- Our panel predicts a historic Super Bowl home game for the Vikings, and a tight battle for the AFC title between two powerhouse teams
According to our staff, home-field advantage will play a role in Super Bowl 52. The Vikings are the heavy favorite in the NFC, picked to win the conference by 10 of our 11 prognosticators. (There was little confidence in the NFC’s top seed, the Nick Foles-led Eagles, who were pegged as one-and-done by all but one voter.) As for the AFC champ, it was a near-even split between the top two seeds. Ultimately, Minnesota, with the opportunity to play as a (likely) home underdog on February 4, ended up tied with the Patriots as the leading vote-getter to win it all.
AFC CHAMPION: Steelers (6 votes), Patriots (5)
NFC CHAMPION: Vikings (10), Saints (1)
SUPER BOWL LII CHAMPION: Vikings (4), Patriots (4), Steelers (3)
Vikings 27, Patriots 23: Finally, it happens. Home-field won’t matter as much in this historic Super Bowl as will the best single unit in the 12-team playoffs: Minnesota’s defense. Imagine Case Keenum, the Vikes’ third option at quarterback entering the season, beating Tom Brady in a Super Bowl, and beating him in the Vikings’ backyard. Man, what a strange trip this season has been.
Steelers 20, Vikings 16: Five of the last six times the Patriots had the top seed in the AFC they made it to the Super Bowl. But this year’s Steelers team, specifically the defense, is better than the one that lost in last year’s AFC championship game in Foxborough. The Super Bowl will be a throwback matchup highlighted by two excellent defenses, but the Steelers, with the more talented overall roster, come out with the win. Afterward, Ben Roethlisberger retires.
Steelers 31, Saints 28: As good as this Saints defense has been of late—holding their last six opponents to fewer than 300 yards passing and three of their last four opponents to less than 100 rushing—I don’t think there’s a team in football capable of containing Ben Roethlisberger, Martavis Bryant, Le’Veon Bell and JuJu Smith-Schuster when healthy and clicking. New Orleans’ best hope would be DE Cameron Jordan, who would be going up against Steelers RT Marcus Gilbert (who has quietly had a tremendous season).
Patriots 24, Vikings 20: The game’s best quarterback (and best player), Tom Brady, against the league’s best defense. That’s as good as it gets.
Patriots 31, Vikings 16: We may get our first clunker of a Super Bowl since the 48th edition. The Patriots are far and away the best team, and as impressive as Minnesota’s defense is, they don’t have the offense to win a title. Tom Brady is going to win his sixth Super Bowl and become even more immortal when he and Bill Belichick become the first team to win a Super Bowl in the opponent’s house.
Vikings 24, Steelers 21: The Vikings ride their No. 1-ranked defense through the NFC, take advantage of Carson Wentz’s absence and become the first team in NFL history to play in the Super Bowl as the home team. On the AFC side, Ben Roethlisberger and Co. finally get revenge on Tom Brady and the Pats. But in the Super Bowl, the Vikings defense makes the difference, especially playing at home. The 2017 season ends with Case Keenum being carried off on his teammates’ shoulders.
Patriots 35, Vikings 13: The Vikings become the first team in NFL history to make the Super Bowl in their home stadium, which gives sportswriters a week of free content—a minor escape from writing the 241st feature on The Patriot Way. But once kickoff is underway, it’s clear Bill Belichick has knowledge of the future.
Steelers 31, Vikings 19: I had Steelers-Eagles as my midseason pick, but with Philly terribly weakened now the Vikes will ride home field to the Super Bowl. The Case Keenum magic will end at home against a Steelers attack that will have all their weapons back.
Vikings 27, Steelers 20: I usually favor explosive offenses but this is the year of the Vikings and their fabulous defense. They are fast, physical and extremely well-coached. And they have enough offense, with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, to win. The fact that they are playing the Super Bowl at home is gravy; this is the year of the Vikings.
Vikings 21, Steelers 14: Minnesota becomes the first team to play a Super Bowl on home turf, and playing in the shadow of US Bank’s giant gjallarhorn is just the home field advantage they need to edge the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger leads a two-minute drill, and completes what looks to be an eight-yard touchdown to Jesse James with two seconds left to tie the game. The ball is jostled as he hits the ground after he extends his arms over the goal line. The play is reviewed, and it is determined the catch did not survive the ground. On the bright side for Pittsburgh, this play is the momentum that finally changes the catch rule’s application at the goal line.
Patriots 27, Vikings 26: I’d just like to point out I was predicting Patriots over Vikings in the Super Bowl before it was cool. (Just ignore all that stuff about Derek Carr MVP.)
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