Who will win Super Bowl LIII? - Omnisport predicts the NFL playoffs
Few could have predicted what took place in last season's NFL playoffs as backup quarterback Nick Foles led a Philadelphia Eagles team most had written off to glory in Super Bowl LII.
And what appears a very even playoff field makes this year's race to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta even tougher to call.
But which team will emerge from the pack and lift the Lombardi Trophy at Mercedes-Benz Stadium?
Here Omnisport's Nicholas McGee, Chris Myson, Rob Lancaster and Liam Blackburn make their picks.
Nicholas McGee - New Orleans Saints
There's a lot of talk of every team in the playoff field having a chance to win the Super Bowl. That sounds great for a league that preaches the 'any given Sunday' mantra but the reality is no team in the postseason is as complete as the Saints. Drew Brees shattered more records in a regular season that would have seen him installed as the MVP favourite if not for the brilliance of Kansas City Chiefs superstar Patrick Mahomes. Superbly protected by one of the league's best offensive lines, Brees boasts an excellent supporting cast, with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram forming a fearsome running back tandem, Michael Thomas continuing to further his reputation as a premier wide receiver in the league, and an outstanding offensive mind in head coach Sean Payton. On defense, Cameron Jordan and Sheldon Rankins have combined for 20 sacks as part of a unit that does a very good job of taking the ball away. This is a team that can win defensive struggles as well as shootouts and one that will get the advantage of playing in a dome in every playoff game. The stars are perfectly aligned for Brees to lead the Saints to a second Lombardi Trophy.
Chris Myson - Los Angeles Rams
Having learned from falling at the first hurdle in last year's playoffs, the Rams are primed to shine in the postseason this time. With a crucial first-round bye secured, the offensive talents of head coach Sean McVay combined with wily veteran Wade Phillips at DC makes arguably the best all-round roster in the NFL a tough one to beat. A path to the Super Bowl may require a win in New Orleans, but the Rams were competitive there in the regular season. An offense led by McVay, and including young stars Jared Goff and Todd Gurley will always deliver points. However, defense is likely to prove crucial in those key fourth-quarter playoff moments and in Aaron Donald (20.5 sacks) they have an all-time great at the peak of his powers, while the time is now for productive veterans Ndamukong Suh and Aqib Talib, who may not get another chance at glory.
Rob Lancaster - Kansas City Chiefs
The playoffs have not been kind to the Chiefs in the past. They've won just once in the postseason since reaching the Conference Championship 25 years ago – and that was against a Houston Texans team starting Brian Hoyer at QB. So why is this year going to be different? Because of one man, that's why. Patrick Mahomes threw for 50 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in the regular season. He helped Kansas City secure the number one seed in a messed-up AFC, meaning they avoid having to go to the Conference's perennial powerhouses, the New England Patriots, to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since 1970.
Yes, Kareem Hunt’s departure earlier in the season hurt the offense. But Mahomes always was the key, the flux capacitor who powers Andy Reid’s DeLorean. They had a steady performer previously with Alex Smith, but traded him in for a huge upgrade. With an offensive-minded coach and now a star quarterback, Kansas City can stop looking back on their painful past and start focusing on a bright future.
50 - Patrick Mahomes is not only the third player in #NFL history with 50+ touchdown passes in a single season, he is the youngest player to do so, and just the fifth player age 23-or-younger with more than 30 touchdown passes in a season. Stud. pic.twitter.com/wdk6T93Oly— OptaJerry (@OptaJerry) December 31, 2018
Liam Blackburn - Baltimore Ravens
Those that progress in the postseason tend to be the franchises that have built up momentum heading into January. In a wide-open AFC, Baltimore are the team that is rolling. The Ravens are 6-1 since turning to rookie Lamar Jackson at quarterback and are built to succeed in the postseason, with a strong rushing attack and stout defense. Throw in one of the most clutch kickers ever in Justin Tucker and a head coach in John Harbaugh who has already won the Lombardi Trophy once and you have all the ingredients for a championship-winning team.