What experts are predicting for the NFL playoffs

Consensus seems to be a showdown between the Chiefs and Saints, but the Patriots are in the mix.

Plenty believe Drew Brees will add a second Super Bowl title this season to a resume already including NFL records for yards and completions.
Plenty believe Drew Brees will add a second Super Bowl title this season to a resume already including NFL records for yards and completions. –AP Photo

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The New Orleans Saints are the overwhelming favorite to win Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta. According to a good amount of predictions, they’ll do so at the hands of the Patriots.

It’s to be expected after a topsy-turvy season that New England might not get overwhelming respect as favorites heading into the NFL’s playoff calendar. With the No. 2 seed, the Patriots potentially have to travel to Kansas City for the AFC Championship game, a difficult task for a team that was 3-5 on the road during the regular season.

But even at Gillette Stadium, where the team was 8-0, there’s some level of disbelief in Tom Brady and Bill Belichick starting another march. One writer has them losing to the Los Angeles Chargers in the AFC title game in Foxborough. Another has them losing to the Indianapolis Colts — the Colts — in the divisional round. Frank Reich’s Revenge or something.

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All seems set for a Super Bowl showdown between the Chiefs and Saints, which means at least one of them will likely fall along the way.

Here’s how some see January playing out.

Playoff picks

Will Brinson, CBS Sports: Chargers defeat Saints. “EPIC SUPER BOWL. Rivers vs. Brees, the former teammates in San Diego, with Brees trying to add another layer to his Hall of Fame legacy with a second Super Bowl and Rivers trying to win his first and cement himself as a Hall of Fame player (I think he is one already, no one would be able to argue it if he won a title). The over/under for this game would be in the low 60s and these teams would get LOOSE on the big stage. This was the Super Bowl I wanted to pick before the season and I chickened out. Now I get a chance to redeem myself. And Rivers gets a chance to rewrite history, taking out the Saints for his first Super Bowl ring and a brilliant cap on an incredible career.”

USA Today staff: Five pick the Saints as Super Bowl champs, one the Rams. A pair on the panel have the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

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MMQB staff: Gary Gramling is the only member of the 13 listed staff members to select the Patriots as champs, though four others have them winning the AFC. “I went creative preseason and midseason, but January football is meant to be taken seriously, so I’ll just tell you that the Patriots will beat the Saints in Atlanta. As for the wild-card round, both AFC games are pick-ems while the Seahawks don’t beat anyone good on the road and the Bears don’t lose to anyone at home. After that, the Saints make it eight in a row (in meaningful games) at the Superdome — where only Ryan Fitzpatrick can come in and win — and the Chiefs end up allowing 180 rushing yards to Sony Michel in the AFC title game and losing 31-30. In Super Bowl LIII, Stephon Gilmore gets the better of Michael Thomas and the Patriots send a parade of defenders to smother Alvin Kamara, winning a surprisingly low-scoring game 20-17.”

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Sporting News staff: All four pick the Saints. David Steele has them beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Iyer ranks the Pats as third most-likely to raise Lombardi. “The Patriots typically don’t get to the Super Bowl, let alone win it, when they’re not the top seed in the AFC with home-field advantage through the championship game. They weren’t a very good road team in ’18, going 3-5. They also have had some major defensive struggles against better teams. But this is still Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and they’re still the big, bad back-to-back conference champs. The Patriots might have a lot more signs of weakness than usual, but they’re still dangerous because they’re great at masking them while also exploiting all signs of weaknesses from an intimidated opponent.”

NFL Network: Maurice Jones-Drew likes the Rams to defeat the Ravens. Elliot Harrison takes the Saints beating the Patriots.

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FiveThirtyEight: New Orleans has the best percentage to win the Super Bowl at 21. New England is third at 14 percent, 29 percent to win the AFC Championship.

John Healy, Bleacher Report: Saints over the Patriots. “A Saints-Patriots Super Bowl features two of the best quarterbacks over the last two decades in Brees and Brady. Yet the Saints are the better team with a more balanced attack, and it will be Brees hoisting the Lombardi Trophy for the second time in his career.”

Steve Serby, New York Post: Saints beat the Chargers, 41-33. Serby has San Diego beating New England, 31-24, in the divisional round. “Nobody believes the Chargers can win at Gillette Stadium except the Chargers. Rookie safety Derwin James blankets what’s left of Rob Gronkowski, and Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram harass Tom Brady. And Rivers is on a mission. And even if I would never bet against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady at home in the playoffs, I defer to the crystal ball.”

Willie McGinest, NFL Network: Patriots over Saints.

ESPN Football Power Index: Patriots with a 12.8 percent chance to win the Super Bowl, a distant No. 4 behind the Saints (30.5 percent), Chiefs (24.0) and Rams (16.8). Kevin Seifert writes, “Reason for hope: Historically, the Patriots get it together for the playoffs — especially when they play at home. Their last home playoff loss came in 2013 (the 2012 season), and they’ve won their past [eight] postseason games at Gillette Stadium. Inasmuch as institutional confidence matters, the Patriots have it.”

Newsday staff: Two of the four have the Pats losing to the Chiefs in the AFC title game, a third has them falling to the Colts.

It says here: Patriots over Saints. Because, why not?