The NFL regular season has wrapped up, meaning the playoffs open this weekend with the Wild Card round. With that, it’s time to predict who will win Super Bowl LVII. To do that, I will be predicting the winner and score of each playoff game, culminating with my Super Bowl pick.
Wild Card Round
(2) Bills def. (7) Dolphins 28-16
(6) Ravens def. (3) Bengals 23-21
(4) Jaguars def. (5) Chargers 34-27
The AFC is very interesting because the Jaguars thrashed the Chargers in LA in Week 3, the Dolphins and Bill have played two very close games, with the home team winning each. The Ravens and Bengals have also exchanged home victories in their season series. The Ravens and Dolphins both have a significant chance of winning and surprising some people.
The Dolphins and Bills have played each other twice, with a combined score of 49-48 in favor of the Bills in those two games. With Tua Tagovailoa unavailable, and with Teddy Bridgewater potentially unavailable as well, I don’t see how the Dolphins win this game, even if they keep it close. I was worried that the Bills could drain themselves emotionally with Damar Hamlin’s health improving and being back in Buffalo. But I think they went through that last week with their return to the field against the Patriots and I think that is past them.
The Ravens are relying on Lamar Jackson’s health, and him being good to go would be a huge boost for Baltimore. They’ve already beat the Bengals once this season, and I think they can do it on the road in a playoff atmosphere against the defending AFC champs. This is a similar situation to the Dolphins, in that the Ravens could be without their first and second options at QB. But Lamar Jackson has yet to be ruled out (as of Wednesday 1/11). Don’t be shocked if John Harbaugh pulls out some tricks on special teams for the Ravens along the way.
Trevor Lawrence has been playing like a top five QB as of late with the steamrolling Jaguars, winners of five in a row and six of their last seven dating back to their 27-17 loss against the Chiefs. I think the Jags’ momentum continues, especially with the Chargers coming off a loss to the Broncos that may cost them Mike Williams and Joey Bosa.
(2) 49ers def. Seahawks 31-13
(3) Vikings def. (6) Giants 45-42
(5) Cowboys def. (4) Buccaneers 17-9
The NFC feels more straight up to me than the AFC, and the matchups don’t seem as intriguing to me.
I feel that the 49ers will continue to have the upper hand against the Seahawks this year, as the San Francisco has already beaten Seattle twice. I believe that the 49ers are built to win any game if they can get an early lead. With the defense they have, as well as their array of offensive weapons from Christian McCaffery and George Kittle to Brandon Aiyuk and the returning Deebo Samuel , the 49ers will get out to that early lead and won’t look back.
The Minnesota Vikings set an NFL record this year by winning 11 one-score games, including a victory against the Giants where Greg Joseph hit a 61-yard field goal as time expired on Christmas Eve. I think this will be another close game that will be decided by a late Greg Joseph field goal, and I expect it to be very high scoring. I believe that Justin Jefferson plays a big role for the Vikings in the win.
In week 1, the Cowboys lost to the Bucs and Dak Prescott got injured. While the Bucs have had their struggles and the Cowboys have been good overall, Dallas is coming off a loss to the Commanders where they played their starters. So who has the momentum? I would lean with the Cowboys, who have explosive weapons on offense and a stout defense led by game-wrecker Micah Parsons. The Bucs do have Tom Brady, but they have looked a little out of whack all year long.
(1) Chiefs def. (7) Dolphins 41-28
(4) Jaguars def. (2) Bills 24-21
The Chiefs should be the favorites to come out of the AFC, and I think they have their way against the Dolphins. The Chiefs are going to want to show Tyreek Hill the team he’s missing out on, and the Mahomes-Kelce duo should by successful. The Chiefs have an abundance of talent on offense, and their defense is good enough to secure a win by double digits.
With the Jaguars, Trevor Lawrence has a reputation from college for coming up big in the big games. I believe he will do that in the playoffs, leading to a Jags win over the Ravens. All you need sometimes in the playoffs is a top QB, a good supporting cast on offense, and a solid defense. The Jags have their QB in Lawrence, a good supporting cast with Travis Etienne, Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, and Evan Engram, and a solid defense as well.
(1) Eagles def. (5) Cowboys 34-28
(2) 49ers def. (3) Vikings 24-14
The Eagles at times this season looked like the best team in the NFL, and they have an MVP candidate in Jalen Hurts with weapons all around him. The Eagles and Cowboys split the season series, but both teams won the game where the other team was playing their backup QB. The Cowboys have weapons on their side, but the Eagles are good enough to get by them in a game that should be close, even if Jalen hurts isn’t at 100 percent.
The 49ers might have the biggest impact player that isn’t a QB this postseason. Christian McCaffery is probably the best running back in all of football in terms of being able to do everything, from runs to pass protection to catching the ball out of the backfield to even being a decoy option because of how dangerous he is. And Nick Bosa and Fred Warner might be the two best players at their position on the defensive side of things as well. The Vikings are definitely a good team, but I think that they will finally hit their wall in San Francisco.
AFC: (4) Jaguars def. (1) Chiefs 22-19
NFC: (2) 49ers def. (1) Eagles 33-31
I have the top seed making it to the championship game in each conference, but I feel that both will ultimately fall short. Recently, number one seeds haven’t been super successful when it comes to reaching the Super Bowl.
In the AFC, I feel like the Jaguars are the most likely team not named the Chiefs, Bills, or Bengals to make a run, and Trevor Lawrence showed time and time again at Clemson that he can step up when the lights are the brightest. He is capable of doing that against Mahomes and the Chiefs. I think that could be a game where Jacksonville’s defense surprises some people, and I’ve been on the Jags bandwagon even before the season started. Why should I stop now?
In the NFC, I actually believe that the 49ers are the favorites to make it to the Super Bowl, even with the Eagles being the one seed. As stated earlier, the 49ers are built to win when they get a lead, and I believe they continue to win games in the playoffs. It doesn’t matter who is playing QB for them, they will find a way whether it’s Brock Purdy or some random guy they found from the CFL. There’s so much talent there, and I believe their defense will step up when needed to make a crucial stop.
49ers (NFC) def. Jaguars (AFC) 27-21
The 2023 Super Bowl Champions will be the San Francisco 49ers. I do think Jacksonville will make a run, but I think the 49ers are probably the worst team for Jacksonville to match up with in the entire playoffs. San Francisco could have won the Super Bowl a couple years ago, but now is their time to go out and win one, keeping the Lombardi Trophy in the hands of an NFC West team for the second straight year.
The 49ers defense is the key to this matchup, and I think Fred Warner is the one who steps up and makes some big plays, which could him earn Super Bowl MVP honors. If Brock Purdy can continue to play like he has the last few weeks, he will go from being named Mr. Irrelevant (by being the last pick at the NFL Draft) to being a Super Bowl winning quarterback less than ten months later. What a story that would be.