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The National Football League’s first 17-game regular season is over and the playoffs are here.
The Tennessee Titans and defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs both finished 12-5, though the Titans are the No. 1 seed and receive the only first-round bye. The New England Patriots are back in the postseason as a wild card team after going 10-7.
In the NFC, Aaron Rodgers led the Green Bay Packers to a league-best 13-4 mark and the top seed in the conference. Tom Brady and the reigning Super Bowl champ Tampa Bay Buccaneers also went 13-4 and are the No. 2 seed.
So who will represent the AFC and the NFC in Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles? And who will win the big game? Those questions were posed to Newport County football coaches, who provided the following responses:
Dustin Almeida, Portsmouth High School
Pick: Packers vs. Titans
“I’ve got to go with both No. 1 seeds. It is tough for me to pick against Sir Thomas Brady, but I think the Pack is the most complete team and (quarterback Aaron) Rodgers has been playing out of his mind.”
The Titans welcome the return of running back Derrick Henry, who missed the last two months of the regular season with an injury. “I like Tennesee out of the AFC. Physical run game, and defense wins championships. A fresh King Henry in the playoffs? Who wants to tackle that guy?”
Ultimately, Almeida said, the Packers will win out because "no one can cover Davante Adams."
Frank Newsome, Rogers High School
Pick: Packers vs. Chiefs
“Green Bay has been the best team all season. Using home-field advantage, they defeat Tampa Bay in the NFC championship. Rodgers and (wide receiver Davante) Adams defeat the Bucs 30-24.
The Chiefs have been inconsistent, but will "thrive in the playoffs," Newsome said. "In a tough road game, they defeat the Titans in a great game 27-17. Mahomes, (tight end Travis) Kelce and (wide receiver Tyreek) Hill on offense and the defense finally steps up.”
So who wins the Super Bowl? “Rogers and Green Bay 34-28.”
Matt Kestler, Middletown High School
Pick: Cowboys vs. Chiefs
“I got the Cowboys in the NFC. They are the most complete team. Their defense can win them games with their ability to create turnovers, and they are pretty balanced on offense. Dak (Prescott) is playing at a high level, and can make plays with his feet if there’s nothing downfield.
“Chiefs will probably do it in the AFC. Their defense has completely turned it around and they just have so many weapons on offense. (Quarterback Patrick) Mahomes seems to have become much more patient and takes what the defense is giving them rather than the big-play, quick-strike offense they were in the past.”
And in Los Angeles on Feb. 13? “What a great game this would be. Flip a coin here. It’ll be the team that gets the big turnover, and I think Dallas has the edge here.”
Kevin Gilmartin, Salve Regina University
Pick: Bengals vs. Packers
"Going with the No. 4 seed Bengals with two upsets. Head coach Zac Taylor and quarterback Joe Burrow are going to have a Brady-Belichick run!!
"Packers in the NFC — Rodgers gets over the hump and beats Brady to make it to the big game."
In the Super Bowl, "Bengals get it done in a shooutout and outscore the Packers."
John Mackay, St. George’s School
Pick: Packers vs. Chiefs
“My initial take is that it will be the Chiefs and Packers. While I thought Tampa Bay might return, I think they have too many injuries. COVID could mess it all up for any team, but as much as I'm not a big Aaron Rodgers fan, I think the Packers win the SB.
“They have a great and balanced offense (with an Independent School League player from Lawrence Academy — A.J. Dillon — who's had a really good year for them) and an attacking, opportunistic defense. The Chiefs will get back to the Super Bowl (three years in a row), but like the Buffalo Bills of the '90s, they'll be bridesmaids once again.
“Ask me again in a couple of weeks ... ”
This article originally appeared on Newport Daily News: Newport County football coaches make their NFL Super Bowl predictions