As the NFL the post-season begins in earnest this weekend, just 14 AFC and NFC teams remain in play with Super Bowl LVII now less than a month away.
With this year’s showpiece finale taking place at State Farm in Glendale, Arizona, three rounds of playoff football lie ahead, as the two AFC and NFC champs then meet in the Grand Canyon State on Sunday 12 February. So who will make it to The Greatest Show on Earth?
This year’s most likely winners look set to come from the AFC bracket and current favourites to raise aloft the Vince Lombardi Trophy once again are the Kansas City Chiefs.
Kings of the NFL three years ago, Andy Reid has seen his men compete in two of the last three season finales, with Patrick Mahomes continuing to smash the glass ceiling every time the Texan steps on the field.
With homefield advantage and a likely chance to avenge their AFC title defeat with the Cincinnati Bengals to come, it is worth noting however, that the Chiefs are currently fourth in the power rankings leading into the playoffs – Travis Kelce notwithstanding – with the venue for a championship game with the Bills also yet to be determined, should that transpire.
Nonetheless, The Chiefs are available for best price of 7/2 with UniBet and William Hill.
Focussing next on the western New Yorkers, the Buffalo Bills might appear destined to claim the crown for the very first time, after their OT agony to Kansas City last year and now, given the harrowing events in Ohio at the beginning of the month, following Damar Hamlin’s near-death escape after his cardiac arrest.
Spurred on by the goodwill of fans across the US and worldwide and Hamlin miraculous recovery also, as Nyheim Hines’ remarkable touchdown return double proved, fairy-tales have and are being written already.
Though Josh Allen may not be the best QB on current form, his abilities and versatility are undeniable and with the Bills boasting a strong rushing game in Allen, James Cook and Devin Singletary, Stefon Diggs is primed to show his best at the business end of the term down the field.
Who would back against a team who will now surely hold a strong neutral support in their corner? The Bills are 4/1 across the board to win the Super Bowl.
So to the Bengals. Sandwiched between the Bills and Chiefs in the form guide, could Zac Taylor’s charges go one step further after defeat to the LA Rams and Matthew Stafford at SoFi last year?
Like the Bills, the Bengals still harbour the scars of that fateful night at Paycor only a few short weeks ago, but unlike 12 months ago look the real deal and a complete outfit.
Ahead of a second-successive postseason, the Bengals look relative seasoned pros after few gave them even a chance of progressing from the AFC last season.
Their rampaging run to the Super Bowl last time out included taking down the top-seeded Tennessee Titans, before then coming from 21-3 down at Arrowhead to beat the Chiefs in their own back yard, sealing a first championship since 1988.
With arguably the in-form QB around in Joe Burrow, wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase has been a sensation despite missing four games this season and Tee Higgins could be the X factor after the fallout post-Hamlin. It is perhaps the Bengals’ defence however, as their most overlooked facet and one which could carry them far.
Coming into the playoffs on a win streak of eight games, the Bengals are still available at a best price of 8/1 with PariMatch and BoyleSports and surely overpriced?
As an alternative, though the Chiefs and the Bills await on the road to the AFC crown, to retain their crown and advance to the Super Bowl alone, 9/2 odds with both SkyBet and SportingIndex with the Bengals could be quite tempting.
Switching to the NFC, it looks like the two main contenders for at the very least a trip to Glendale are early-season sensations the Philadelphia Eagles and a San Francisco 49ers who have snuck up on the radar since December.
Firstly with Philadelphia, Jalen Hurts emphatic return to action in week 18 proved the Eagles look a different team with the Alabama and Oklahoman collegiate in tow. With a porous defensive line however, will Hurts and AJ Brown be enough to carry the Eagles? 11/2 odds with 10Bet say yes.
In California, meanwhile, making a late dash for a fifth Super Bowl win but a first in almost three decades, the Niners have built late momentum in the regular season and will look to keep Super Bowl honours in the Golden State, after Brock Purdy surprised many in hitting the ground running following Jimmy Garoppolo’s season-ending injury.
Having finally put their running game in order also with the electric Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco have not only stacked the sacks late in the season and rank number one on current form but can also rely on the catching of George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk. If the 49ers tick, they could seal a first Lombardi trophy since 1994, also at a price of 11/2, this time with Betway.
The spoiler in the NFC picture could come in the shape of the Dallas Cowboys or Super Bowl vets the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with the latter looking to give Tom Brady another grand day out. As the two face-off at Raymond James this weekend, one will fall but the victor may have a sneaky eye on a date in mid-February.
Realistically however, with the sheer inconsistencies both have shown of late, one of the Niners or the Eagles should stand as too tall an obstacle in their way.
Finally, for some interesting punts to consider individually, we are backing McCaffrey to show his running game against the Seahawks, but the 49ers running back is a good shot for most rushing yards in the playoffs at 5/1. Burrow, meanwhile, will be our pick for most passing yards at 11/2.