We've seen eight postseason games this season, and I could argue none of them have been exciting.
As a matter of fact, all four Division Round games were snooze-fests, because we knew who the winner would be by halftime(except the Saints/Eagles game was mildly entertaining). However, one thing was certain last week: Order was restored in the NFL. I predicted all four games correctly because all four games followed the script. There was practically nothing surprising last week, and no bizarre upsets. In a season plastered with upsets, this was a nice change for once. It ensured there would be no repeat Super Bowl winners for the 14th consecutive season.
Today, it's January 20th, 2019, and we're probably going to witness two of the most entertaining games of the entire season. There isn't a strong favorite for either game, and I feel this is the first time I can remember an NFL season where the final four teams truly deserved to be in the championship games, and there were no flukes this time around. It's time to dissect the final four!
Per usual, the percentage projections I mention are based on the computer models on Fivethirtyeight.com. And again, per usual, if you want to read how it's calculated, you'll have to visit the website.
NFC Championship Game: Rams@Saints(2:05 P.M. CST)
Projection: A 64% chance the Saints will win.
Last Time Saints Won an NFC Championship Game: 2009-2010 Season(against the Vikings, imagine that)
Last Time Rams Won an NFC Championship Game: 2001-2002 Season(against the Eagles, whattayouknow).
Last time these teams played each other: November 4th, 2018: The Saints won 45-35.
Last Time these teams played each other in the postseason: 2000-2001 Wild Card Game, where the Saints beat the Rams 31-28.
Last Time these teams played each other in the NFC Championship Game: Never.
The last time these two teams met in the playoffs, the Quarterback matchup was Saints rookie QB Aaron Brooks vs Rams Hall of Fame QB Kurt Warner, and people laughed at how unbalanced that matchup seemed. And then magic happened, and people stunningly saw the Rams limping back home to Saint Louis.
Fast forward 18 years later, now the Saints Quarterback is future Hall of Famer Drew Brees vs some guy named Jared Goff for the Rams. The matchup is flip-flopped as far as Quarterbacks go, but I'm not convinced the magic has been flip-flopped.
The Case for the Saints: I think this will be the closer affair of the two championship games. As I've stated on several of my NFL MyTakes this season, and as I've stated several times since the middle of the NFL season, the Saints are the overall best team in the NFL. Period. Hell, the Saints already beat the Rams by ten points earlier in the season to stop the Rams' 16-0 bid before the Rams' BYE Week.The Saints have virtually no weaknesses, aside from some minor flaws with their pass defense-which are negligible. Their offense might be more potent than the Chiefs, and their defense is ten steps above them. The Saints are just a better version of the Rams. Then, there is the fact the game is in New Orleans, and when the Saints play at home, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is tough for the opposing team, thanks to some nasty fans.
The Case for the Rams: The best offense in the NFC is interestingly enough between the Saints, and Rams. However, after the Rams rammed the Cowboys' tough defense last week, and played like their normal selves, I don't think it's a far reach to assume Saints fans were wetting their pants. Jared Goff seem to be playing better now than he was in the regular season, and they still have the fierce Todd Gurley II with an offensive line that won't quit. Of course, their glaring weakness is their pass-defense, and unlike the Saints, it is a meaningful weakness. However, the Rams can still stop the Saints offense by their pass-rush defense, and with people like Aaron Thomas, and Nadamakong Suh, it's not too difficult to see a situation where Brees is getting sacked constantly. It's also not too hard to see a scenario where the Rams might overtake the Saints, and make their first Super Bowl appearance in 17 years.
My Prediction: The Saints are my pick for the NFL's best team this season, and usually, the best can beat a team lesser than they are. I say the Saints take a close one; 34-31 as the final score.
AFC Championship Game: Patriots@Chiefs(5:40 P.M. CST)
Projection: A 61% chance the Chiefs will win.
Last Time Chiefs Won an NFC Championship Game: 1969-1970 season(against the Raiders)
Last Time Patriots Won an NFC Championship Game: 2017-2018 season(against the Jaguars)
Last time these teams played each other: October 14th, 2018(Patriots won 43-40)
Last Time these teams played each other in the postseason: 2015-2016 Division Round, where Patriots won 27-20.
Last Time these teams played each other in the NFC Championship Game: Never
I have an inkling this will be the the more popular game today, and it's probably the reason why it was selected for the later time slot.
We can't ask for a better Quarterback matchup. We have Patrick Mahomes II for the Chiefs, who is not only having an MVP caliber season, but one of the best(if not the best) season for a Quarterback of all time. On top of this, he is a dominant dual-threat, since he can run, and make plays happen. For the Patriots, we have the 41 year old Future Hall of Famer Tom Brady who probably had his best game of the season last week against the Chargers, and this is during a season which was mediocre at best for Brady. Both teams also have legendary Head Coaches, and both teams play with all of their heart. For the Patriots, they should be nervous: On the road, they're playing like an 8-8 team, but at home, they are an unstoppable 16-0 team that can't be reckoned with.
The Case for the Chiefs: I think the better question is "how isn't there a case for the Chiefs?" The Chiefs are arguably the best team in the NFL, for one. Two, Andy Reid is a genius. Three, the Chiefs have the best offense in the NFL, and they have enough firepower to score 30 points, or more on any given day. Four, Patrick Mahomes II. Okay, you get the point. This team hasn't gone down much at all, and they are full of young firepower. Their glaring weakness is their defense(one of the worst in the NFL), but that's been their massive weakness the entire team, and that hasn't stopped them from dominating this season. And if last week is any indicator, it looks like the Chiefs finally have a defense behind them. On top of this, they're in Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium, which is the loudest stadium in the NFL. Even when they were in Foxborough earlier in the year, they still almost pulled off a great comeback against the Pats.
The Case for the Patriots: The Patriots had one of their weaker seasons in the midst of their dynasty, finishing 11-5. Then, last week happened, where the Pats embarrassed the Chargers, and made the Bolts look more like the Raiders than the Chargers. Then of course, Patriots fans will want to bring up recent history. The Patriots have been a dynasty for almost 20 years, and they have pulled off huge wins in the playoffs, even when the odds are against them. So, the Pats are the worst team out of the four remaining, and their offense is weaker than the Chiefs, and sadly, their defense isn't much better. So, after all of this laid out, how am I making a case for the Patriots, even after admitting they are the weakest of the final four? It's simple-The Bill Belichick/Tom Brady duo is a nightmare in the postseason, and the Pats play better in the playoffs in general. I know that's incredibly simplistic, but it's true. The Pats are a different animal in the playoffs. You'll see unknown players have career games in the playoffs, when they don the New England Patriots uniform. Even on the road, I can see them being a huge threat, and it would be foolish for Reid, and the Chiefs to take them lightly.
My Prediction: The Patriots are intimidating, but I think the Chiefs will finally see their first Super Bowl in 49 seasons. The Chiefs win by a final score of 38-28.