They say the NFL is all about the offenses, and based on the four teams still alive for the right to play in the Super Bowl, that’s exactly what it is. The top four scoring teams in the NFL will be in action Sunday evening.
Now, I am willing to bet that the casual NFL fan is rooting for a Los Angeles vs. Kansas City Super Bowl in two weeks, and even as a Patriots fan I wouldn’t hate seeing that. Even if those two give us 60% of what they gave us during the regular season then everyone would enjoy one heck of a Super Bowl.
That would be a great game, but think about it. Take out your hatred for the Patriots. I get it. You’re sick of them, but just take that hate out of the equation and think about any of the potential matchups in the Super Bowl.
There is no bad outcome for a casual football fan. You either get two high-flying offenses with young quarterbacks, two teams that have aging, Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks or a mixture of youth and experience. Even if the Patriots lose on Sunday, it may take some time to get that excitement obviously, but I’ll be eagerly awaiting kickoff of what should be a great Super Bowl.
But first we need to play two more football games to decide who we’ll see in Atlanta in two weeks. In the NFC we’ve got Los Angeles going to New Orleans in a classic matchup of youth vs. experience. Sean McVay and Jared Goff are the new generation going against Sean Payton and Drew Brees. On the AFC side, New England will hit the road to take on familiar foe Andy Reid, NFL MVP-favorite Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
One game will be played in perfect conditions in the dome in New Orleans while the other game could possibly be played in temperatures that creep below zero, which could lead to two very different games, but two very exciting games that should be tight until the very end.
Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints
If you were to put L.A. and New Orleans on a neutral site with no home-field advantage, I think the Rams would roll. But the Saints got home-field advantage and that’s hard for me to overlook. I love McVay and what he’s done for the sport. His schemes, his energy and his team’s success have been great to watch.
But to that same point, I don’t believe in Jared Goff. I give almost all of the credit to L.A.’s offensive success to McVay. McVay makes the audible calls from the sideline and all Goff has to do is make the throw. Any NFL QB can make throws, but a great NFL QB can make throws after going through his reads and being moved off of his spot. Goff hasn’t shown an ability to do that. He’s young, so it may come, but I don’t see Goff going on the road in the NFC Championship and not making a mistake or two.
On the other side, Drew Brees and Sean Payton are trying to fortify their legacies with another Super Bowl run. In my opinion, Brees gets overlooked quite a bit when it comes to the best QBs of this generation and this could be his best chance to reaffirm his spot in history, and same goes for Payton.
The Rams have already played down in New Orleans this season and the Saints walked out with a 45-35 win to hand L.A. its first loss of the season. That led to some trash talking between the two teams and it’s been in the background as the week has gone on.
I expect this to be a shootout, maybe even more so than the first meeting of the season. I don’t expect either team to get out to an early lead, but if they do don’t turn the channel. If a team gets up 10 or 14 in the first quarter, settle down and let things play out, especially if it’s L.A. that gets the lead.
There’s a part of me that thinks the Rams can go to New Orleans, learn from the first meeting and get revenge and reach the Super Bowl. It’s not a big enough part of me to pick them. I just don’t trust Jared Goff. It’s that simple. I trust Drew Brees to make the plays and win the game. I don’t trust Goff to do the same for four quarters on the road in that atmosphere.
My pick: New Orleans 48-40
New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs
Mother Nature is having some fun with this game. At one point it was going to be one of the coldest games in NFL history, but now the forecasts have changed and it won’t be nearly as cold, but it will played under a crazy moon with a funky name, but it’s going to look cool.
That’s about the only thing we know for sure about Sunday in Kansas City. This is Mahomes’ first time on this stage and it’s the coldest he’s ever played in. Andy Reid has a bad history in these big games, only breaking through the one time before falling back into his old ways in the Super Bowl loss to the Patriots in the 2004 season.
Tom Brady and the Patriots are appearing in their eighth straight AFC title game and 13th overall, but they don’t have great success historically on the road in this game. Now I don’t think what happened in 2004 or 2006 or any of that matters. Just look back to 2013 and 2015, two road losses at Denver. Just look at this season. New England has been horrid on the road this season, but Sunday’s beatdown of the Chargers showed me a different Patriots team. That was without a doubt the best game that team played all season.
Can in translate in Kansas City? It’s hard to predict, but the Patriots are playing pissed off. That means something and with Tom Brady I expect nothing but his best when he’s got that mindset.
As high-scoring as I expect the NFC title game will be, it’s hard to imagine we get anything close to that. When the two teams met up in Foxboro earlier this season, New England outlasted the Chiefs, 43-40. I wish we could get another round of that, but don’t get your hopes up.
A few days ago I would’ve said the final score would be in the teens. Now that the temperatures have been projected to be closer to around 20 degrees rather than below zero, which doesn’t sound much but is a major difference for the players, I think we may see a little bit more action from the offenses.
Again, if you put these two teams in a neutral site and have them play with no home-field advantage I would likely pick Kansas City. The speed of the Chiefs would be too much for New England to matchup with. But add the weather, the stage and all of that and I’m leaning New England. Can Mahomes really be his usual, electric self with those temperatures? Can Tyreek Hill continuously run his deep routes down field with that bitter cold hitting his face? How about Andy Reid? Can he match wits with Bill Belichick for 60 minutes with a Super Bowl berth on the line? I just don’t see it.
I admit that picking New England has its bias to it, but I also believe, as a football fan, that New England has the advantage on this stage with this weather. Give me the coach. Give me the quarterback. Give me the Patriots.
My pick: New England 30-23