You can’t write a new NFL column without prefacing it with a Dumb and Dumber quote. It’s a new 2016 rule.
You also have just as much reason to believe every NFL playoff team has a real shot this year — yes, even you, Houston (albeit probably not a large one).
The field is wide open this time around. The defending champion Patriots have lost their starting running back and top wideout and Tom Brady has a “banged up?” ankle. Seattle, the defending NFC champs, have looked impressive lately, but only after a ?-? start. Hell, the Kansas City Chiefs have won 10 in a row. The CHIEFS! You know the team that’s been rolling without arguably the best running back in the league and super conservative Alex Smith at QB after starting the year 1-5.
It could be the most unpredictable NFL playoffs we’ve seen in years. Here is one reason why your team has a chance.
Josh Helmuth is the editor of CraveOnline Sports.
2015 NFL Playoffs Facts
Green Bay Packers
Record: 10-6 (5 seed)
First Game: @ Redskins
Why they can win: Aaron Rodgers
A man without weapons, Rodgers has only been able to manage the 16th best passer rating in the NFL this season. But without Rodgers, would this team even make the playoffs?? The answer is no. In fact I would argue they wouldn't have gone 6-10, let alone 10-6.
The Packers have a plethora of weaknesses, but Rodgers is a Super Bowl winning quarterback and the only reason Green Bay has a prayer. Plus,
he's good at Hail Marys.
Record: 11-5 (3 seed)
First Game: Home vs. Seahawks
Why they can win: Luck?
No, not Andrew Luck.
I can't lie. You might be better off buying that Power Ball ticket than placing a bet on the Vikings.
Hate to use the cliche, "if we play this team 10 times, we might win (fill in the blank)," but the Vikings have to play the hottest team in the NFC in the opening round. They would likely win once or twice in a ten game series.
this little nugget, which serves a reminder of how the 2010 14-2 Patriots lost to the Jets in their opening playoff game (link to Patriots team info here).
But the Vikings still have Adrian Peterson, who, at 30 years old, is still one of the top running backs in the league, leading the NFL in rushing this season.
Kansas City Chiefs
Record: 11-5 (5 seed)
First Game: @ Texans
Why they can win: Fate
Of course this is a team that relies on defense, but let's look at the facts here. They've won 10 games in a row, becoming just the second team ever to make the playoffs after a 1-5 start and the first to win 8 games after losing 5 straight!
The Royals' success must have rubbed off onto Arrowhead, which sits just yards away. The Chiefs haven't lost a game since the Royals won the World Series.
Record: 10-6 (6 seed)
First Game: @ Bengals
Why they can win: Antonio Brown
Everyone knows he's the best wide receiver in the NFL. Everyone knows the ball is going to him. Yet he
still can't be stopped.
The deep ball matters, especially with Brown, who opens everything up for the running game. The wideout finished with the fourth most receiving yards in NFL history this year (1,834) and became the first player to nab four games with 175 receiving yards in a season.
The Steelers need to have a lot of things to happen in order to make a playoff run, but if they go deep it will mostly be because of Brown's deep ball threat.
Record: 15-1 (1 seed)
First Game: (First round bye) Lowest Winning Seed From NFC Wild Card Round
Why they can win: Cam Newton
I'm finally being honest with myself. I've come to the conclusion that I've never given Newton credit because he is a Tiger. Well, he's a Panther
now. But he went to Auburn. I'm a Bama grad.
If you're reading this article, you're most likely a casual fan. Can you name me one other player on the Panthers roster?
Maybe Luke Kuechly? Maybe Greg Olsen?
My point is that Newton has carried this team to a nearly undefeated record without a premiere running back or receiver and is still a lock for the MVP (45 TDs over 4,000 combined yards). He has home field advantage (where they've won 11 in a row) after leading a scoring barrage that averages an NFL high 31.2 points per game
Record: 13-3 (2 seed)
First Game: (First round bye) Highest Winning Seed From NFC Wild Card Round
Why they can win: The pass attack
The Cardinals have been one of the best teams in the NFL this season but are coming off the third-worst Week 17 defeat a playoff team has ever suffered (in the modern format). But, don't worry. It's very possible the cardinals mailed it in, knowing they had home-field already locked up.
Carson Palmer threw for over 4,600 yards, having his best year ever, while helping Larry Fitzgerald to his first 1,000 yard season since 2011 and his first 100-catch season since '07.
The Cardinals are 1st in the NFL in total offense, 2nd in points, 2nd in passing yards per game and third in TDs.
Record: 12-4 (3 seed)
First Game: Home vs. Steelers
Why they can win: Jeremy Hill
... Has not been very good... But the second-year running back had a solid game Sunday against Baltimore, scoring once and averaging 6 yards a carry.
With A.J. McCarron still at QB with Andy Dalton on the sidelines, Cincinnati's only hope is to be successful on the ground to open things up for a quarterback only making his fifth career start.
I guess you can't feel good if you're a Bengals fan. Aside from the aforementioned, the Bengals haven't won a playoff game in 25 years and since Marvin Lewis became head coach in 2003, they've gone 8-19 in prime-time games and 8-19 against Pittsburgh in the regular season.
Record: 9-7 (4 seed)
First Game: Home vs. Chiefs
Why they can win: J.J. Watt
The guy isn't just a
wanted man, he's as entertaining of a dancer as he is an offense killer.
The best defensive player in the league leads the NFL in sacks (17.5), has 76 tackles, 3 forced fumbles and has countless blocked passes.
Now, you can't feel too confident as a potential Super Bowl team with Brian Hoyer as your quarterback, but if there's one single man who can affect a run-game and pressure an inconsistent opposing QB, it's Watt.
Record: 9-7 (4 seed)
First Game: Home vs. Packers
Why they can win: Kirk Cousins
You're telling me Cuzzie can help the 'Skins reach the Super Bowl??? Meh.... But here's reason why Washington fans should have
Cousins threw 10 touchdowns and just one INT in December, three of them against Dallas on Sunday. Because of his steady, game-manager-like production, Washington has won four straight and five of their last six, scoring 34 points over the last three games. Remember, he has a nucleus of DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed and Alfred Morris, which is one of the best trios in the NFL when the offense is rolling.
Record: 12-4 (1 seed)
First Game: (First round bye) Lowest Winning Seed From AFC Wild Card Round
Why they can win: Defense
Nope, not Peyton Manning, who, although has had weeks of recovery, is still a walking mummy. And definitely not on the shoulders of Brock Osweiler.
Currently the Broncos rank first in total defense and fourth in points allowed. If they're winning the Super Bowl, it will be because of domination on the defensive side of the football.
(Sorry to throw a curve ball with the pic above. I was actually desperately trying to come up with a way to convince you Manning has one final playoff drive in him, but I can't stop thinking about his Nationwide commercial, which has been more entertaining than watching him throw a football lately.)
Still love you Peyton!
Record: 10-6 (6 seed)
First Game: @ Vikings
Why they can win: Russell Wilson
Cam Newton is the MVP, but Russell Wilson has been playing at historic levels over the last handful of weeks.
The Super Bowl champion finished the regular season ranked first in passer rating (110.1) and only trailed Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer in Total QBR. Also, he led the NFL over Seattle's last 7 games with 24 touchdown passes, a 132.8 passer rating and a 91.3 QBR. Yup, he's been insane; it's production that's helped Seattle lead the NFL in both offensive TDs scored (29) and fewest offensive TDs allowed (8).
New England Patriots
Record: 12-4 (2 seed)
First Game: (First round bye) Highest Winning Seed From AFC Wild Card Round
Why they can win: The Patriots have time to get healthy
Not only is Tom Brady recovering from a sprained ankle, the Pats will likely have Julian Edelman, Sebastian Vollmer and Chandler Jones back for their second-round matchup, which is important, considering they've lost four of their last 6 after a 10-0 start.
But no matter what, they're the defending champs and they still have two guys named Brady and Belichick.