With the final teams locked in and the NFL playoffs scheduled to kickoff on Saturday, talking heads will spend the week over-analyzing each matchup.
This becomes easy to do as each team offers a complex blend of strengths, weaknesses, injuries, side stories, and other narratives to scrutinize.
You know what else has all of those unique ingredients? Each book of the Bible.
The following analysis attempts to match each playoff team with a book of the Bible that shares it’s similarities. What would you add?
AFC Playoff Teams
New England Patriots
If you read through the Judges you will notice a rhythmic element to the book. Israel strays from the Lord. God administers justice through a nearby enemy nation. Israel repents. God raises up a judge (or hero) to save Israel. They live at peace for a few decades and then it all happens over again. By the end of the book you understand what to expect.
The same can be said for the Patriots. Whether they are involved in a scandal or have an injury to their star quarterback, they still continue to win. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.
Kansas City Chiefs
The book of Exodus begins with the king of Egypt stating the obvious: “There are a lot of Israelites. In fact, even though nobody is talking about them, they could actually do a lot of damage if we are not careful.” The king then set up a system of slavery to oppress the people of God for the next 400 years. The people of Israel were overlooked. Forgotten about. But, they were a sleeping giant.
The Chiefs continue to quietly be one of the best teams in the NFL. Most of their games have been close, yet they play smart, balanced, well coached football and find ways to win.
The book of Job could be renamed “It’s not fair.” What other response is there for what happened to this guy? The book opens by talking about his blessings: Job is rich, well liked, and the trajectory of his life seems to be sky rocketing in the right direction. Then disaster strikes. In less than 24 hours, Job’s world is turned upside down by death and destruction. To make matters worse, his “friends” are unsympathetic and try to blame him for his struggles.
With emerging stars in quarterback Derek Carr and linebacker Khalil Mack, the Raiders have fast become one of the best young teams in the NFL. With the playoffs clinched and their eyes set on the Super Bowl, disaster struck when Carr broke his leg, leaving Coach Jack Del Rio to answer why his star quarterback was still in the game at that point.
Can you imagine what God’s people were thinking at the end of Deuteronomy? Moses was their guy. He led them out of oppression in Egypt and through all of the hardships that followed. It was not always pretty. But they made it. Now, on the verge of entering the land promised to them by God, Moses dies and a new leader is appointed. Joshua will be the one to lead the people of God into battle.
The Texans have survived more than thrived all year long with Brock Osweiler at quarterback. Despite helping his team capture the AFC South, he will now sit the bench and watch Tom Savage lead his team through post season play.
In the wide angled view of 2 Samuel, we see God establishing His throne forever through the line of David. If we narrow the lens, we see a man in David who trusted God to help him conquer Philistine armies but also commit adultery and murder.
The Steelers historical trajectory has been consistent, even if the day to day operations look a little messy. They are the model of stability in the NFL. Since 1969, they have had three coaches and a winning culture that just...wins. In recent years, however, they have been head-scratchingly inconsistent as a team that can beat anyone—but also lose to anyone.
At the beginning of the year, if you would have told me that the Dolphins would make the playoffs, I would have said you were crazy. After their 1-4 start? Not a chance. But, after winning nine out of their next ten games, the Dolphins are in. Their starting running back retired early in the season and their starting quarterback was injured late in the year. They continue to be underdogs who prove everyone, including me, wrong.
You know who else were underdogs? The Israelites in the book of Joshua. Every battle they entered they were severely outmanned. On paper they did not stand a chance. But God was with them, helping the underdogs ultimately prevail.
NFC Playoff Teams
At the beginning of Nehemiah, we find God’s chosen people conquered and exiled to a foreign land. The central character of the book, Nehemiah, is essentially a nobody. He is a cupbearer to the king who conquered the Israelites. A cupbearer’s job is to test the wine before the king drinks it to ensure it is not poisonous. Nehemiah is a backup who God uses to eventually restore his hometown to it’s former glory by rebuilding the walls surrounding it. Sound familiar?
“America’s Team” finished 4-12 last year. Any hope they had this year was squashed early after Tony Romo’s injury. Enter the backup. Dak Prescott, behind a fortified offensive line but still starting out as a “nobody,” led the Cowboys to the #1 seed in the playoffs, reminding many people of the dominant Cowboys team from the early 90s.
In the gospel of Luke we see Jesus take 12 disciples and change the course of history. Though a couple of the disciples stand out more than others, we usually think of them as a collective group of 12. Some would argue that 11 of them were committed because of the betrayal of Judas towards the end of the ministry of Jesus.
The Seahawks have long been known for their defense. They are a smothering defense referred to as “The Legion of Boom.” While NFL rules only allow for 11 players on the field at the same time, the Seahawks frequently boast about their “12th” man advantage—their home crowd. Twelve units making up the culture of a team, even though it is really 11.
The gospel of Matthew is the first book of the New Testament. Four hundred years of silence separates the Old and New testaments in the Bible. The Old Testament continually tells us that a Savior is coming who will ultimately right all of the wrongs and restore right relationship back with God. The gospel of Matthew welcomes that Savior, Jesus Christ, onto the scene. The expectation finally gets realized.
The Falcons have consistently teased us with the amount of offensive firepower at their disposal. Despite this talent, they have underwhelmed. Not this year. The response to the Falcons offensive outburst has been met with an “”It’s about time!” response. Atlanta enters the playoffs hoping that their true arrival is still on it’s way.
New York Giants
The story of David and Goliath takes place in the book of 1 Samuel. In Goliath, we see a Giant from the Philistine army that nobody wants to fight. He challenges the entire army of Israel and not one man steps up—except David. Although he was not favored to win, David prevailed by hurling a stone at Goliath’s forehead, killing the giant.
The Dallas Cowboys have been the class of the NFL all year long. They have beaten every team that has challenged them, with the exception of the Giants. The New York Giants have beaten the NFL’s most dominant team twice this year, a feat no other team in the NFL can even claim once (And no, we are not counting the last game of the season when the Cowboys sat starters.)
Green Bay Packers
As the writer of many of the Psalms, we get an inside look at the personality of David. In these prayers to God, we see a man who often lives on the edge of extremes. One moment we see him praising God for always being there and being the rock he can lean on. The next moment we see David crying out to God wondering why He has gone silent.
Most NFL fans are prisoners of the moment, but Packer fans take it to a whole new level. After starting the year strong, Packer fans everywhere had Super Bowl aspirations. Then, they lost 4 games in a row. Fans were convinced the coach needed to be fired or perhaps their star quarterback needed to be traded. The Packers have since qualified for the playoffs and their fans are back on the bandwagon.
The book of Daniel features two stories that are familiar to any kid with a church background. The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego sees three faithful men who refuse to bow down to a statue. They are forced into a fiery furnace and God miraculously saves them. The second story sees Daniel thrown into a lion’s den only to have God shut the mouths of the lions to allow Daniel to escape unscathed. The book is about God’s miraculous preservation of his servants.
If you are looking for miracles in the NFL this year look no further than the Detroit Lions. The Lions set an NFL record this year for comeback victories. Led by quarterback Matthew Stafford, the Lions have come from behind late in the fourth quarter on eight separate occasions.