The Star Tribune NFL crew makes its playoff and Super Bowl LII predictions:
AFC: The New England Patriots are like Tiger Woods in his prime. He didn’t win all the time, but he was a smart bet even against the field.
NFC: The NFC is a mystery that most likely will be solved by Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson. Another Packers-Seahawks showdown may be in play, and Seattle again should have enough to advance.
Super Bowl: The Seahawks-Patriots Super Bowl became an instant classic. Let’s have another, with Wilson this time running it in as time expires.
AFC: Until someone in the AFC proves otherwise, it’s hard to pick against the New England Patriots. Same old, same old.
NFC: The Packers and Seahawks seem to be the two most fashionable picks to make the Super Bowl from the NFC. The Packers playing in a Super Bowl in the Vikings’ home stadium would drive Vikings fans bonkers, but we’ll go with Russell Wilson and the Seahawks defense to advance.
Super Bowl: Brady already owns five Super Bowl championship rings. He starts on the other hand after winning his sixth.
AFC: Nothing in the NFL is what it appears. Except the Patriots. They’re the best team, they’ve gotten better, even without Julian Edelman, and this Brady-Belichick duo has an endless appetite for championships. But … even they don’t win it all every year. They’ll be upset by the Steelers in the AFC title game.
NFC: Meanwhile, the Vikings will make the playoffs, but it will be Seattle’s defense and Green Bay’s lack thereof that will decide the NFC title game and save Minnesotans the pain playing host to hordes of Cheeseheads.
Super Bowl: Pittsburgh will extend its record total of titles to seven.
AFC: The Patriots have a deeper roster than they did last year, and they’re facing the easiest schedule in the league. So naturally, I’ll pick somebody else to come out of the AFC. Let’s go with the Raiders, who are stocked with young talent around Derek Carr.
NFC: The nightmare scenario for every Vikings fan — the Packers playing the Super Bowl in Minneapolis — won’t happen without a significant defensive improvement in Green Bay. In a field crowded with prolific offenses, the Seahawks will coax one more Super Bowl trip out of their defense.
Super Bowl: Marshawn Lynch vs. his old team in February? Sounds like fun. Seattle wins it.
AFC: Can anyone dethrone the Patriots? Maybe the Steelers have a strong push. Perhaps the Raiders mature into a real contender. But I don’t see it. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are all in for a sixth ring after the acquisitions of receiver Brandin Cooks and cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
NFC: The Giants return to prominence with Eli Manning armed with a lethal triumvirate of receivers in Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard. The Giants’ budding defense will only push them over the top in a conference seeking a top power.
Super Bowl: In Brady-Eli Part III, Brady finally tops the younger Manning to claim his sixth Super Bowl ring. This time, it’ll be in deciding fashion as the Patriots put a stamp on their dynasty with the window shutting soon.