What a disappointment last weekend was for me! I managed to get one game right. 1-3! For a playoff total of 3-5. That is not good at all. Defense seemed to be the culprit in all of the games lost. It was hard to watch the Colts and the Chargers lose in that fashion. It was defense, or lack of, for all of the losing teams. This Sunday has the potential to be offensive, but I believe it will come down to defense. They say that defense wins championships. The top two teams in both conferences will battle it out to see who will fight for the Lombardi. Follow along to see what my thoughts are.
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS vs KANSAS CITY CHIEFS:
Week 6 gave us one of the best games of the 2018-19 season. It was completely offensive with the Patriots winning 43-40 with seconds left on the clock. There is no way that that will happen again today, but just knowing the potential is there for it to happen makes this a highly anticipated game. Some will say it is Old vs Young. That may only be from the players stand point. On the coaching end, these coaches, Bill Belichick and Andy Reid, have been here before. One more than the other, but experience does not escape wither one of them. Belichick has a way of finding a team’s weakness and exploiting it. Reid has a way of having a fantastic regular season only to be forsaken in the post-season. Belichick has had Tom Brady. The perfect combination for eight AFC conference appearances and five Super Bowl wins. Reid now has Patrick Mahomes. The best chance Kansas City has had in years to win an AFC championship and play for the Lombardi.
The weather is the biggest talk of the game. It is predicted to be in the 20s. This should keep the scoring at a reasonable level. Time will be taken because the loser does not play next week. The Pats are going to have to get Mahomes off balance in the worse way. Not just the typical way because Mahomes is at his best throwing on the run. New England’s secondary is going to be their first line of defense. They have improved in that area since the last time these teams met. J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, and Stephon Gilmore will be called on to cover Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Chris Conley, and Sammy Watkins. The real challenge will be to stop Mahomes’s quick throws after the snap. He makes those passes into tighter windows not giving the defense time to adjust. On the offfensive side of the ball, the Patriots have made several adjustments to complement the veteran players like Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. Running backs Sony Michel and James White have been pounding the ball through defenses. They do not just run the ball, they catch it too. Their running effectiveness will certainly be tough on a run defense ranked last in the league.
The Chiefs are the number one seed. They are playing at home. This is their time. They are the team that everyone is hoping will put an end to the Patriots run. It will stem from whether or not Mahomes makes any mistakes. Week 6 was long ago now. Just as the Pats have improved in some areas, so have the Chiefs. Those changes come on defense, where they most needed it. They have Eric Berry coming back to play. A full week of practice has him feeling pretty good coming into this conference championship game. Stepping up is Dee Ford, Justin Houston Chris Jones, Derrick Nnadi, and Allen Bailey. If they play up to their potential, they may make the Pats think twice about running the ball. There are no secrets on offense for Kansas City. One of the quickest players on the field will be Tyreek Hill. A perfect match for the quick release of Mahomes. It will be hard for New England to shut down that connection down field.
This is a tough one to pick because the experience of Belichick and his ability to make adjustments during the game is second to none. The Chiefs are home and Andy Reid is bit tired of losing to Belichick. Both teams have learned about one another in the weeks since their first meeting this year. Most folks want to see the Patriots go down. Let’s see if it happens. Definitely expect to see a good game.
Kansas City Chiefs
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
LOS ANGELES RAMS vs NEW ORLEANS SAINTS:
Here we have another rematch of a regular season game. This time it is the week 9 rematch. The Saints won 45-35. That gave the Rams their first loss of the season. The Rams have since struggled a bit on offense. Quarterback Jared Goff has not been stellar the last few weeks. This could be because he was without his star running back, Todd Gurley, for the last two weeks of the regular season. Not that C.J. Anderson did not play well in the interim. Goff just needed time to adjust and get used to the new target. The Rams have a solid offensive core. There is Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods who each had 1,200+ yards receiving a piece. Tight ends Gerald Everette and Tyler Higbee are also popular targets for Goff. If the offensive line holds up, L.A. could be right in there. Aaron Donald is a key part of the defense. He will try to get at Drew Brees as often as possible. With the help of Ndamukong Suh and secondary help from Aqib Talib, the Rams should be able to disrupt the Saints offense. Stopping Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas will be a huge part of what the Rams defense will have to do on Sunday.
Drew Brees is the history maker this season. The Saints are the team that has something to prove in this contest. They too are the number one seed. They are at home. The last time they had home field, they were raising the Lombardi. No doubt that the Saints can be a scoring machine. The theme of defense runs here as well. New Orleans will have to play steady on defense to get over in this game. Cameron Jordan, Marshon Lattimore, and Demario Davis will have to stop Todd Gurley and company. The Rams defense is tall though. This may pose a problem for the not so tall Brees. Seeing over them and trying to make plays will be a challenge. Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas will have a time moving the ball down field. There will be tight coverage from Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. Brees will have to see the breakdowns and take advantage when the coverage allows. Anywhere the Rams defense double teams, there is a man open for a play. Timing will be everything.
Sean McVay and Sean Payton can expect to coach a highly anticipated matchup. The Rams are the underdogs, so McVay will have to prove to everyone that they are wrong and get over the playoff hump. Payton has to prove that the Saints are worthy of the number one spot and a chance to play in the Super Bowl again. This is the game that will come down to the last play or second. Another tough decision on who makes it out of this one and on to the big one. Gotta love the playoffs.