AFC and NFC Championship Preview and Predictions
In a sad reality check, there are only three NFL games left this season. Before we ponder how to spend our free time before the NFL Draft and then next year’s preseason, we have four intriguing teams vying to play in the Super Bowl in Tampa on February 7th.
Odds for all Conference Championship games are tight, with the home teams having a slight edge. That’s because all four feature elite quarterbacks and a plethora of stars. Both the AFC and NFC Championship are rematches of Week 6 when the Chiefs topped the Bills 26-17 and Tampa Bay blew out Green Bay 38-10.
Below is a snapshot at both matchups and why we should ignore what happened in mid-October.
AFC Championship: Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs
6:40 ET CBS
When these two teams met earlier this season, it was take three. The game was rescheduled multiple times due to COVID. But the most significance difference between then and now is then Patrick Mahomes was healthy, now he is not. Mahomes will play on Sunday. He already practiced this week, is likely to be more tentative given how woozy he was when concussed last weekend, not to mention his lingering toe injury from the Cleveland game which had an impact in the divisional round.
Wait a sec…this is Patrick freakin’ Mahomes we’re taking about, and even at 65% his talent towers over everyone. It also helps to have Tyreek Hill, the possible return of Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and Travis Kelce who might be the NFL’s toughest player to cover. That said, the Bills defense was the top unit out of last week’s divisional round, the pass rush and safety play was especially top notch effectively eliminating any semblance of an air game for Lamar Jackson and the Ravens.
Josh Allen, evolved beyond belief this season, didn’t have his finest outing last week. But he’s already a proven commodity when it comes to patience, locating second and third reads, and using his physicality to his advantage. It all adds up to eliminating the mistakes that plagued him in the first two years in the NFL. Of course, the addition of Stefon Diggs has been immeasurable. Talk about a matchup problem.
There are plenty of stars in this game but the outcome’s really going to come down to whether or not Allen and the Bills can keep drives alive and keep the Chiefs’ powerful offense off the field.
The home crowd of appx 22,000 sounding like 100,000 helps the Chiefs a lot, as does the precedence of home field domination in the championship round – the home team has won six out of the last seven games. But this has been a strange season and not much has gone according to plan. It’s hard to bet against Mahomes and the brilliance of Andy Reid but there’s something magical about the Bills this season and because Mahomes is just a little gimpy, I’ll take Buffalo.
Bills 37 Chiefs 31
NFC Championship: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers
3:05 ET FOX
The Bucs will not blow out Green Bay again for two obvious reasons. 1) Davante Adams was dealing with an injury in their first matchup. A healthy Adams is a complete gamechanger. 2) More Importantly, Aaron Rodgers threw two interceptions within ninety seconds. The interceptions happened but are unlikely to be repeated considering Rodgers only threw five picks the entire season.
43-year-old Tom Brady is still very much alive and the Bucs finally found their offensive grove. His offensive line has been quite effective ,though keeping Za’Darius Smith away is going to pose a huge challenge. The attention will be on Brady and his trove of receivers but it’s going to be up to the line, plus Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette to control the clock and keep Rodgers sidelined.
As for Rodgers and company, his connection with Davante Adams has been as good as any in the league this season. The Bucs will likely double-team Adams, leaving Allen Lazard and Marques Valdez-Scantling available for a few massive plays. Rodgers has been a top 3 quarterback for a decade now but this season he’s been otherworldly. What separates Rodgers this year is consistently. Rodgers has been in the MVP conversation in several seasons only to go on a frustrating mistake-prone streak. There are no negative narratives about Rodgers this season. Aided by a stellar offensive line, his ability to not only read a field faster and in more depth than anyone and drop perfects dimes as if it’s easy has been remarkable. It’s been a while, but this is Rodgers year to return to the Super Bowl.
Packers 45 Bucs 35