(5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ (1) Green Bay Packers (-3.5)
I bet if you were to ask a casual fan of the NFL, “Who do you think will make the NFC Championship game?” The majority would say Brady vs Rodgers and it’s probably because it’ll be the two best quarterbacks of the last decade finally meeting in a game of importance. “12 vs 12”, “Battle of the Bays”, and even “Clash of the Titans” are some of my favorites.
So can the visiting Buccaneers, traveling all the way to ‘Frozen Tundra of the North’, come away with a win? History says it’ll be a tough task. Green Bay is 20-7 at home against Tampa. Their last loss at home in this series was back in 2005 – That’s the only win in the last 16 meetings in Green Bay. That wasn’t even a cold game, Tampa just won its first game since 2003 with temperatures below 40 degrees. After the win in New Orleans, a reporter asked Tom his thoughts about the weather in Green Bay: “Just gotta have some mental toughness and wear some warm clothes and be ready to go,” Brady said. “It’s chilly, man. That’s January football in the northeast and midwest. We’ll be prepared.”
But expect this offense to come ready. We have seen the Bucs score 30 or more in both playoff games, now we should also note that both defenses were top five in points against during the regular season. Oh, let’s not forget the shalacking they gave GB in week six. 38 points with 158 total rushing yards on the day. If I’m Tampa, I’m coming in confident. The weapons galore, the defense with swagger, and a coach/quarterback combo that knows how to win. So there won’t be this scared mentality, or the moment being too big for them.
This is Rodgers’ fourth NFC championship in the last seven years. Kind of dominant, don’t you think? Now yes, he has lost each one of the last three but, is that all really on him? No, not entirely, but he didn’t play his normal self. The 6/5 ratio of TD/INT, is very different from what we are used to seeing. But those games were on the road.
Looking at his career numbers, like most quarterbacks, he struggled on the road. Despite having more attempts, completions, and yards. He has fewer touchdowns and more interceptions than when at Lambo. So could the fact that Green Bay finally has a home championship game, be the difference? We are talking about a team from south Florida traveling up to 20-degree weather. Contact hurts a little more, it’s just overall harder to breathe, the balls seem like rocks when they hit your hands, and most importantly there’s the mental aspect. This offense is a machine. I feel like it may stall once or twice but it will put up the points on Tampa. Now, can the defense that sacked Goff four times, disrupt Brady’s timing? Can these linebackers cover athletic slot receivers when necessary? Will they be able to finally stop the run when the moment matters?
Honestly couldn’t be more excited for this championship matchup. Truly I do believe that these are the two best teams in the NFC. We are seeing the two best quarterbacks of the previous generation. A young coach on the rise against a proven winner. A franchise that has a history of winning versus one that has been starving for success. This can be something special if everyone can stay healthy. Truly though, I’m taking Rodgers getting the ball last, and winning this game. This will be back and forth. Each star will show out, but it will come down to something as simple as who gets the ball last. Green Bay Wins and covers the -3.
(2) Buffalo Bills @ (1) Kansas City Chiefs (-3.5)
So we take the experience of the NFC matchup and I raise you the future of the league. Two guys who are under 26 and have nothing but the brightest futures ahead of them. Not to mention two offenses that just seem to be unstoppable. What can be the biggest factor in leaving with a win?
When you look at Buffalo, it’s truly just a two-man band. Diggs and Allen are on NBA Jam-level of on fire. Buffalo couldn’t run the ball to save a life. That doesn’t matter for some reason. Defenses know they will pass yet because they have to honor Allen’s rushing ability, they still play the run. It’s a weird place to put the defense. Plus when you know no matter what happens, your receiver is going to win his matchup, how can you not feel confident. But let’s not forget the turning point of last week’s game, was that pick-six. If the ravens score there, it’s 10-10 and we might possibly be talking about a different team here. Plus if Rodrigo hits that 33-yard field goal in the Wild Card round, who knows what happens?! Hearing things like that can make you believe one of two things; either they are a team of destiny or a team that might not deserve to be here.
So Mahomes has practiced in limited fashion most of the week leading up to Sunday. It’s a fair shot to say that he will play on Sunday. Now that the drama is out of the way, can this offense really be stopped? I mean before the injury, they scored on four of their five drives (the lone failure was a missed 33-yard field goal). The main way the Chiefs beat the Bills during the regular season, was with the run game. The duo of Williams/Bell does not inspire any confidence. So I think we are going to see a chiefs team that throws the ball 40+ times. I mean who can try and keep up with Hill for that many routes. Plus you have the natural gadgetry of the Chiefs offense to get their other pieces open. Not saying that he isn’t already doing great things, but Mahomes can really say he is dominating the AFC with a win right here. National people have said things like “Allen over Mahomes” or “Mahomes isn’t as athletic.” This is a man who has thrown for 50 touchdowns in a year. Now healthy is he? No one but him really knows. Concussions affect everyone differently.
So can we truly appreciate the future of the NFL here? Two guys who weren’t top 10 picks, who were labeled as “big arm talent but lacks accuracy”, leading teams to the chance for the greatest prize in football. Each defense has its issues. Neither get overwhelming pressure on the quarterback. Both teams are average at stopping the pass. We also shouldn’t expect a ton of turnovers. I think this is a big over game. We have a chance of rain in 40 degree weather. It might not be pretty, but it’ll be competitive. But when it comes to the Bills narrative, I don’t think they are a team of destiny. Kansas City is a perfect mix of speed and coaching. It’s hard for me to see this Buffalo defense actually making the necessary stops to win this game. I personally hope I’m wrong but the Bills will know what to look for this offseason. Chiefs Win and Cover the (-3.5).