Greetings from Bizarro World! The NFL playoffs are set to begin this weekend. As is the case most years, the question is “Can anyone stop the Cleveland Browns”? No one managed to in the regular season, but immortality is still three wins away.
Let me give a brief review of our playoff teams before I break down this weekend’s action. Stating with the AFC:
1. Cleveland Browns 16-0: The juggernaut. They have the best offense in the NFL, a decent defense, and solid special teams. To knock them off someone is going to have to stop, or at least slow down, DeShone Kizer. The fact is, you don’t go 16-0 by accident. Perhaps the Colts or Giants can pull the upset, but it won’t be easy.
2. Indianapolis Colts 12-4: If not for weak special teams, the Colts might have finished with a stronger DVOA than the Browns. The Browns have a stronger offense, but the Colts can make up for that with a better defense. What really separates the two teams is the fact the Browns have Hue Jackson and the Colts don’t. Hue has allowed the Browns to consistently exceed their Pythagorean record, which isn’t easy to do year-after-year. Still, this is a very strong Colts roster and it shouldn’t be underestimated.
3. New York Jets 11-5: Honestly, this was a disappointing season for the Jets. People forget, but the Jets were the Super Bowl favorites before the season. Some shocking early season stumbles brought the Jets back to htraE before they rallied late. What was supposed to be a dominant offense was only pretty good. While they don’t have any real weaknesses, it would be a surprise if they managed to knock off the Colts. This weekend’s matchup against the Dolphins won’t be easy either.
4. Denver Broncos 11-5: If not for a weak defense, they’d be among the Super Bowl favorites. They arguably have the second best offense in the NFL, and top ten special teams. John Elway has built a strong contender. If the defense continues to improve, they could challenge the NFL elite. Mind you, I don’t want to write them off, but I just don’t see them winning four straight against this field.
5. Houston Texans: 12-4: Dear lord, the AFC is just loaded. The Texans are the only AFC team ranked in the top ten in the NFL in offense, defense, and special teams. I have them as the fourth best team in the NFL. Unfortunately, they’re facing the hardest possible path the Super Bowl. Amazingly, they probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs if Deshaun Watson hadn’t gotten hurt. Sometimes a franchise just gets lucky with injuries.
6. Miami Dolphins 10-6: Their win over the Raiders proved crucial. Weak special teams are the Dolphins only real weakness. A strong (but not quite elite) offense is paired with a top five defense. They might be able to knock off the Jets this weekend, but then they have the brutal trip to Cleveland. Well, let’s take things one game at a time. First up: The trip to New York to take on their divisional rival.
The AFC playoffs are just loaded. Despite that, the Browns are slight favorites against the field to make it to balmy Minneapolis. As for the NFC playoffs, there is one strong and balanced team, but after that everyone has clear flaws.
1. New York Giants 13-3: The Bears might have a better offense. The Buccaneers have a better defense. But no one has a more complete team in the NFC. Like the Texans, the Giants are in the top ten in offense, defense, and special teams. In fact, the Giants were dominant on special teams, which is one of the reasons they have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Giants are also well prepared to win well into the future. This is a well run franchise, with respected ownership. When you have that, you always have a chance to succeed.
2. Chicago Bears 11-5: Bears fans have gotten used to strong quarterback play and solid offense. This season was no exception as the Bears rode a top five offense to the top of the NFC North. Will that be enough to get them to the Super Bowl? They have pretty good special teams, but a weak defense might be enough to send them home. Frankly, a top to New York would be no picnic, but we’ll cross that tunnel when we get to it.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11-5: Strong special teams and the best defense in the NFL might be enough to carry the Buccaneers to a championship. A weak offense is a problem though. A matchup against Chicago would put strength against strength, so I’m intrigued by the possibility. First, Tampa Bay needs to dispatch the resurgent Packers, which won’t be easy.
4. San Francisco 49ers 10-6: A total collapse! What had been a dominant offense under C. J. Beathard completely stalled under the “leadership” of Jimmy Garoppolo. The fact is, the 49ers could’ve and should’ve listened to Cian Fahey. The man dispenses top quality knowledge and wisdom for free:
Before last season:
Garoppolo only lasted six quarters before the Patriots had seen enough (with mercifully brief appearances in four other games)
From February 2017:
From March 2017:
Bingo. Note, the Bears have a two seed here in Bizarro World, which could have gone to the 49ers had they listened to Cian.
From October 2017:
Take a victory lap Cian. You were right about Carson Wentz:
You were right about Sean McVay:
Heck, you were even right about Tyreek Hill:
You warned the 49ers. They didn’t listen. Now they’re boned. A solid defense won’t be able to carry Jimmy G. across the finish line. The worst part is that the 49ers mortgaged their future, so don’t expect them to make the Bizarro playoffs again anytime soon.
5. Washington Redskins 9-7: Don’t read too much into the Redskins being favored this weekend in San Francisco. That’s due to Garoppolo and the 49ers five-game losing streak. The Redskins are an average football team with a solid offense, weak defense, and good special teams. Expect the winner of the Redskins-49ers game to get bounced the following weekend.
6. Green Bay Packers 9-7: The dark horse. Their path isn’t easy, but when you have Brett Hundley, you always have a chance. Hundley going up against the Buccaneers stout defense is must see TV. The Packers have a decent defense themselves, but weak special teams. We’ll see if that ends up costing them.
I really must note that apart from the Giants, the AFC towers over the NFC this year. The futures odds will make it clear. Before we get to that though, let’s look at this weekend’s slate:
Saturday 4:35 on ESPN: Houston Texans @ Denver Broncos (Line: Broncos -2.5 -120, Texans +2.5 +110)
The Broncos have a monster offense and homefield advantage. The Texans have a much better defense and stronger overall roster. We’re opening up with two of the five best teams in the NFL. In fact, just going by their recent play, we are looking at what might be the two hottest teams in the NFL. Wowsers!
Saturday 8:15 on NBC: Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Line: Buccaneers -2 -105, Packers +2 -105)
The Buccaneers may have the best defense in the NFL, but this game might come down to the fact that the Packers have Brett Hundley and the Buccaneers don’t.
Sunday 1:05 on CBS: Miami Dolphins @ New York Jets (Line: Jets -3 +100, Dolphins +3 -110)
Both offenses are solid. The Dolphins have a better defense. The Jets have better special teams. You could make a case that the Dolphins have been a hair better than the Jets lately, but it’s close either way.
Sunday 4:40 on Fox: Washington Redskins @ San Francisco 49ers (Line: Redskins -3 +105, 49ers +3 -115)
Kind of a sad matchup to close the weekend. The 49ers are in a downward spiral. The Redskins are… mediocre. It could go either way, which counts for something I guess.
Interesting to note that all four road teams would be favored on a neutral field. The divisional round will be quite different in that respect.
Finally, here are the Bizarro World conference and Super Bowl odds:
Cleveland Browns: Yes: -106
Cleveland Browns: No: -104
Indianapolis Colts: Yes: +250
Indianapolis Colts: No: -280
New York Jets: Yes: +1100
New York Jets: No: -1700
Denver Broncos: Yes: +1150
Denver Broncos: No: -1750
Houston Texans: Yes: +1500
Houston Texans: No: -2300
Miami Dolphins: Yes: +1900
Miami Dolphins: No: -2900
New York Giants: Yes: -126
New York Giants: No: +114
Chicago Bears: Yes: +325
Chicago Bears: No: -375
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Yes: +1000
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: No: -1500
San Francisco 49ers: Yes: +4000
San Francisco 49ers: No: -7000
Washington Redskins: Yes: +1150
Washington Redskins: No: -1750
Green Bay Packers: Yes: +1025
Green Bay Packers: No: -1525
Super Bowl Odds:
Cleveland Browns: +185
New York Giants: +310
Indianapolis Colts: +475
Chicago Bears: +1275
New York Jets: +2650
Denver Broncos: +2650
Houston Texans: +3400
Green Bay Packers: +3700
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: +4250
Miami Dolphins: +4475
Washington Redskins: +5200
San Francisco 49ers: +32000
Super Bowl Line:
AFC -3.5 +102, NFC +3.5 -112
I’ll be updating the Bizarro World results weekly. Please note, there is no Pro Bowl in Bizarro World because that would just be silly. I hope y’all enjoy the Bizarro playoffs as much as I do.
(Special thanks to David Hess (@audacityofhoops) for providing the last bit of data I needed to construct… travel to Bizarro World.)