From 32 to 14 – that’s how many teams are now left vying for a chance to play in and win Super Bowl LXVI. For some, being in the playoffs is a surprise, for others, it is just a step along the path of their ultimate goal. Yet, for some coaches, teams, and quarterbacks, the pressure they will face in this year’s NFL Playoffs will be unlike any they have faced before, because of the path they have taken to get there. So, while everyone is under playoff pressure, which of the 14 teams, head coaches, and quarterbacks are under the most pressure now that the postseason has begun?
We begin on the sidelines with the head coach, where, to me, there’s only one person facing a mountain of pressure bigger than the others… Mike McCarthy of the Dallas Cowboys.
While true the ‘Boys were expected to dominate the NFC East, and did this season, Dallas hasn’t seen much playoff success in recent years, actually decades. McCarthy, who was an interesting choice for the team’s owner/general manager to make when the former Packers’ head coach was hired, came back to prove that he can win playoff games without Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Dallas starts their playoff run hosting the San Francisco 49ers, a game they are only favored by three points in, the smallest point spread of the six Wild-Card games this year. McCarthy hasn’t been known as a great in-game coach; and with little personality, it is difficult to imagine he is an inspirational figure in the locker room before or during games. That leaves the current head coach of the Dallas Cowboys under immense pressure to prove his value; especially now that the playoffs have arrived.
Despite winning their division for the second straight season, the Buffalo Bills struggled this season to find consistency from game to game and quarter to quarter. They still have quarterback Josh Allen, who is still the best quarterback in the division, but with the return of the New England Patriots, their first-round playoff opponent, the time is now for Buffalo to make some noise. The Bills Mafia was close last year, falling just a game short of the Super Bowl. Now, as a team playing slightly behind the one from last year, Buffalo is going into the postseason as the AFC’s third seed, and, you guessed it, face Bill Belichick and his new favorite quarterback, Mac Jones.
With the salary cap and rookie contracts for quarterbacks, the window for teams to win is narrow, that means opportunities cannot be wasted when they are presented. As a five-point home favorite against the Patriots this weekend, the Bills need to win impressively for their own peace of mind, and in order to start what could be a solid playoff run. With KC as the second seed and little left of their invincibility, going to Arrowhead Stadium won’t be as big of a task as it once was, giving Buffalo a chance to slay the current AFC “King” … or fall apart and leave behind a list of what ifs.
The easiest choice for me is the player under the most pressure this NFL postseason since there’s only one (thanks to the Indianapolis Colts’ choke job) who a team invested so much in this season to obtain … that player is Matthew Stafford of the Los Angeles Rams.
The Rams won the NFC West thanks to Stafford, and despite a rough patch where the team became predictable, LA’s dream of being the second team to play the Super Bowl on their home field is still alive. Like Buffalo, the Rams will need to begin their postseason run against the Arizona Cardinals, a divisional opponent who some were calling the best team in the NFL in September and October. As for Stafford, the excuses for why he doesn’t have any team success are gone; he left those behind in Detroit when the Lions traded him for a king’s ransom.
Now, as a key member of the Rams, Stafford needs to prove why it cost so much to trade for him. He needs to prove he is talented while also doing something he never had the chance to do with the Lions: Win in the postseason. Normally, star players are given a chance to learn how to win in the playoffs; but Matthew Stafford doesn’t have that luxury as part of a win-now team. That’s why the pressure will be on #9.
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Which NFL Coach, Team & QB Is Under The Most Pressure In These Playoffs? | TooAthletic.com