chiefs played in week 9 and the Chiefs won 13-7, BUT the Green Bay Packers had to start Jordan Love at quarterback because Aaron Rodgers had tested positive for COVID-19. The Chiefs were just getting out of a slump, but a 6 point victory against the Packers led by Jordan Love does not even remotely make me confident in picking the Chiefs to win again. Like every playoff team the Chiefs and Packers know the importance of winning, especially the Super Bowl, and both teams have come a long way since week 9 and that is why I am picking the Green Bay Packers. The Chiefs had a great run bouncing back from their rough start, but the Packers have been the best team in football, at least to me from week 2 or 3 and on. Give me the Packers to win the Super Bowl, Aaron Rodgers to win Super Bowl MVP, and the Chiefs another excruciating loss just one win shy of another super bowl. This game and the entire playoffs is the Packers to lose, but if there is a season that the Packers make it past the NFC championship game and win the Lombardi trophy this is the one.

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