Super Bowl LVI Predictions: Our ‘Expert’ Picks As NFL Playoffs Kick Off

Who will raise the Lombardi Trophy for the 2021 NFL season?


The road to Super Bowl LVI just got narrower.

We started the 2021 NFL season with 32 teams, and 18 have been sent packing for the offseason, leaving 14 franchises to duke it out in the playoffs for the right to raise the Lombardi Trophy.

The Tennessee Titans and Green Bay Packers earned the No. 1 seeds in the AFC and NFC, respectively, meaning they each have a bye to open the postseason. The other 12 playoff teams will be in action on Super Wild Card Weekend, which kicks off Saturday and runs through Monday night, and several seemingly have legitimate championship potential.

We asked our NESN Digital team before the playoffs began to submit their Super Bowl prediction, complete with an AFC and NFC representative. The Packers, as you could imagine, were a very popular inclusion, but not everyone went chalk.

Let’s get to our “expert” picks.

George Balekji: Packers over Chiefs
Boring, I know. But in the AFC, there is nothing but parity, so you literally just have to match up well that day — which the Chiefs do with everybody. Chris Jones inside, Melvin Ingram on the edge, Nick Bolton at the second level and then Tyrann Mathieu anchoring the secondary. That’s enough for that defense, along with defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s experience. Offensively, it’s strange to see the Chiefs still somewhat figuring things out, and Tyreek Hill might be banged up, so we’ll see.

Meanwhile, the Packers have been the best team in the NFL and will continue to be. They just got David Bakhtiari back at left tackle after his knee injury from last season, and he got to see live game action before heading into a first-round bye. Za’Darius Smith is returning, as well, and Jaire Alexander hopefully will be a go after battling a foot injury. Oh yeah, and Green Bay has the best quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) and wide receiver (Davante Adams) in the NFL, solid offensive line play, Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, who’s a freight train coming out of the backfield. The road to the Super Bowl goes through Lambeau Field — this time will a full stadium, not half capacity like when Tampa Bay won their last year. Packers by a million in the playoffs.

Super Bowl LVI final score: Packers 45, Chiefs 35. Rodgers gets another ring, solidifies himself as an all-time top-three QB and celebrates in his home state while staying as far away from his family as possible.

Lauren Campbell: Titans over Packers
While Aaron Rodgers is due for another Super Bowl ring, A.J. Brown and the return of Derrick Henry might be too much for Green Bay to overcome. The Titans earned the No. 1 seed in the AFC without Henry. Adding him back into the mix only will make Tennessee a bigger threat.

Mike Cole: Packers over Titans
Picking chalk almost feels like going out on a limb in a season like this. But in a year where no one really stands out, the Titans’ status as a well-coached, mentally tough team certainly plays, especially as they get healthy and potentially get Derrick Henry back in the fold. If the Packers can’t get to Los Angeles and hoist the Lombardi Trophy, it borders on an epic fail, as they, too, are getting legitimate stars — David Bakhtiari, Za’Darius Smith and perhaps even Jaire Alexander — back for the postseason. The stars feel aligned for Aaron Rodgers to finally get that elusive second ring.

Zack Cox: Packers over Chiefs
Green Bay was my Super Bowl pick before the season, and I’m standing by that. This is the year Aaron Rodgers finally claims his first championship since 2010 — then promptly leaves for another team. This Chiefs squad isn’t as good as the ones that won the last two AFC titles, but I don’t see a clear favorite in that conference. And when in doubt, back Patrick Mahomes.

Ricky Doyle: Packers over Bills
Green Bay not winning the Super Bowl this season would qualify as a choke. The Packers, led by an all-world quarterback/MVP frontrunner, have been the NFL’s best team since their Week 1 wake-up call against the New Orleans Saints, and every other playoff participant in both the NFC and AFC has its (in some cases glaring) vulnerabilities. Buffalo, also a well-rounded operation, will push through the AFC thanks to its own solid QB play and an excellent defense, but the Packers have the talent, the benefit of a first-round bye and notable reinforcements on the way.

Scott Edwards: Packers over Chiefs
It feels bold to say Aaron Rodgers can win the big one after back-to-back seasons of the Packers getting the No. 1 seed in the NFC only to come up short in the conference championship game both times. It’s difficult to place all the blame on the reigning MVP, but this year feels different for him and Green Bay. Rodgers is out to prove more than ever that he is the best, and a Super Bowl win over Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs would be a major statement.

Adam London: Chiefs over Packers
I’m still not totally sold on the Titans, even with Derrick Henry back in the mix. When the Chiefs are really rolling on offense, they’re virtually unstoppable. Aaron Rodgers, meanwhile, has looked like a man on a mission all season, and I think this finally is the year he gets the Packers over the NFC Championship Game hump and onto football’s biggest stage, only to fall short to Kansas City.

Patrick McAvoy: Rams over Titans
The Rams might not have finished with the best regular-season record, but they’re built for the playoffs. In each game they play, they’ll have the best defensive player on the field (Aaron Donald) — and maybe even the best two or three. Matthew Stafford is a man on a mission, Cooper Kupp just had one of the greatest seasons by a receiver in NFL history and Odell Beckham Jr. is back. The Titans are the AFC’s top seed, securing the spot without Derrick Henry. The King is back and will put the team on his back, but Los Angeles’ defensive front eventually will be too much in the Super Bowl.

Sean McGuire: Packers over Bills
Aaron Rodgers has the top-seeded Packers playing as well as anyone, and it seems like Green Bay is getting healthy at the right time. The first-round bye also can’t be overlooked, as it stands as a massive advantage for the top seed. The Bills have the talent to compete with the best of the AFC, especially if Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs get back to their early-season struggles. But it feels like Rodgers and Co. will return to the NFL mountain top.

Logan Mullen: Cowboys over Chiefs
I want to have the Packers here, but they always find a way to have a meltdown, so I went with another NFC team that almost always has a playoff meltdown. I just think the Cowboys are one of the most complete teams in the league, and in my eyes, they are a legit Super Bowl contender because the defense finally has gotten better and they no longer need to rely squarely on the offense to push them through. I have them facing the Chiefs because while I’m not exactly bullish on Kansas City, I’m so unimpressed with pretty much every team in the AFC that I’d sooner pick any of the top six teams in the NFC before I’d pick an AFC team to win the Super Bowl. That’s not a joke, either.

Dakota Randall: Titans over Packers
If healthy, Tennessee is the best team in the AFC. The Titans are well-coached, are physical, have elite weapons on offense and play great defense. Again, it all comes down to health, especially that of running back Derrick Henry. If the Titans are all-systems-go, I don’t see the Chiefs beating them in Nashville, and I doubt whether Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will hold up over four quarters in the Super Bowl. Mike Vrabel gets his first of multiple Lombardi Trophies.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
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