The 2023 NFL regular season has officially come to an end. That means the playoffs begin and the race for the Lombardi intensifies. Seedings are set and Super Wild Card Weekend is rapidly approaching beginning a month of exciting football. Today, let’s look at one reason why each of the seven AFC playoff teams can take home the Lombardi Trophy.
One Reason Every AFC Playoff Team Can Win the Super Bowl
Baltimore Ravens: Home Field Advantage
For the first time since 2019, the AFC with run through Baltimore. The Ravens this season finished with a 13-4 record led by head coach John Harbaugh and MVP candidate Lamar Jackson. Many would make the strong argument this Ravens team is better than the 2019 squad which lost to the Tennessee Titans at home after clinching the one seed. To add on, last year the Chiefs took home the one seed and the Lombardi.
Baltimore has all the ingredients to bring home a championship and doing it at home will benefit in a big way. With one of the league’s best defenses, Jackson at QB, and an underrated rushing attack behind the loyal “Ravens Flock,” AFC teams will have their hands full entering this hostile environment.
Buffalo Bills: Hot at the Right Time
The Buffalo Bills are scorching hot and closed out a late-season comeback at the AFC East crown with a win over the Miami Dolphins. After falling to 6-6 things seemed bleak for Buffalo, but rattling off five straight wins has them primed to make a run. Sometimes all these teams need is to get hot at the right time and Buffalo has done just that.
The Bills can beat you in many different ways, through the air, on the ground, or with their defense. Throughout this win streak, Buffalo and offensive coordinator Joe Brady haven’t needed big performances from Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs to get the job done. Instead, they have found a variety of different ways to win. That’s the scary part, when needed, Allen and Diggs are one of the best quarterback-receiver duos in the game.
Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes
To say it has been a difficult and surprising year for the Kansas City Chiefs is an understatement. Yet, here they are back in the playoffs looking for back-to-back Lombardi Trophies and their fourth overall in franchise history. Despite all of the struggles and outside noise, the Chiefs will get an opportunity at another home playoff game on Saturday. How? You may ask, Patrick Mahomes.
Even with all the struggles around Mahomes this season he still ranks sixth in passing yards, eighth in touchdowns, and seventh in QBR. No, it isn’t one of Mahomes’ best seasons but even in a “down year” he still ranks near the top of the league in many categories. In just six years as the starter Mahomes has been to three Super Bowls, winning two of them. As long as Mahomes is healthy and the starter of Kansas City they will be a threat every single postseason and this one is no different.
Houston Texans: C.J. Stroud
Exactly one year ago from this past Week 18 the Houston Texans beat the Indianapolis Colts taking them out of the Bryce Young sweepstakes. Fast forward a year later, and inside that same Lucas Oil Stadium second overall pick C.J. Stroud led the Texans to a playoff birth on Saturday. Now this weekend, they will be inside NRG Stadium hosting their first playoff game since 2019. With this playoff birth, Stroud and head coach DeMeco Ryans became just the fifth rookie head coach and quarterback duo to make it since 1970.
Despite all the success for Stroud this season, history is against him. No rookie QB has ever won the Super Bowl in NFL history. However, a strong case could be made that Stroud is having one of the best rookie seasons the league has ever seen. Stroud is just the third player in NFL history to lead the league in pass yards per game and touchdown/interception ratio in the same year. The other two players apart of that list are Tom Brady and Joe Montana.
Along with this, Stroud also broke the rookie record for pass yards in a game when he threw for 470 yards in week 9 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If there was ever a rookie QB to take home the Lombardi, all signs point to it being C.J. Stroud.
Cleveland Browns: Joe Flacco
It’s stories like these that make sports so great and so worth watching. Somehow, someway, Joe Flacco at 38 is on a redemption tour and has carried the Cleveland Browns to the postseason. Things started to look bleak for Cleveland but in came Flacco and out went the panic. After being signed, Flacco went 4-1 as Cleveland’s starter and helped clinch the fifth seed in the AFC.
On top of the fact that he has thrown for 1,616 passing yards and 13 touchdowns in just five games, Flacco has already gotten to the mountain top with the divisional rival Ravens. This postseason Flacco is one of three quarterbacks who have won a Super Bowl. Many believe when the postseason rolls around it is all about the experience and Flacco doesn’t lack any of that. Flacco has appeared in 15 career playoff games winning 10 of them.
Miami Dolphins: Tyreek Hill
Unfortunately for Dolphins fans, this year feels eerily similar to last year as on Sunday Night the Dolphins lost to the Bills at home officially losing the division. While in the moment hope seems bleak for the Miami faithful as they will head to Arrowhead on Saturday, this is still one of the most talented teams in the league. The most talented of them all, is former Kansas City Chief, Tyreek Hill.
Teams and coaches across the league still haven’t found the perfect formula to stop the former fifth-round pick. Hill this season among receivers is tied for second in receptions, first in yards, and tied for first in touchdowns. In his two regular seasons with Miami, he has combined for 3,509 receiving yards. Even with the injuries on both sides of the ball for Miami as long as Hill continues to do cheetah things, Miami is going to be a tough out.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Tomlin
Another year, another winning record for the Pittsburgh Steelers under head coach Mike Tomlin. Since taking over in 2007, Tomlin has seven division titles, two Super Bowl appearances with one win, and an overall record including postseason of 181-109-2. Even with all of these accolades, this year is one of his most impressive seasons with the hand he’s been dealt. Pittsburgh has had three different quarterbacks start this season, Kenny Pickett, Mitchell Trubisky, and now Mason Rudolph.
On top of the quarterbacks they also made an offensive coordinator change mid-season firing Matt Canada. With all of this going on, Tomlin still found a way to get this squad to win three straight games to end the season which helped punch their ticket to the dance. Tomlin has handled adversity very well over the last few years and this season is no different. They are far from the most talented team in the playoffs and maybe the least talented at that, but no one can question that as long as Tomlin is at the helm, this franchise has a chance.
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