Week 17 of the NFL is just around the corner, which means the race for the Super Bowl championship is now in full swing. There are still playoff spots to be decided in both conferences and in the NFC there remains a wild card spot up for grabs. Below are my predictions for week 17 and the playoffs including the outcome of Super Bowl 51 in Houston.
Week 17 will be interesting for the playoff seeding. In the AFC, I predict Kansas City over San Diego and Denver over Oakland, securing the AFC West for Kansas City and Oakland at the 5th seed. In the NFC, the biggest game of the week will be the Packers at the Lions with the NFC North up for grabs. I predict that Green Bay will come out victorious in Detroit 34-28, securing the NFC North for Green Bay for the fifth time in six years and ending Jim Caldwell's employment by the Detroit Lions. With these results in mind, the playoff seeding will look as follows
AFC: 1) New England, 2) Kansas City, 3) Pittsburgh, 4) Houston, 5) Oakland, 6) Miami
NFC: 1) Dallas, 2) Atlanta, 3) Seattle, 4) Green Bay, 5) New York Giants, 6) Washington
Wild Card Weekend will feature Miami at Pittsburgh, Oakland at Houston, New York at Green Bay, and Washington at Seattle. I predict that Pittsburgh will beat Miami handily, particularly Miami is still without starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Additionally, I believe that Oakland will upset Houston despite Oakland being without starting quarterback Derek Carr who fractured his fibula in week 16. On the NFC side, I believe Green Bay will beat New York in a shootout in Titletown. Eli Manning plays at a different level in the playoffs, but Aaron Rodgers has arguably been the best quarterback in football since week 11. I think he edges out Eli. In Seattle, I believe Seattle will beat Washington handily due to the difficulty that teams have of winning in Seattle. Russell Wilson is a better QB than Kirk Cousins, and in Wilson's building he'll edge out Cousins easily.
The divisional round will feature Green Bay at Dallas, Seattle at Atlanta, Oakland at New England, and Pittsburgh at Kansas City. Green Bay at Dallas will be an interesting game due to the Dallas Cowboys' ability to run the football and Dallas's lack of a great pass defense. Due to their run game, I believe Dallas will edge out Green Bay in a very good contest. In Atlanta, I believe Seattle will upset Atlanta due to Atlanta's lack of playoff experience. Seattle has been in the playoffs consistently the past 5 years and Pete Carroll is one of the best coaches in football, and I believe in a close contest Seattle will advance. In the AFC, I believe New England will blow Oakland out. Houston is in the worst division of football, so the advancement of Oakland isn't impressive. New England is the best team in football right now bar none, and I believe Brady and company will carve Oakland's weak secondary up and win by 3 or more touchdowns. Pittsburgh at Kansas City will be an exciting game, as Antonio Brown, arguably the best receiver in the league, will be tested by one of the best secondaries in the league in Kansas City. I believe that Kansas City will edge out Pittsburgh due to their defense and their homefield advantage. Other than Seattle, Arrowhead Stadium is the loudest stadium in football, and with two very evenly matched teams, I believe Arrowhead will give Kansas City the edge to advance.
Championship weekend will feature Seattle at Dallas and Kansas City at New England. I believe that although Dallas has the advantage of playing in their home stadium, their core of rookies will crack and the veteran savvy of the Seahawks will give Seattle an edge, and the Seahawks will advance to Super Bowl 51. New England and Kansas City will be a tight contest, probably a difference of 3 or less points. I believe that because it's at New England that New England will win the game, advancing them to their seventh Super Bowl since 2000.
Super Bowl 51 will be a very exciting matchup as it will be a rematch of Super Bowl 49 which became famous for Pete Carroll's blunder of calling a pass on the 1 yard line despite having arguably the league's best power back in Marshawn Lynch which led to a game-sealing interception for New England. Once again, I believe that New England will beat Seattle in a very competitive game, giving Brady his fifth Super Bowl win and cementing his legacy as the best quarterback in NFL history.