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2021 NFL playoffs: Complete predictions for the road to Super Bowl LVI

Every January, football fans like to do their best meteorologist impression when the bracket for the NFL playoffs gets released.

Predictions begin to fly around left and right, and everyone thinks they have all of the answers when it comes to picking the teams that would represent the AFC and the NFC in that year’s Super Bowl.

>>RELATED: 2021 NFL playoffs: Full bracket and Super Wild Card Weekend schedule

Believe me, we’re not knocking that tradition here. It’s one of the best things about the start of the NFL playoffs, and adds to the fun and excitement that is present throughout the quick sprint of postseason action.

So, with all of the potential paths to Super Bowl LVI in place, here are some official predictions for the 2021 NFL playoffs.

AFC:

Super Wild Card Weekend:

  • No. 4 Cincinnati Bengals def. No. 5 Las Vegas Raiders
  • No. 6 New England Patriots def. No. 3 Buffalo Bills
  • No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs def. No. 7 Pittsburgh Steelers

Divisional Round:

  • No. 6 New England Patriots def. No. 1 Tennessee Titans
  • No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs def. No. 4 Cincinnati Bengals

AFC Championship Game:

  • No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs def. No. 6 New England Patriots

At the start of the season, I predicted that the Mac Jones-led New England Patriots would square off against the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Bowl.

While I will still claim that matchup as a victory if it comes to fruition, I also realize a lot has changed over the last four months.

The Kansas City Chiefs are one of the hottest teams in football at the moment, and have completely turned things around after a nightmare start to their 2021 campaign.

Meanwhile, the Patriots have been hot-or-cold depending on the week, and faltered a bit in games following their bye. A team that once held the top seed in the AFC didn’t win their division, and likely won’t host a game no matter how long they last in the 2021 NFL playoffs.

>>RELATED: 20 years after the Patriots’ first title, the Mac Jones-Tom Brady comparisons don’t seem too crazy

Surprisingly enough, the Patriots actually played better on the road in 2021 than they did at home, even with a rookie quarterback under center. So, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them ride a wave of road-based momentum to the AFC Championship Game.

Unfortunately, Jones and many of these 2021 Patriots specifically have yet to experience what Arrowhead Stadium has to offer, especially in such a high-intensity postseason environment.

Opting to use my brain over my heart, I expect to see the Chiefs representing the AFC when February rolls around.

NFC:

Super Wild Card Weekend:

  • No. 2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers def. No. 7 Philadelphia Eagles
  • No. 3 Dallas Cowboys def. No. 6 San Francisco 49ers
  • No. 5 Arizona Cardinals def. No. 4 Los Angeles Rams

Divisional Round:

  • No. 1 Green Bay Packers def. No. 5 Arizona Cardinals
  • No. 3 Dallas Cowboys def. No. 2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC Championship Game:

  • No. 3 Dallas Cowboys def. No. 1 Green Bay Packers

This year’s playoff field is insane across the board, but it’s tough to top the seven-team field that the NFC brought to the table.

Four of the seven won at least 12 games in 2021, and all but one (the Philadelphia Eagles) hit 10 wins on the year.

The AFC surely had more parity, considering just two teams hit that 12-win mark this year. But, the NFC had the most dominant teams by far, and it’s tough to imagine a scenario where the NFC doesn’t take home their second straight Lombardi Trophy when the dust clears at SoFi Stadium this year.

As long as my predictions come true, fans would witness an NFC Championship Game-worthy matchup in the Divisional Round, when the second-seeded Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the third-seeded Dallas Cowboys.

>>FROM AUGUST OF 2021: 2021 NFL season: Early predictions for MVP, top rookies, and more

While it may seem like an upset when looking at seeding, it shouldn’t be shocking to see that the Cowboys made it through that war in my Divisional Round predictions, considering the offensive prowess they showed this year and the defensive success they had all season.

“America’s Team” is riding all sorts of momentum after a stellar 2021 regular season, and they could easily cruise right by the top-seeded Green Bay Packers en route to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1996.

Weather at Lambeau Field would ultimately be a major factor, but with how well-rounded these Cowboys are, we’re staying along for the ride and picking them as the NFC representative in Super Bowl LVI.

Super Bowl LVI: Dallas Cowboys def. Kansas City Chiefs

This game would be an all-timer if it happens in February.

Two of the best quarterbacks in the league, leading arguably the two best offenses in the game, dueling it out for the chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in the center of SoFi Stadium as the lasting image from the 2021 NFL season.

The Chiefs’ struggles at the start of the season seem like a distant memory at this point, but they’re too jarring for me to forget at this point. Add in the Cowboys’ defense’s ability to hang in there with some of the best offenses in the league, like the Buccaneers, the Chargers, and the Patriots, and it seems like Patrick Mahomes would be in for a rough night.

>>RELATED: What will the world look like when Patrick Mahomes’ 10-year extension with the Chiefs ends?

I’ve been a huge Dak Prescott supporter since he came into the NFL, and caught a lot of flack from my peers for saying that him replacing Tony Romo right away was the right move.

Through everything that he’s experienced since entering the league, he’s risen to the occasion, and a Super Bowl win would be a perfect way to solidify his status as a major player in this league.

Who do you have winning Super Bowl LIV in February? Let us know by following @SOTSports on Twitter or by liking our Facebook page!

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