Ahead of the start of the Playoffs this weekend, we asked our army of NFL experts who they think could go all the way to Minnesota...
"For me, the team to watch is the Los Angeles Rams. First year Head Coach Sean McVay is the Quarterback whisperer. What he’s done with Jared Goff this season has been nothing short of remarkable."
When asked who you think will win the Super Bowl, it is easy to just say the New England Patriots without skipping a beat. How can you pick against Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski when they are healthy?
Well I can and I will. For me, the team to watch is the Los Angeles Rams. First year Head Coach Sean McVay is the Quarterback whisperer. What he's done with Jared Goff this season has been nothing short of remarkable.
With the likes of Tavon Austin, Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins, the second year QB has plenty of receiving targets. That doesn't include star Running Back Todd Gurley, who might very well be your MVP. He carried for 1,305 yards and went for 788 on catches during the regular season.
Defensively Aaron Donald leads the pack as one of the most devastating lineman in the National Football League. He can get pressure against anyone if left one-on-one.
Lastly though, the reason I think they can win it all is the man who calls the plays when the defense is on the field. Wade Phillips showed in Denver that he's still got it. With McVay coaching the offense and Phillips on defense, the LA Rams are the team to watch as the playoffs get underway this weekend.
The Saints are reversing into the playoffs after a loss to Tampa last weekend. A lack of discipline and huge individual errors - Tommylee Lewis' fumble on a rash attempt at a punt return is the kind of play that gets worse every you see it - are concerning as they enter the postseason, but such a loss should also focus minds.
The most important result last week for New Orleans was in Atlanta, where the Panthers lost, meaning the Saints still took the NFC South title and secured home advantage this weekend. They won the division, and are a contender for the Super Bowl, because of the balance they've found this season in each facet of their game.
With Drew Brees at QB, the Saints have always put up plenty of points through the air, but their lack of a consistent threat on the ground, added to a porous secondary, meant they could rarely control games. Central to their transformation this season have been two rookies, defensive back Marshon Lattimore and budding superstar running back Alvin Kamara.
Lattimore has helped turn around a secondary that consistently ranked as one of the worst in the league, while Kamara has allowed the Saints transition from a pass-heavy offence to one that can attack with much more variety. Every remaining team will fear this explosive youngster as he can turn games in an instant.
The Saints, playing at their best, won't require any divine intervention to make it to Minneapolis, and represent good value at [11.50] on the Exchange to collect their second Super Bowl.
I'm going to use a Sherlock Holmes style of deduction to find the winner here. Eliminate the impossible, and whatever remains, no matter how unlikely, must be the answer.
So from the wildcard teams, for me it's more likely that hell will freeze over than Atlanta, Buffalo, Kansas, Tennessee or Carolina lift the Vince Lombardi. While of the top seeds, the loss of Carson Wentz did for my mid-season tip Philadelphia, and a shoddy defense coupled with the pressure of retaining the title mean goodbye New England.
Further scrutiny reveals Minnesota and the Jags lack the necessary quarterback. So that leaves just the Rams, Saints and Steelers, three teams with good balance who can beat anyone on their day. I suspect this year comes too soon though for Jared Goff.
And so we're left with a Pittsburgh v New Orleans Super Bowl, and two veteran quarterbacks, Roethlisberger and Brees, fighting it out.
Brees lacks the arm strength he once had but is game managing better. For me though it has to be Big Ben, who was written off after less than half the season as a bust. It was a fatal mistake made by so many pundits, who seem destined now to eat their words when Roethlisberger calls time on his career by winning a third Super Bowl ring.
Ben Roethlisberger previews the playoffs, describes the benefits of having the bye and reveals his mentality heading into the postseason. pic.twitter.com/thlAWNKGaT— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 3, 2018
Having tipped the Pittsburgh Steelers at the campaign's outset, and then gone in again midseason, it would be churlish to desert them now. Although, had they secured number-one seeding in the AFC as they should have before an untimely reversal at home to the New England Patriots (remember them?), I might be sitting on a more tradeable position than the current 11/2 available on the Betfair Sportsbook.
The main reason for that second-half collapse against the Pats - and also the reason for the Steelers' forthcoming redemption in the play-offs - was of course the injury to all-star wideout Antonio Brown who blew out his calf and had to be carted off to hospital at half-time. After an upcoming bye week, Brown is reported "100% ready" to return next week, and regather the threads of what had been a MVP term to date (quite something for a wide receiver to even be in the reckoning).
Elsewhere Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger has gradually released the brakes on the offensive juggernaut at his disposal. Many were writing Big Ben off early on, as his decision-making skills seemed to have dimmed. But his offensive line have stepped up to give him more time, while leading light Le'Veon Bell has also rebounded from a slow start. No.26 has rediscovered some more familiar rushing digits, and is primed to run over any defense as an RB or a receiver.
Le'Veon Bell previews the playoffs and describes how the team is 'self-scouting' during the bye week. pic.twitter.com/nGKC2phJam— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 4, 2018
I'd certainly fancy the Steelers to turn the tables on Tom Brady and Co at their Foxborough fortress. But in this, the most open season in recent memory, the Patriots may not even make it to the Conference Championship Game. And if Pittsburgh can rehouse their postseason push at Heinz Field, their solid Super Bowl hopes suddenly become expectations.
In play-off season the tried and tested formula of running the rock and solid defence comes to the fore. The Vikes feature in the top five for Yards per Game allowed for both Rushing and Passing which puts them overall as the league's best defence, conceding the fewest points per game in the process.
Their rushing game is also one of the better ones, sitting 7th best in the league. There might not be much between them, the Eagles and the Jags when looking at the ground game and the defence but then it comes down to QB play; Keenum vs. Foles vs. Bortles respectively.
The latter two are serviceable, with maybe Bortles and the Jags shading it and are perhaps the proper dark horses. But Case Keenum is arguably playing at a sneaky MVP level and that tips the balance in their favour for me. Oh, and the Super Bowl is in their home stadium, that's a nice extra carrot to dangle.