Playoff football has finally arrived! With a new 14-team playoff format, we sit just ahead of the first three-game wild card slate for the NFL playoffs. We asked our contributors who they thought would take home the Lombardi Trophy at Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Fla., and here are our predictions:
Kaleb’s Pick: Green Bay Packers vs. Buffalo Bills
I know, bold prediction to not have the ever-so dynamic Kansas City Chiefs come out of the AFC this season. I do think I am justified in my thoughts here though. The Kansas City Chiefs have struggled all season when entering the red zone and have one of the worst yards to gain average on third down in the league. I do think that they’ve pretty much coasted off of the arm of Patrick Mahomes and have been bailed out in a handful of games because of it. I think the Buffalo Bills are getting hot at the right time after beating down both of their divisional rivals (including dropping a 50-burger on the Miami Dolphins last weekend) and letting up minimal points to do it. The Chiefs have won all but one game this season, but they struggle if the offense isn’t in a shootout. The Bills almost took their first matchup against them, I’m very comfortable in taking the Bills in an AFC Championship in Arrowhead as they are just as dynamic offensively with the tandem of MVP candidate quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs, and far better defensively with the ability to suppress the dynamite that is the Chiefs air attack.
As for the NFC, the Green Bay Packers have been the favorite for weeks. Outside of an ugly loss in Tampa earlier in the season, the Packers have won in convincing fashion week in and week out or been extremely competitive throughout. It seems as though quarterback Aaron Rodgers has turned the clock back about nine years throwing 48 touchdowns and 4,299 yards, an elite season for the consistent MVP candidate, who’s likely going to get his third MVP trophy. I don’t see any team going into Lambeau and beating the Packers. Although the loss of left tackle David Bakhtiari is significant and could prove to be problematic, I still believe the Packers are a force on the offensive side of the ball and hold an underrated defense that kept the Tennesee Titans to just 14 points in the snow three weeks ago.
In this Super Bowl matchup, I am leaning towards Green Bay. As great of a run the Buffalo Bills have had this season, there’s something to be said about experience in the playoffs and knowing how to win the big game. This would be Buffalo’s first Super Bowl appearance since 1994, and their first Super Bowl title win in franchise history. I think Buffalo is a really good team and will be a force in the AFC for years to come with Allen at quarterback. But Rodgers is due for a Super Bowl win, and with his MVP play and top-notch supporting cast in Davantae Adams and Aaron Jones? I’m not picking against No. 12 to get his second Super Bowl title that is long overdue.
Final Score: 31-27, Green Bay
Nate’s Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers VS Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs enter the AFC playoffs as the No. 1 seed and the presumptive favorites. It’s easy to see why. They have an MVP caliber quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, an excellent head coach in Andy Reid, and talent at most positional groups on both sides of the football. While they are by no means a perfect team, none of the other teams in the AFC match up well with them. Teams like Buffalo, Tennessee, and Cleveland lack the defense to keep up with the explosive offense of the Chiefs, and teams like the Colts, Steelers, and Ravens lack the offensive talent to reliably put up the 30-plus points required to beat the Chiefs. The Chiefs are my pick to make it from the AFC, but they are not going to walk into the Super Bowl easily.
The NFC’s Green Bay Packers are the No. 1 seed in the conference, but another team has a better chance of making it when all is said and done. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have experienced several peaks and valleys throughout the season, but when they put everything together, they can outplay any team in the NFL. Their one struggle is running the ball, but otherwise, they have an excellent defense and potent passing attack powered by an elite receiving unit of Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, and Cameron Brate. They also have Tom Brady, the NFL’s most experienced playoff performer of all time, distributing the ball to those weapons. Like the Chiefs, the Bucs are going to have to earn their way to the big dance, but I think they are starting to fire on all cylinders at the right time.
In a matchup between the Chiefs and Bucs, the winner will likely be whichever team produces a defensive stop first since both offenses should put up plenty of points. If that is the case, the Bucs must be favored because of their superior defense. They rank top 10 in the NFL in both rushing and passing defense while the Chiefs languish in mediocrity on both fronts. For the Chiefs to win, they must force Brady into committing turnovers, which is something they’ve shown the ability to do. Their defense is fifth in the NFL in interceptions. However, Brady has always found a way to play his best on the biggest stage, so betting on him to choke away a victory is an unlikely gamble.
Final Score: 38-28, Tampa Bay
Tristin’s Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The AFC and NFC, in my mind, have two true contenders each: the Bills and Chiefs in the AFC. The Packers, and Bucs in the NFC. Tom Brady will surely be motivated after the disappointment of last year’s postseason exit with New England, and I’m putting my money on that carrying the team into the Super Bowl. On the flip side, one thing will remain constant in this weird unusual season: Patrick Mahomes being Patrick Mahomes. While I certainly respect the turnaround the Bills have made, it isn’t their time. Not this year. Mahomes beats the GOAT to repeat as a Super Bowl champion, and you could say that it’s a passing of the torch in a way.
Final Score: 45-35, Kansas City
Braden’s Pick: Green Bay Packers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs look near unstoppable currently. On top of the offense led by Patrick Mahomes that hasn’t lost a step from last year’s team that won the Super Bowl, the defense has shown massive improvement and has shown the ability to win games this season when the offense was off. The Packers are a very good team but the combination of the Chiefs’\ offense that you have to be perfect to have a chance against and a vastly improved defense will be too much for Green Bay to handle as Kansas City goes back to back.
Final Score: 31-23, Kansas City
Elsio’s Pick: Green Bay Packers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs and Packers to me are by far the best teams in their respective conferences with the best quarterbacks in football, not to mention the Packers defense which features a nice pair of pass rushers and one of the best lockdown corners in the game, Jaire Alexander. I wouldn’t say these teams will cruise to the Super Bowl but they’ll never be overly uncomfortable about their position in any given game leading up to the big one. In a game that features the pairings of Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams and Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill, expect fireworks. This will be a high scoring game. I feel the Packers will take the lead early because their defense is better, but you can’t contain the kind of explosiveness that Mahomes and Hill have for a whole half let alone a whole game. I expect some clutch stops from the Chiefs’ defense and some flash plays to get the Chiefs their well-earned repeat.
Final Score: 49-35, Kansas City
Travis’s Pick: Green Bay Packers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
A Super Bowl shootout between Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers is something every football fan should want. Watching the two best quarterbacks in the game is the treat we all deserve after the year we’ve had. Green Bay has played marginally better on both sides of the ball this season edging out Kansas City in almost every major statistical category. Green Bay’s X-Factor is going to be their run game. If Aaron Jones plays like his usual self Green Bay’s offense will be able to do whatever they want whenever they want. With Rodgers looking like he’s 27 years old again and a defense that plays good enough to not blow it, the Packers have the tools to outlast the Chiefs in what should be a very entertaining Super Bowl. Look for Rodgers to have the league MVP and the Super Bowl MVP by the end of the season a feat that hasn’t bee accomplished since Kurt Warner led the St. Louis Rams Greatest Show on Turf in 1999.
Final Score: 35-31, Green Bay
Brian’s Pick: Seattle Seahawks vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are an obvious pick in a weaker AFC, with only Buffalo seeming like the only other team to have much of a chance. The NFC is a little more open, and although the Seahawks struggled a bit during the second half of the season, they have the experience to carry them through.
Final Score: 31-27, Kansas City
Justin’s Pick: Tennessee Titans vs. New Orleans Saints
Tennessee is without a doubt a homer pick, but I need to speak this truth into existence. Kansas City cruised through the regular season, but it is really hard for teams to repeat as champions. The Titans biggest issue is their defense as they can’t generate a pass rush to save their lives and they have struggled tremendously on third down this season, but they have the equalizer on offense in Derrick Henry, this generation’s Jim Brown in terms of being a very large running back who is still athletic, along with a young stud receiver in A.J. Brown. In the NFC, New Orleans has looked like one of the most complete teams in football despite dealing with a Drew Brees injury earlier this season and no Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara has been spectacular this season, but while the offense gets all the attention, it’s their defense that has been very good and underrated this season. New Orleans kept it close against Green Bay and Kansas City this year and will be looking for revenge.
Photo Credit: Super Bowl LV In Tampa Bay on Facebook