The NFL playoffs are set, and another edition of the Check-down Check-up is here to review them all. As a reminder, anything under four is a check down, anything above seven is a check up, and anything between those fours and sevens is a “check back next week.” So, who’s got a shot at the crown? Who’s probably going to be one and done? Let’s find out.
Kansas City Chiefs
Let’s start with the defending champions. The Chiefs only saw one legitimate loss this season, a shocking 40-32 defeat at the hands of their divisional rivals, the Las Vegas Raiders. The Chiefs were able to lock up the AFC’s top seed, and rest their starters in week seventeen. Coming off of two weeks of rest, Mahomes and Co. should be ready and raring to go make another deep run. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kansas City repeat as Super Bowl champions.
Verdict: 8/10, Check Up
Perhaps the biggest threat to Kansas City in the AFC: the two-seed Buffalo Bills. Josh Allen has played near-MVP caliber football over the second half of the season, and with the help of Stefon Diggs and head coach Sean McDermott, has transformed the Bills into a juggernaut. I think Buffalo’s ceiling is the AFC Championship game, but if any team is going to have a chance to upset the Chiefs, it’s Allen and the Bills.
Verdict: 7.25/10, Check Up
After starting 11-0, the Steelers have lost major steam in the last month of the season. Big Ben looks like a shell of himself, and even Pittsburgh’s talented receiving corps can’t make up for his weekly mistakes. That being said, the Steelers have an edge in experience over quite a few AFC teams. Mike Tomlin has been there, done that, and gotten the t-shirt. I don’t have total confidence in the Steelers, but they might be able to turn on the jets for a couple weeks and make it to the conference championship.
Verdict: 6.5/10, Check Back Next Week
Last year’s AFC finalists are back in the saddle in this year’s postseason, this time as a division winner. Mike Vrabel is a great coach, Derrick Henry is perhaps the league’s best at the running back position, and the passing game can hold firm while Henry rips through defenders. I love the way the Tennessee Titans play football, and I love the fact that they were just one game away last time. The only thing I don’t love is their matchup on Wild Card weekend.
Verdict: 6.75/10, Check Back Next Week
The top-seeded Ravens were upset in the divisional round last season by the Titans. Not only were they upset, but the game ended as a 28-12 blowout loss for Baltimore. This year, the Ravens are on a roll coming into the postseason, and they’ll be itching to avenge their loss from last year. Lamar Jackson still has to prove he can win a playoff game, and I think he can do so here, with a dominant rushing performance over a mediocre defense.
Verdict: 7.75/10, Check Up
Due to the coronavirus and injury concerns, the Browns have limped their way into the playoffs for the first time since 2002. That being said, Cleveland has shown resiliency all year, and this could just be another hurdle they’ll find a way over. With a healthy roster, I might pick them to upset the Steelers in the first week of the playoffs, but with everything swirling around this team, I’m far more hesitant. This was Cleveland’s skip-a-step season. They’ll likely lose on Sunday night, but I can see them coming right to the playoffs in 2021.
Verdict: 3.5/10, Check Down
The Colts get the distinct displeasure of facing the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card round. While it isn’t quite like facing the Chiefs, the Colts are going to have major problems keeping up with Buffalo’s potent offense. Despite their defensive strengths, I believe that Sean McDermott is going to set Josh Allen up to absolutely shred Indy’s secondary. I have very little confidence the Colts can pull this off.
Verdict: 3/10, Check Down