We made it through the Divisional Round of the playoffs, a set of four games that was intense and featured fewer surprises. From that group of eight, we’ve moved to the Final Four as we set for the AFC and NFC Championship games this Sunday. In preparation for the games, it’s time to preview the action and see who might make it to the Super Bowl!
NFC Championship Game:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) at Green Bay Packers (13-3)
Once Aaron Rodgers and the Packers beat the Rams, it was clear we were going to get a great quarterback matchup no matter what happened in the final Divisional Round game on Sunday. In the end, Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to outlast Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints to advance to the NFC Championship Game. It could be the last we see of Brees, but there is time to consider that. The bigger story in that game was the Buccaneers’ defense, which forced three turnovers and a fumble, leading to three touchdowns in a 30-20 win. If the defense can be stout and force Rodgers into turnovers, that would bode well for the Buccaneers’ chances. They also need Brady and his cadre of receivers—Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown (plus Gronk, Scotty Miller, Cameron Brate)—to make plays. For the Packers, it’s the formula that has worked all season. Rodgers spreading the ball around but being sure to lean on Davante Adams, while Aaron Jones powers the running game. The three Packers’ stars got it done against the Rams, and now they have a chance to get it done again and move to the Super Bowl. This will also be Rodgers’ first NFC Championship Game at home, which figures to add extra motivation. Brady has plenty of experience, as do a few of the Buccaneers players, so this should be a fierce battle. It could go either way, but I think the Packers are in a zone.
Prediction: Packers 27, Buccaneers 24
AFC Championship Game:
Buffalo Bills (13-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (14-2)
The top two seeds in the AFC made it all the way through to the AFC Championship Game, and it’s a matchup that pits two good passing offenses against one another. The Bills prevailed on Saturday night against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, winning 17-3 in large part due to a huge defensive play. But all season long it’s been Josh Allen and the passing offense, particularly receiver Stefon Diggs, who’ve carried the day. The Chiefs, meanwhile, hung on to win 22-17 despite seeing star quarterback Patrick Mahomes knocked out in the concussion protocol. Mahomes is making his way through the protocol now and hopes to be cleared to play on Sunday. If he can’t go the Chiefs will have to rely on veteran Chad Henne, who helped secure the win on Sunday. It’s fair to suspect the Chiefs will be a different offense if Mahomes is out, but not one devoid of talent. The Chiefs’ passing game is powered by the league’s best tight end in Travis Kelce and explosive receiver Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs are also hoping to see rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire back in the mix and have veteran Le’Veon Bell available. So, there are options for this offense. But the battle everyone wants to see is Allen and Mahomes, and hopefully that’s the battle we get on Sunday. Prior to the playoffs I thought the Bills were the AFC team with the best shot at knocking off the Chiefs, and I still believe that. This should be an even game that comes down to some big plays. I like the Bills’ defense a little better, and I think Allen and Diggs are in a zone.
Prediction: Bills 27, Chiefs 24
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.