By: Brandi Jane (Twitter: @brand_i13)
As the NFL rounds the corner into Week 5, those of us who like to look towards the future is beginning to look to the NFL Playoffs. A very EARLY look at the playoffs. Every year it seems we could count on the Seahawks, Packers, and Patriots to always make it to the postseason, but who is this year’s sleepers and underdogs. If we have learned anything after nine months of 2020, it’s that anything is possible. With extended playoff teams in effect this year after the rule change, who are the six sleepers you ask? Well, let’s take a look. Here are three sleepers in the AFC & three sleepers in the NFC.
With Natt Nagy at the helm, the last three seasons his record sits at 24-13 and hot off a win on Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Bucs. What the Bears lack in defense, at 29th in the league, they make up for in offense, at seventh. Khalil Mack is heating things up, as well. He’s looking like his old self as he’s creating constant pressure, outside of body-slamming foes after the play. The injury-riddled, Robert Quinn, will create a formidable duo with Mack after he’s fully healthy. On offense, Nick Foles seems to be clicking with the offense, and only a matter a time before the defense picks up the slack. Matt Nagy might be the most underrated head coach in the league. Nagy, Nick Foles, and this sleeper selection all belong together.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
We all root against Brady, let’s be honest. But what we can’t root against is that the Bucs are stacked. On defense, they have Shaq Barrett, William Gholston, Suh, Devin White, Lavonte David, and now their secondary looks much stronger than 2019. With Evans back on Thursday night, paired with Gronkowski, and Brady on offense we are going to see them heat up and heat up fast. Bruce Arians is a seasoned vet on the headset and not going to let their two losses to the Saints and the Bears derail their hopes of keeping the Super Bowl Trophy in Tampa. The only thing holding this team is penalties and injuries.
Starting Week 5 with a clean slate as the Panthers come on Sunday with a 2-2 record. Look for a confident Teddy Bridgewater and his targets Robby Anderson and Curtis Samuel who led the way against the Cardinals in reception yards. We all love the two hall of fame quarterbacks in the NFC South, but the humble Bridgewater could put his team tied for first place in the NFC South after a few days. They travel to Atlanta, who is a team that can’t find their footing. So look for the Panthers to gain the lead and hold it. They can use this game to carry their momentum into the continuing weeks.
Baker Mayfield…. Need I say more? The Browns don’t look terrible for the first time in God knows when. A new head coach, Kevin Stefanski, and a rolling team who is on a three-game win streak? Can’t root against them. Something is working and it just might be the new Progressive commercials for Baker. On defense, Myles Garrett leads the league in almost every edge rusher category. Look for the loaded Browns with a little more talent and confidence to sneak in the playoffs with an extra wild card spot this time around.
Two sleepers playing each other in the AFC tomorrow and two teams that are on a three-game win streak since Week 2. We are going to see a big defensive game from the Colts, as they are second in the league, but they are going to have to handle the #1 rush in the NFL from the Browns. Looking closer at the Colts, they might have the two most underrated players in the league: Darius Leonard and Quentin Nelson. All in all, Look for a great defensive effort down the stretch from the Colts and that is going to propel them into the Playoffs. Two immovable objects might collide on Sunday, but Defense wins games right?!
Well, the Titans won’t be making it to the playoffs and may just ruin it for the NFL if they don’t learn to be COVID smart. As a result of more positives this week their game against the Bills has been moved to Tuesday. Anyhow, look for the Titans to continue to put the weight of the team on Derrick Henry’s shoulders. They’re surprising fifth in the NFL on offense and third on passing. If they can get healthy and stay healthy, look for them to gain an around phenomenal team and make a run to the end. The Clowney factor still remains unseen. I can’t wait to see Derrick Henry and Jadeveon Clowney make splash plays in big games down the stretch.