So, yeah the Divisional round did not exactly go the way I thought it would, but hey, it happens right? Now I’m here hoping to redeem myself and pick the winners of the conference championships.
AFC Championship: Kansas City Chiefs vs New England Patriots @ Arrowhead Stadium
My biggest mistake last weekend was doubting both of these teams. The Patriots put on one hell of a show and DESTROYED the Chargers 41-28. Tom Brady was brilliant, posting 343 yards, 1 TD and a 106.5 passer rating. Julian Edelman caught 9 passes for 151 yards, his talents were on full display. James White, who did not rush the ball once, caught 15 passes for 97 yards, Phillip Dorsett caught Brady’s lone TD and Gronk only caught one pass for 25 yards. But the focus of the Patriots dismantling of the Chargers was the Pats rushing attack. Rookie RB Sony Michel had himself a day, rushing the ball 24 times for 129 yards and 3 TDs, Rex Burkhead also had 1 TD. I liked Michel a lot in college and thought he was underrated going into the draft, once the Patriots got him I was even more high on his potential and he has definitely been living up to it, if he keeps it up the Patriots will continue to be an amazingly balanced team on offense. The Pats D also put on a show. Rivers had 3 TDs and 1 INT, but the numbers don’t tell the full story, he was shut down for most of the game. The Chargers run game, which was a focal point of their offense, was shut down completely. The team totaled 19 rushing yards with Melvin Gordon having 15. The Patriots played so well on both sides of the ball and if they keep playing this well on defense and keep rushing the ball the way they did Sunday, they could reach the Super Bowl once again.
The Chiefs also surprised me a lot, taking down the Colts easily 31-13. Patrick Mahomes wasn’t amazing, posting 278 yards and 1 rushing TD, but he got the job done and did not turn the ball over. Travis Kelce was great as always with 108 yards, Tyreek Hill posted 72 receiving yards and Sammy Watkins had 62 yards. A shock to me was, like the Patriots, the Chiefs running game. After Kareem Hunt was cut, their run game suffered, but on Sunday they were extremely successful. Damien Williams rushed 25 times for 129 yards and 1 TD, Tyreek Hill rushed once for 36 yards and 1 TD and Darrel Williams rushed 3 times for 9 yards and 1 TD. With so many people having success in the run game, this will help the Chiefs spread the field and open things up for Patrick Mahomes. The biggest surprise however, was most definitely the Chiefs defense. Last week I said the reason the Colts would win was their run game vs the Chiefs horrible run defense, well boy was I wrong. The Chiefs defense played amazing, holding the Colts to a total of 87 rushing yards (Marlon Mack had 46). Not to mention shutting the passing game down too. If the Chiefs defense continues to play like that and they are able to run the ball like they did Sunday going forward, they will become even more dangerous.
Prediction: This should be an amazing game, both teams have balanced offenses and defenses fresh off great games. The Pats won their meeting earlier in the year 43-40, but I think the difference will be the home-field advantage and that is why I’m taking the Chiefs.
NFC Championship: New Orleans Saints vs Los Angeles Rams @ Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Here I got 1 out of 2 right. I picked the Rams over the Cowboys and thankfully it panned out and they won 30-22. It was a closer game than I expected, but LA’s rushing attack and rush defense was too much for Dallas to handle. Jared Goff had a painfully average game going 15/28 with 186 yards, he will absolutely have to be better for the Rams to have a chance in this upcoming game. Like I said just a second ago, the Rams rushing game was on point against the Cowboys. After signing him about a month ago, CJ Anderson played a huge role in this game. The former Broncos RB rushed 23 times for 123 yards and 2 TDs, a performance that came from out of no where. The Rams star RB Todd Gurley, who’s been battling injuries but is nearly 100%, rushed 16 times for 116 yards and 1 TD. The Rams 2 headed monster could provide a problem for the Saints who struggled against the Eagles mediocre run game until G Brandon Brooks and LT Jason Peters were hurt. The Rams defense was just as good as the offense in this game, maybe better. While Dak Prescott had a pretty good game, the Rams held Ezekiel Elliot to 47 rushing yards on 20 carries. He did have a TD but even still that is great for the Rams defense. They will need to continue that next week against the high powered Saints backfield. I also can’t wait to see how Marcus Peters plays in this game considering how pissed off he was about Sean Payton’s comments directed at him after their last game.
The Saints shocked me on Sunday, but not in the best way. They opened up the game off a bye and at home against the 6th seed and opened up extremely slow. They won the game but the Eagles were littered with injuries, regardless they were the better team. Every other home team dominated Sunday, except the Saints. Drew Brees was very good after his first pass was picked off, he posted 301 yards and 2 TDs. He was not faced with much pressure against the Eagles but that will most likely change against the Rams. Michael Thomas dominated with 171 yards and 1 TD, but he was not really challenged as the Eagles have no star CB, he will be faced with a challenge against a more talented secondary, but a WR of his caliber will no doubt be up for the challenge. Alvin Kamara totaled 106 yards and Mark Ingram totaled 64 yards. The Saints defense was a lot better after the 1st quarter and they will have to carry that into this game to shut down a strong run game from the Rams. Sunday was the first time the Saints didn’t score 30+ at home this season, I’m expecting them to return to form in the NFC championship.
Prediction: This one was a hard one, I’m really torn on these teams. The Saints won the matchup between these teams earlier in the year 45-35, but they really scared me with their performance Sunday. For that reason I am going with the Rams.
I look forward to what I think will be two extremely good games this championship weekend and hope that my predictions come true. A good weekend for football it will surely be.
(All pictures via @NFL on Twitter)