By Garrett Athey
The 2017-2018 National Football League season has officially ended and it is now time for the playoffs. The top six teams from both the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC) will compete against each other. The teams from the National Football Conference include the Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, and Atlanta Falcons. The American Football Conference teams are the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans, and Buffalo Bills. Their ultimate goal is to reach the Super Bowl and win the championship.
The first game of the playoffs was the Tennessee Titans, a wildcard team, at the Kansas City Chiefs. Tennessee finished the season with a 9-7 record and second in the AFC South. The team was led by quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back DeMarco Murray. However, Murray was not be able to play against the Chiefs due to a knee injury he sustained. The Chiefs on the other hand clinched the AFC West title and got home field advantage for the first round. Quarterback Alex Smith had one of his best seasons this year and got help from rookie sensation Kareem Hunt who was dominant at running back. Kansas City also had a good season this year which helped them end with a record of 10-6. Tennessee ended up beating the Chiefs after coming back from an 18 point deficit. The Titans will go on to face the Patriots in New England for the second round.
The Atlanta Falcons, another wildcard team, were in Los Angeles against the Rams for the second game of the playoffs. Atlanta finished third in the NFC South behind the Saints and Panthers and had a 10-6 record. The Falcons are looking to return to the Super Bowl after losing last year to the New England Patriots. The team is led by last year’s MVP quarterback Matt Ryan and star receiver Julio Jones. On the other side of the field was the Rams who clinched the NFC West along with home field advantage for the first round. The Rams had star running back Todd Gurley, who had a MVP caliber season, lead them to the playoffs. On the defensive side, the Rams had defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who is almost impossible for anyone to stop. However, the Rams did not have enough to beat the Falcons and lost the game to Atlanta, who will go on to play the Eagles in Philadelphia for the second round.
The next game of the playoffs was the Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville to face off against the Jaguars. The Bills have not made the playoffs in seventeen years, but finished behind New England in the AFC East with a 9-7 record, clinching a playoff spot. The Bills have quarterback Tyrod Taylor and running back LeSean McCoy to thank for their success. The Jaguars are looking to beat Buffalo though as they face a similar playoff drought. Jacksonville has not been to the playoffs since 2007, but they won the AFC South title this season and finished with a record of 10-6. The Jaguars have an outstanding defense that shuts down their opponent, and a fantastic rookie running back in Leonard Fournette. Jacksonville earned a victory over the Bills and will travel to Pittsburgh in the next round to battle against the Steelers.
The final game of the first round of the playoffs included the Carolina Panthers at the New Orleans Saints. These two teams are division rivals, but New Orleans finished ahead of Carolina and clinched the NFC South title this season. Carolina took second place but finished the season with the same record as the Saints at 11-5. The Panthers are always relying on quarterback Cam Newton who was a previous MVP of the league and carries the team to victory more often than not. The Saints have their star quarterback, Drew Brees, to thank for their successes as well. Brees is always breaking records and winning games, but this year he had some help on offense with the team’s amazing rookie running back, Alvin Kamara. New Orleans was able to get the win against the Panthers and will face off against the Vikings in Minnesota for the second round of the playoffs.
As for Super Bowl favorites, decisions are split as to who will win the big game. Some feel that the AFC will win the championship, like Senior Austin Steckler who said, “The Patriots will win because Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time and no one can stop him.” The Patriots are last year's Super Bowl champions and are favored to return this year because they kept a majority of the players from last year. Not to mention that the AFC is thought to be pretty weak this year in terms of the teams that are in contention. Others believe the NFC is destined to win the Super Bowl this year, like Senior Calvin Geisbert who said, “Minnesota will win the championship because of their great defense.” The Vikings have one of the best defenses in the NFL that constantly causes problems for opposing offenses. All in all, the Super Bowl will be a spectacular event for all to enjoy, whether it be for the game, or the always funny Super Bowl commercials.