The 2023–2024 NFL season has been loaded with storylines. With breakout stars, struggling favourites, and new contenders emerging, no one could have predicted the outcome of the season thus far. But the playoffs are quickly approaching, and the stage is set for the top 14 teams in the league to face off against each other. 

The question is, who will win it all? Will the obvious contenders be victorious at Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas? Or will a dark horse continue to make this a truly unpredictable season?

The seemingly obvious Super Bowl favourites are the Baltimore Ravens in the American Football Conference (AFC) and the San Francisco 49ers in the National Football Conference . Led by MVP-favourite Lamar Jackson, the Ravens are entering the playoffs with the league’s best record. Jackson leads the league in yards rushed by a quarterback (QB) by a large margin, though he’s also had his share of stellar passing games. Jackson is backed by a solid defense, as the Ravens allowed the second-fewest points to go through this season after the Kansas City Chiefs.

Yet, the Ravens are matched by the 49ers, who arguably have the best team on paper. Sophomore 49ers QB and former last-overall pick Brock Purdy has been a rock for them throughout the season and was the MVP favourite for most of it. It helps that the team has the best running back (RB) in the league in Christian McCaffrey, and a plethora of stars on offence, like Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle. 

But again, the 49ers’ defense — led by Nick Bosa and the recently-acquired Chase Young — is nothing to scoff at, as they’ve allowed the fifth-fewest touchdowns in the league and made the second-most interceptions this season. Though they lost their only matchup so far against the top-of-the-league Ravens a few weeks ago, they will be a worthy opposition should they meet again in Vegas. 

Of course, the NFL playoffs wouldn’t be the NFL playoffs without the reigning champs. QB Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs have struggled this season compared to previous years due to the lack of adequate players for Mahomes to pass to in the offense. But with a superstar like Mahomes leading the team, they should never be counted out — especially in the playoffs.

Their AFC rivals, the Miami Dolphins, finally broke out this season thanks to QB Tua Tagovailoa, wide receiver Tyreek Hill, and RB Raheem Mostert. Everyone knew the Dolphins were bound to be one of the best teams in the league, and this season Tagovailoa finally leaped to become one of the league’s best QBs. 

Despite their good record, the Dolphins might be the biggest question mark heading into the playoffs. This season, they have only one win against a team with a winning record. Their record is built on beating up on the losing teams, so it will be interesting to see how they fare against the juggernauts in the playoffs.

The Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys, and last year’s runners-up the Philadelphia Eagles are some other teams to look out for in the playoffs. The Lions have finally put together a winning team with a solid QB in Jared Goff. They’ve ended a seven-year playoff drought and now hope to finally win a playoff game for the first time in 31 years. The Cowboys are always expected to make the playoffs, and they have the star power this year to back that expectation. Finally, the Eagles haven’t let go of the gas since losing last year’s Super Bowl to the Chiefs, and they maintained most of their roster in 2023 with a great performance to back it.

One team that may not be on your radar is the Cleveland Browns. After their starting QB Deshaun Watson and primary RB Nick Chubb went down early in the season with injuries, the team’s supporting cast stepped up in their place. They have the best defense in the league, having allowed the lowest average yards and made the fourth-most interceptions. If 38-year-old QB Joe Flacco can remain consistent in the playoffs and continue finding the red-hot wide receiver Amari Cooper and tight-end David Njoku, the Browns can go on a serious run in the postseason.

The winner of this year’s Super Bowl is still up in the air. Will we get to see a new winner in rising stars like the 49ers and Ravens, or will Patrick Mahomes reclaim his spot at the top of the football world? All questions will be answered when the NFL playoffs begin on January 13 — and on the greatest stage of them all, at the Super Bowl LVIII on February 11 in Las Vegas, Nevada.