Previewing The Conference Championships
Here are my predictions for the Conference Championships.
Los Angeles Rams vs. New Orleans Saints (-3.5)
Similar to the AFC Championship game, these were the two teams everyone knew was going to make it to this game. The Eagles gave the Saints a little scare last week, but outside of that, these four teams were always going to make it to the final four.
The Saints and Rams have historically good offenses and this game will most likely come down to whoever has the ball last. If Todd Gurley is healthy enough to take the majority of carries and can remain on the field during passing downs, the Rams may have a slight edge. If he can't , C.J. Anderson needs to have the game of his life. The Saints lost DT Sheldon Rankins last week to an injury, so the Rams may be able to cut them up through the middle. The Rams will also need Robert Woods and Josh Reynolds to have decent games as well in order to keep drives alive.
Last time these teams played, Michael Thomas had himself a day. Thomas finished with 12 catches for 211 yards and a touchdown, propelling the Saints to a 45-35 win. If the Saints want to win again, Thomas will need to have a repeat of that performance. That said, the Rams will lockup Thomas all day, and won't allow him to single handily beat them again. The Saints will need a more balanced attack with Kamara, Smith, and Hill to push them over the edge.
It’s very difficult to beat a team twice in the NFL. However, I have to give this one to the Saints. I think the Saints are the best team in the league, and if they Rams couldn’t go into New Orleans the first time and win, I doubt they'll be able to do it this time.
Prediction: Rams 28 Saints 31
New England Patriots vs. Kansas City Chiefs (-3.0)
This game could go either way and it wouldn’t shock me. The Chiefs are the better team and should win playing at home. However, they're playing the Patriots who always seem to find a way to win these games. The Patriots for years have had a somewhat unorthodox approach to their offense, having several role players who don't really excel in anything outside of buying into the Patriots program. The last time these two teams played, the Chiefs were able to contain everyone except Michel, Gronkowski, and Hogan. It’ll be interesting to see if the Patriots are able to get James White going or if they lean on a heavy running game instead.
Patrick Mahomes tore apart the NFL this year and did pass for over 350 yards and 4 touchdowns against the Patriots. He did however throw two costly interceptions too. The Chiefs have also lost Kareem Hunt, who they released after a graphic domestic violence video surfaced. Outside of the Tyreek Hill, Hunt was the only reliable option.
I’ve read and seen tons of material on this game, and most people expect the same shoot out we saw earlier this year. I’m not sold on that. It’ll be sub freezing temperatures, and the field conditions won't be as nearly as good as that mid-October game. Until Tom Brady retires, it’s hard to pick against him. The Chiefs will have plenty of opportunities to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl for years to come, just not this year.
Prediction: Patriots 26 Chiefs 22