The Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers sat at home to watch the six NFL Wildcard playoff games this past weekend. They are considered the odds-on favorites to meet in Super Bowl LV. With that said, teams like the Buffalo Bills, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens made some noise. Here, we give you our top picks for Super Bowl LV:
Who will win Super Bowl LV?
1. Kansas City Chiefs
Andy Reid boasts a 5-2 record in the NFL Playoffs coming off a first-round bye. The Kansas City Chiefs have an even bigger advantage, in terms of rest, thanks to Reid sitting Mahomes and Co. for Week 17. While a two-week down period might seem like a gamble, factoring in the risk of rust, that time to rest and mentally prepare is crucial in a grueling NFL season. In short, we’re not concerned about a long layoff for Kansas City.
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What should concern other teams in the playoffs is that the Chiefs really haven’t played at their peak level yet. We’ve seen flashes of it, like when they took a 27-10 lead over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then eased their foot off the break. This is also the same team that finished 14-1, before dropping Week 17 with its backups. The NFL Playoffs are when Patrick Mahomes shines and we’re expecting fireworks in the Divisional Round.
2. Green Bay Packers
Things worked our rather nicely for the Green Bay Packers on Wild Card Weekend. Instead of staring down a potential matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who crushed this team in the regular season, the Packers avoided Tom Brady and Co. Preparation for the Los Angeles Rams started Saturday night. And while the matchup is far from a dream, things look good for the Packers.
For one, Jared Goff is a much easier quarterback to prepare for than Tom Brady. Goff, just a few weeks removed from breaking his right thumb, is already flawed as a passer. Now, he’ll be playing with pins in his thumb in Green Bay’s frigid temperatures. Aaron Donald will cause problems for the Packers, there’s no way around that. But, there’s also a difference between the best pass-blocking offensive line in the NFL and Seattle’s pass protection (14th). This will be a pretty low-scoring game, but the Packers should feel a little more comfortable with the massive advantage at quarterback.
3. Buffalo Bills
After a rough debut in the NFL Playoffs last year, Josh Allen delivered a statement to kick-off 2021. There’s a reason the Buffalo Bills are preparing a massive contract offer; this 24-year-old quarterback is becoming an NFL MVP candidate in front of our eyes. In the Wild Card round, we saw that when he scored three total touchdowns and racked up 324 passing yards.
Quite frankly, the Bills are the hottest team in the NFL right now. Buffalo’s defense is playing at a significantly higher level than we saw earlier in the season and this offense shows no signs of slowing down. Plus, it’s always nice to have a little home-field advantage and Bills Stadium will be rocking in the Divisional Round with a trip to the AFC Championship Game on the line.
4. New Orleans Saints
New Orleans’ win over Chicago in the wildcard round was about as convincing as it gets from a defensive perspective. The Saints yielded franchise playoff lows of nine points, 11 first downs and 239 total yards of offense. And after a relatively slow start on offense, Drew Brees got it going to the tune of two second half touchdown-scoring drives.
Considered one of the top Super Bowl contenders during the regular season, the Saints did nothing this past weekend to dispel that notion. It’s also important to note that Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas are seemingly 100% healthy after dealing with injury-plagued regular seasons. They combined for 189 total yards on Sunday. If those two can show they are the same players as previous years, watch out.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It wasn’t always pretty on Saturday, but a victory on Super Wild Card Weekend is all that matters. Tampa Bay did a nice job keeping the pocket clean, allowing Tom Brady to attack Washington’s secondary. When the game got close, with the Buccaneers clinging to a two-point lead, the future Hall of Fame quarterback came through and put the game away. Of course, you expect that from the greatest quarterback in NFL history.
The real fun starts in the Divisional Round. In two starts against the New Orleans Saints this season, Brady completed just 60.8% of his passes, averaged 6.1 yards per attempt and posted an awful 2/5 TD/INT ratio. It also can’t be forgotten that Tampa Bay lost both games. Beating an opponent, especially a great team, three times in a season is incredibly difficult. With that said, the Buccaneers should be the underdogs, given how well the Saints match up against them.
6. Baltimore Ravens
Lamar Jackson had a career-defining moment Sunday against the Titans. Down 10-0 in the first half, the reigning NFL MVP was facing another playoff deficit. Could he lead the Ravens back for his first postseason win in three attempts, exercising the demons from last year’s matchup against this very same team? Jackson responded resoundingly. Baltimore came away with a 20-13 win as Jackson went for 315 total yards.
What’s even more impressive here for the red-hot Ravens is the fact that their defense held Derrick Henry to 40 yards on 18 attempts. That type of stout defense can make an opposing offense one-dimensional. It really is something to think about heading into the AFC Divisional Playoffs against the Buffalo Bills.
7. Cleveland Browns
There was some concern about these Browns heading into their first playoff appearance since 2002. A COVID-19 outbreak forced head coach Kevin Stefanski and multiple players out of the game. Despite boasting an 11-5 regular-season record, Cleveland was also 3-3 against winning teams. Could the Browns go into Pittsburgh and come away with a win?
This question was answered within the first 13 minutes of the game. Relying on a mistake-prone Steelers squad, Cleveland opened up a 28-0 lead. It was the most points a team has scored in the first quarter in NFL Playoff history. And while the Steelers came back to make this somewhat of a game, two touchdown-scoring drives by Baker Mayfield in the fourth quarter put this one away. In leading his team to a 48-37 win, Mayfield completely outplayed Ben Roethlisberger. It has the Browns thinking about bigger things heading into a matchup with the defending champion Chiefs.
8. Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams needed an utterly dominant performance from their defense to pull off an upset in the Wild Card round. Thanks to Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and some huge plays from unheralded players, that’s exactly what happened. Los Angeles suffocated the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday and it paved the way for this team punching a ticket to Lambeau Field.
There are reasons to be concerned about this matchup for the Rams. Even if Cooper Kupp (knee) and Aaron Donald (ribs) are cleared to play, both could be limited physically. The bigger problem, though, is Goff throwing it 20-plus times in frigid temperatures. It’s going to take a lot for the Rams to pull off the Divisional Round upset, probably a defensive touchdown and multiple takeaways.