Some quick oddities of the 2019 playoffs: The Saints, Chiefs, and Eagles are all headed into the playoffs with identical records to their 2018 campaigns. However, due to the addition of the Ravens, 49ers, and...whatever happened with the NFC East, their seeding is different. The Saints get the worst deal, dropping from #1 all the way to #3, losing a week off in addition to home field advantage. Also, the Patriots have a better record than last year, but they lost their first round bye after a Week 17 loss (and KC's tiebreaker).
As for division champions, the AFC remained unchanged. All 4 2018 champs repeated. In the NFC, only the Saints are repeat champions (their third in a row), while the 2018 division winners for the North, East, and West didn't even make the playoffs.
Before I share thoughts on all the playoff teams, I also have DATA to prove that the 2019 playoff class is better than 2018. The combined AFC and NFC records were 60-36 (.625) and 58-38 (.604) in 2018. This year, the AFC got boosted to 67-29 (.698), while the NFC can boast an impressive 69-27 (.727).
2019 AFC Playoff Teams
1. Baltimore Ravens (14-2): here they are...your most terrifying team of the 2019 postseason. You might look at their Week 17 win and think, "No big deal. We knew the Ravens were good." But remember that they did that while resting many of their stars, including MVP candidate Lamar Jackson, and the Steelers needed a win to steal a wild card spot. The Ravens beat the desperate Steelers with RGIII! Who can beat them?
2. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4): or right. Here's the Ravens' biggest threat on the road to Miami. Patrick Mahomes is still one of the best QBs in the league, and now he's got two new advantages--experience and a defense. Seriously, how KC have played defensively in these last few weeks probably makes them better than their 2018 team, even with the drop in seeding.
3. New England Patriots (11-5): cracks are forming...this is still the most experienced team, but New England play their best postseason football at home, and they'll likely have to play road games in KC and Baltimore to make the Super Bowl (again), and they've lost to both teams this year. Not to mention that they still have the formidable Titans to host first.
4. Houston Texans (10-6): the Texans have won the AFC South 4 of the last 5 years, but they only have 1 playoff win to show for it (against the hapless Raiders). They've also notched losses to the Ravens and Titans, so it's fitting that they're the #4 seed. I don't expect much from them.
5. Buffalo Bills (10-6): the Bills are good. Sure, they got swept by the Patriots, and they also fell to the Ravens, but 5 of their 6 losses were by one score, and their strength is defense. A good defense won't guarantee a championship, but it makes it a whole lot easier to find a functional offense. They probably don't get an extra game in Miami, but they aren't pushovers.
6. Tennessee Titans (9-7): Ryan Tannehill, eh? The Titans were one game away from making the playoffs in 2018, and they continue to do well in 2018. I also don't expect much from this team, given their limited playoff experience, but they could throw a wrench into some plans. Plus, they did hand KC a loss in Week 10.
2019 NFC Playoff Teams
1. San Francisco 49ers (13-3): the 9ers are one of the most balanced teams in football, and could easily go blow for blow with the Ravens. (And they did. In Baltimore). All of their losses were close games, and they have some of the best talent in the league (hello Kittle and Bosa). They do lack some experience, though, and they might have some trouble having played three NFC playoff teams in the regular season. Still, great team, and I hope they're a blast to watch in January.
2. Green Bay Packers (13-3): Yeah, whatever, the Pack has been to the playoffs before...but not like this. Their defense...is decent? Aaron Rodgers is still one of the best QBs in the league, but he's had to do much less than years past, AND they get a week off, AND they get to host a game in the frozen North. I am very curious to see how LaFleur does in the postseason, but Cheeseheads have plenty of reasons to be excited.
3. New Orleans Saints (13-3): Ouch...matched their record but missed the bye. That hurts, but I'll draw your attention to weeks 3 through 7. Drew Brees missed 5 games this season after thumb surgery, and backup Teddy Bridgewater went undefeated. Sean Payton is one of the top coaches in the league, and definitely the best in the NFC. His Saints could beat anyone. (That doesn't mean they will, but they could.)
4. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7): Wow, the Eagles are headed into the playoffs as underdogs...again. If Payton is the best coach in the NFC, Pederson is a close second for taking this broken mess to the playoffs. The Eagles are the most dangerous team in the NFC right now. They're definitely beatable, but they're going to give their opponents hell. Don't count them out just yet.
5. Seattle Seahawks (11-5): Marshawn Lynch did not provide the magic for an NFC West title, but the Seahawks still look good. They're pretty well rounded, and Pete Carroll is a good coach. They are definitely the most capable wild card of the year. And remember that they were inches away from getting a home playoff game.
6. Minnesota Vikings (10-6): the at the bottom of the list is also at the bottom of my expectations. Mike Zimmer does have a good defense, but after getting embarrassed at home last week, I just don't know if this team is balanced enough to make a convincing run. They start with New Orleans, and if they survive that, they head to the Bay to face the #1 seed, and if they survive THAT, they head to Seattle or Green Bay, and they're 0-3 against those teams already.
On second thought, let's not go to TechReport. Tis a silly place.