AFC/NFC Championship Game Predictions
Square Up Sports Postseason Record: 4-4
Sunday, January 20th
(2) Los Angeles Rams at (1) New Orleans Saints
This game is billed as the undercard on this Championship Sunday, but it really should be the feature. The Rams and Saints have battled for NFC supremacy all season long and have two of the most dynamic rosters in football.
Los Angeles’ offense was third in rushing, fifth in passing, and finished second in the NFL with 32.9 points per game. Todd Gurley is the focus of the offense (as he should be) but in the last three games, it’s been C.J. Anderson who’s led the Rams in rushing. They are the Rams’ answer to the Saints’ “Thunder and Lightning” backfield. The loss of Cooper Cupp to their receiving corps has hampered the passing game. It’ll be up to Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks to find some holes in a Saints secondary that only had 12 interceptions all season.
The Saints were right there with Los Angeles on offense. They were sixth in rushing, 12th in passing, and third in scoring with 31.5 points per game. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram might be the best backfield tandem in the league while Michael Thomas might be the league’s best receiver this season. In their week nine matchup, Thomas torched the Rams with 12 catches for 211 yards.
For all the accolades than Aaron Donald has gotten and deserved, Los Angeles is vulnerable once teams past the defensive line. Dallas wasn’t able to exploit the Rams’ linebackers and secondary in the divisional round, but New Orleans will. Sean McVay will want to run the ball with Gurley and Anderson, but that means running into a Saints defense that was second in rushing defense.
If the teams decide to take the fight into the air, then the advantage is with New Orleans. Drew Brees, like Tom Brady, has an uncanny knowledge on the field. He knows the ins and outs of the New Orleans offense. He’ll be able to read the defense better than his young counterpart. Jared Goff has proven that he was worth being drafted first overall in 2016. This season might be the start of a special career for him. But if this game comes down to one drive at the end of the game, who would you want? To me, the answer is easy. New Orleans over Los Angeles 38-35 in a shootout.
(2) New England Patriots at (1) Kansas City Chiefs
The Patriots have a rifle for a offense and the Chiefs have a Sherman Tank. But what if there’s a sharpshooter holding the rifle? New England rolls through town in a Prius and Kansas City drives a Jaguar. But what if it’s a long drive and there are no gas stations in sight? New England has clam chowder and Missouri has Kansas City barbecue. But what if it’s freezing outside? What would you rather have to eat? The Chiefs are younger, faster, have twice the talent on their roster. But they couldn’t beat Brady and Belichick when they met in October. And they won’t on Sunday.
Maybe the Patriots will win on the ground with Sony Michel who carved the Chargers like a turkey for 24 carries and 129 yards. Or maybe it’s James White’s week to be the feature back. Or maybe it’ll be the ageless Tom Brady and his magic elixir cutting through the Chiefs defense with receivers he found in a YMCA league. Maybe it’ll be Rob Gronkowski because only had one catch in the divisional round. Because now, he’s due to explode.
Kansas City knows that beating New England means pressuring Brady. Dee Ford and Justin Houston helped lead the defense to a league high 52 sacks this season. The two combined for three sacks against the Colts last week. It seems that Kansas City has the personnel to get it done. It seems that way...
The late Bum Philips once said about Don Shula, “He can take his’n and beat your’n and take your’n and beat his’n.” If he was here, I’m sure Philips would apply that assessment to Bill Belichick. Simply put, Belichick is the greatest coach in NFL history. It can be argued that he’s there with John Wooden, Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach, Casey Stengel, or Paul Bryant as one of the greatest in sports history.
Belichick will find a way to shut down Kansas City’s best weapon on offense. It might mean keeping Patrick Mahomes in the pocket with a spy in the secondary. Or limiting Tyreek Hill’s touches. Or keeping a defensive back on Travis Kelce. Or it might mean making Andy Reid outsmart himself by disguising coverages. Maybe it’ll be all of those things. Maybe none. And while the Patriots were clearly better at home than they were on the road, New England will beat Kansas City 35-20 in Arrowhead. This is the way it has gone for nearly two decades. The greats find a way, whether we like it or not.