Justin Rex/Associated Press
As we saw last year, anything can happen in the postseason. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won Super Bowl LV as a wild-card team and were only one of four wild-card teams to advance to the divisional round.
However, this year’s playoff field doesn’t appear as conducive to opening-round upsets. The big exceptions are in the divisional matchups—New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills; Arizona Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Rams—where familiarity could allow either team to come out on top.
The San Francisco 49ers should also have a real shot at pulling an upset this weekend. On paper, the Dallas Cowboys are the better team, but they have been wildly inconsistent offensively and their defense is incredibly turnover-dependent.
Dallas went 1-3 in games when the defense didn’t force a turnover during the regular season.
The 49ers’ third-ranked defense and seventh-ranked offense could give the Cowboys fits. Still, I think we’re more likely to see one or two road teams emerge victorious than four as we saw a year ago.
I also believe that there’s a good chance both No. 1 seeds advance to the Super Bowl this year. Both the Tennessee Titans and Green Bay Packers are balanced, potent offensively and set to get key contributors back during the postseason.
The Titans are set to have Derrick Henry in the lineup after losing him in Week 8 to foot surgery.
“Derrick is a heck of a player,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said, per ESPN’s Turron Davenport. “Anytime we can get him back out here working, and working his way to going out and competing with us, is going to be huge for us.”
It would be foolish to rule out the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC, and the Cincinnati Bengals are a viable contender. However, the Titans match up well with both squads—especially with Henry in the fold, and Cincinnati’s lack of postseason experience could be a big factor.
The Packers, meanwhile, saw left tackle David Bakhtiari return in Week 18 and should get star corner Jaire Alexander back for the playoffs. Green Bay went 13-2 in games that Aaron Rodgers started and finished. It’s hard to see any NFC team unseating the Packers in Lambeau.
Never count out Tom Brady, though. If the Buccaneers can overcome the loss of Chris Godwin and the departure of Antonio Brown, they could make a bid for a repeat Super Bowl appearance.
Could the Titans knock off the Packers at a neutral site? If Henry, D’Onta Foreman and the ground game gets going early, it’s entirely possible. If it’s at all close late, though, I’d take Rodgers over Ryan Tannehill on the biggest stage.
Super Bowl LVI Prediction: Packers 36, Titans 30
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