The NFL Playoffs Pt. 2

Eli Bernstein, QB

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Last year we wondered what a catch was. Earlier this year it was roughing the passer
penalties. Further on it was the pondering of field goals and extra points. Today we reach the
apex of such a quandary: What is the NFL? It's been an… interesting year, to say the least. A
combination of miracles, collapses, comebacks, tragedies and tightly contested games alike.
As we move on from such a season, we have our next challenge: The NFL Playoffs. With
four teams remaining, only one can emerge as a champion. I will be discussing the problems
with each of the four remaining teams and what they will need to do to become victorious the
next two games and become Super Bowl Champions.
Year after year, The New England Patriot’s season ends with either a Super Bowl or a
deep playoff run after winning the pathetic AFC East division. Skeptics wait to see when the
almighty Tom Brady will let his age catch up to him but so far, he has been able to delay the
inevitable. This season is no different. It is no mystery that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are the
greatest quarterback and coach combo in NFL history. Together, they have won five Super
Bowl’s and been to eight. They have won 10 or more games in 15 straight seasons, which is an
NFL record. The AFC East has ended with New England on top for the past nine seasons and 15
out of 17 since Brady became the starter. This team is hungry, Brady is hungry to prove his
doubters wrong and prove that his time is not up yet. This is quite possibly Tom Brady’s worst
team and they still earned a first round bye. This team is ready, and they are dying to show
everyone the Patriots are not done yet.

If the Chiefs are to win Super Bowl LIII, it will require Mahomes to play at an elite level
in his first full season as a starter. That’s an extremely lofty expectation, but it’s what it will take.
It’s not impossible, however, as we’ve seen QBs such as Brady, Roethlisberger, Kurt Warner and
Russell Wilson win Super Bowls in their sophomore seasons. Mahomes is certainly walking into
a dream situation to begin his career. He has all the tools he can dream of to work with, from QB
guru Reid, to receivers Watkins and Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce.
The Rams cleaned up come awards time last year. They boasted Defensive Player of the
Year, Coach of the Year…and Offensive Player of the Year, Todd Gurley. Gurley led running
backs with 19 total touchdowns. The closest to him was New Orleans' Alvin Kamara with only
14…that’s 84 points to Gurley’s 114!
Handing Gurley the ball is Jared Goff, who is definitely living up to his draft pick and proving
the doubters (Jeff Fisher, former Rams head coach) wrong. Last year, Goff threw to Sammy
Watkins, who left in free agency. Brandin Cooks was brought on as a replacement and has
looked fantastic this season.  Protecting Goff is a powerful offensive line that will save him from
injury and give him time in the pocket. His starters consist of two outstanding veterans in
Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan. The other three starters, Rob Havenstein, Jamon Brown,
and Rodger Saffold, have flourished. All of these assets combined make the Rams very scary and

if all their pieces can fire on all cylinders then the Rams could secure their spot for the Super
Bowl this Sunday.
What the Saints did to rally against — and then hold off — the underdog Eagles in
Sunday's divisional playoff game was by no means "The Big Easy." But only this New Orleans
team could make it look that way in a 20-14 win. Considering the final scores on a weekend
when all four higher seeds coming off byes won at home, the Saints had the fewest style points
— literally. The Chiefs, Rams and Patriots all scored 30 or more points and were mostly in
control of their matchups from the get-go.Still, the Saints were most impressive of all, with both
the calm, methodical approach to erase a 14-0 deficit and the cool intensity not to blow a fourth-
quarter lead. They also had to dispatch the red-hot reigning Super Bowl champions, not an
opponent new to the playoff field like the Colts, Cowboys or Chargers.
When Drew Brees threw an interception on the Saints' first offensive snap, and when
the Eagles rolled to a two-touchdown lead with more Nick Foles magic, there should have been a
sense of impending doom in New Orleans. Instead, coach Sean Payton got his team to trust
its advantages and dominate the rest of the game. Running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin
Kamara were stuffed on the ground early in the game, and the deep passes to receiver Ted Ginn
Jr. were not available. The Saints' response was Brees getting into rhythm in the short-to-
intermediate passing game with a lot of Michael Thomas.
The Saints' pass rush was not doing much to rattle Foles, and the secondary was out of
place. No problem there, either — they leaned on their strong run defense to get Foles in
consistently long down-and-distance situations, and they forced the QB and his receivers to try to
deliver at a high degree of difficulty in a one-dimensional offense.
This is quite possibly the best conference round in league history, any one of these teams
could take the Lombardi Trophy but only one can. I believe the New Orleans Saints have the best
chance at winning this year. Led by future hall of famer Drew Brees and Sean Payton this team
is unstoppable. The offense has weapons in the air and on the run, it all depends on the defense.
This team can proudly boast having the third best run defense but the 28 th best pass defense. If
this defense can step up when it needs to, there is no one who can put a stop to the Saint’s
amazing season.

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