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2022 Super Bowl picks, predictions: NFC, AFC winners

Our staff makes their picks for NFC/AFC Champions, as well as the eventual Super Bowl winner.

NFL: New England Patriots at Los Angeles Rams Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 NFL Playoffs are here, and while the Detroit Lions are at home for the fifth consecutive season, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some postseason football.

This year truly feels unique. Typically, we get one or two favorites that seem destined to make the Super Bowl, but this year was filled with parity. Some of the best teams in the league dropped games that made you rethink reality. The NFC has four different teams who won 12 games or more and only three teams in the AFC lost fewer than seven games.

That makes Super Bowl picks incredibly hard this year, and as you’ll see from our predictions below, there is no consensus.

Here’s a look at who we’re picking for Super Bowl 56:

Kyle Yost: Buccaneers over Titans

Aside from a weird 9-0 loss to the Saints, Tampa Bay was dominant offensively over the last two months of the season, and there is no reason to think a Tom Brady-led team would not carry that into the postseason as well. The defense has taken a small step back, entering the playoffs ninth in DVOA, but this unit is far from a liability and should be good enough to put the offense in positions to win. Meanwhile, the Titans should be getting back Derrick Henry at the perfect time and have already recorded wins against the Chiefs and Bills, two of their biggest threats in the AFC. Even with a bye, they will face a tough path, but no one in the conference is without some question marks this season.

Hamza Baccouche: Titans over Cardinals

The Cardinals are clawing their way back to full strength as they enter the playoffs. With J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins still questionable for the Wild Card round, the Cardinals will get stronger with each week in the playoffs. When healthy, they’re a real threat for best team in the NFC, and pose an offensive attack very different from any other NFC team when you have Kyler Murray at the helm.

The Titans are in a very similar position with Derrick Henry, but even without him they have proven they have no problem pummeling any team into the ground as D’Onta Foreman has gotten comfortable. I think the Cardinals reaching the SB might be a stretch with so many contenders in the NFC; I could genuinely see anyone except the Eagles going all the way. I see far fewer contenders in the AFC and I think the Titans’ biggest challenger scheme-wise is the Bills, but I expect the Titans to make their way to the Super Bowl.

Jeremy Reisman: Buccaneers over Bills

Look, I’m as sick of Tom Brady as you are, but I’m not counting out Touchdown Tom until he runs out of stem cells to keep his career alive. Even though the NFC is pretty top-heavy, I believe it to be a two-team race between the Bucs and Packers.

The AFC is a complete crapshoot, in my opinion. There are no favorites in that conference, and I’ll admit, the Bills could very well get bounced in the first round by the Patriots. However, Buffalo finished strong, including a big win over the Patriots in New England. Then we get a passing-of-the-torch Super Bowl, in which Brady refuses to pass his legacy on.

John Whiticar: Cowboys over Bills

A well-rounded team is the theme of my Super Bowl prediction. Both the Bills and Cowboys have an excellent offense and defense, and that pairing can be deadly in the postseason. The Bills started the season slow, but their offense has woken up down the stretch. I think Kansas City has a better offense, but their defense is too subpar to instill confidence. As for NFC, it is full of really competitive teams, but the Cowboys get the slight edge because when that offense is on, they are nearly impossible to stop. Not only does that make them my NFC pick, but also my Super Bowl pick.

Morgan Cannon: Chiefs over Packers

This feels like the most chalky answer ever, but when you look at both conferences, it seems like the most likely outcome. In the AFC, Kansas City is getting hot at the right time, after not being as potent on offense earlier in the season. And on the other side, everything runs through Green Bay. It physically pains me to say this, but Aaron Rodgers has to be the MVP this year. He has been surgical and to me, the Packers have the most complete roster in the NFC. Hopefully, I am wrong

Mike Payton: Chiefs over Packers

I’m taking the Kansas City Chiefs to roar back to the Super Bowl. The reason why is because I feel like everyone is sleeping on them. I know “sleeping on the Chiefs” sounds dumb, but I feel like an early rough start has football fans believing that the Chiefs era is over. I think they sneak in and they beat the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers then retires and hosts infomercials like Billy Mays.

Erik Schlitt: Bills over Buccaneers

The Bills have a potentially horrific road to the Super Bowl. They open with the Patriots, who embarrassed them on national television the last time they played in Buffalo. Then they may have to travel to Kansas City and Tennessee if they want to reach the pinnacle. But the Bills are a very balanced team and they have the No. 1 DVOA defense in the NFL, which matters in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Bucs—who are the No. 1 offense in DVOA—will probably get a chance to beat up on the NFC East, establishing a rhythm on their way to Green Bay. The Packers are a tough team, but they can be rattled, as we saw firsthand in Week 18. By the time the big game arrives, I believe the battled-tested Bills will get it done over Tom Brady and the Bucs.

Chris Perfett: Chiefs over Cowboys

Was it fun without the Chiefs to start the year, or was it miserable? Usually, we pine for new blood, new things, but was anyone actually tired of Patrick Mahomes annihilating teams one by one? The Chiefs are back in the saddle, and it’s time to go sicko mode. There is no deep analysis here I can offer, just a desire to watch them rampage through the AFC.

From the side of the NFC, I cannot bear to pick the Packers; that man deserves none of it. Shunt again analysis, shunt again reason. Make no mistake, the Cowboys' defense is legitimately horrifying. They have weapons to bear on the offense. They may not have Aaron Rodgers, but I believe they can go past Green Bay and inflict their terror. The good news is, they can be stopped. In the famous words of Rade Šerbedžija: “Every hero requires a monster” (Mission Impossible 2). The Cowboys are that monster, and the Chiefs will be that hero.

Kellie Rowe: Packers over Chiefs

I know, this isn’t the spiciest of takes but I am so attracted to the storyline. It’s the showdown folks have been waiting for. After Patrick Mahomes missed the 2019 game against Green Bay with a knee injury and Aaron Rodgers missed this year’s matchup on the COVID-19 reserve list, it’s time for these two titans to duke it out. Prepare for a shootout. While it’s risky to bet on a third trip in a row to the Super Bowl, the Chiefs worked out their defensive woes and they’re steaming full speed ahead — winning nine of their last 10 games. On the Packers side, the Rodgers-Davante Adams connection is arguably the strongest in the league, and should the pass game fail to find its footing, they’ve got the powerhouse tandem of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon on the ground. The Packers are the most consistent team of this incredibly inconsistent season and are getting healthy at the perfect time. Speaking of, I should mention it never feels good picking against Tom Brady but the Bucs are looking banged up. Meanwhile, Rodgers is making a strong case for NFL MVP and we all know he can dial up some big-time plays when they’re most needed. Between the offseason drama and well, all the drama within the season, this would just be a poetic ending to all the insanity.

Ryan Mathews: Titans over Cowboys

This matchup really makes me miss the Houston Oilers franchise. Their color scheme, their logo, all of it. But this is a sort of quasi-Texas Super Bowl matchup, and I don’t think it’s all that out of the realm of possibility. Both teams are loaded with talent on offense. The Titans are going to get Derrick Henry back to add to a tandem of A.J. Brown and Julio Jones—who both finally seem to be healthy themselves. And for the Cowboys, even though they lost Michael Gallup to injury a couple of weeks ago, they still have an embarrassment of riches on the perimeter in Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, and in the backfield with their one-two punch of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard.

The question is whether each team’s defense can rise to the occasion...