Previewing 2018/19 NFL Playoffs: Conference Championships Round

Divisional Round - Houston Texans v New England Patriots

There was plenty of intrigue last week in the Divisional Round, but now the focus will be the Conference Championships which could be the best games that will be played this postseason as the top two seeds in each conference will play for a chance to compete in the Super Bowl two weeks from now. The Los Angeles Rams will play the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, while the New England Patriots will travel to Kansas City to take on the Kansas City Chiefs. This could be a very fun week. With that being said, lets take a look at each team.

American Football Conference Championship

Kansas City Chiefs vs New England Patriots

Patriots

For the eighth consecutive season, New England will play in the AFC Championship game and for good reason as quarterback Tom Brady keeps navigating through rough waters to lead his teams to victory. The Patriots faced a very good Los Angeles Chargers team last week and defeated them 41-28. The New England offense exploded against the Chargers as Brady threw for 343 yards and one touchdown, while running back Sony Michel rushed for 129 yards and scored three touchdowns and wide receiver Julian Edelmann made nine receptions for 151 yards. The offense will have to produce pretty much the same against Kansas City like they did against Los Angeles as the Chiefs defense has struggled this season. The Patriots has to take advantage of that as this is pretty much the only key to the game for them as the Chiefs offense really doesn’t have any flaws. New England won the only game that was played between the two of them 43-40 in Foxborough, so game tape will be vital to them in this one, but they are 1-5 all-time at Kansas City and the team will be playing in a hostile environment. The offense will need to keep up the magic in this game if the Patriots want to win, but also the offensive line will have to protect Brady at all cost. New England’s defense has been suspect all year, but they have the advantage here and if the phrase “Defense wins championships” is true, the Patriots better hope it steps up here.

Chiefs

The Chiefs last week made a very good Indianapolis Colts defense look silly as quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw for 278 yards and rushed for a touchdown. His offense was awesome as running back Damien Williams rushed for 129 yards on 25 attempts and scored a touchdown, while wide receiver Tyreek Hill made eight receptions for 72 yards plus rushed for a touchdown while tight end Travis Kelce made seven receptions for 108 yards in a 31-13 thrashing over Indianapolis. The biggest strength for Kansas City is the offense as they essentially have no weakness as Mahomes has so many options to throw to or hand off for a run and can even run the ball as well, but his arm is also a big reason for their success as he threw for 50 touchdowns during the regular season. The Chiefs can spread out their offense with absolutely no problem. The problem this season was the defense as they struggled a lot, but seemingly put pressure on quarterback Andrew Luck and the Colts’ offensive line last week. The defense will have to keep that same pressure on Brady and the New England offensive line if they want to win as the Chiefs offense will clearly score lots of points against a subpar Patriots defense.

Matchup Notes

Patriots: 3-5 in road games, but defeated Kansas City 43-40 earlier in the season.

Chiefs: 7-1 at home.

Predictions

James Rowe: Chiefs. While I think New England has the advantage of defense, Kansas City’s offense is so good that it will be hard for the Patriots to catch up. This game is also about the experienced veteran versus the remarkable talent as that could be a factor, so that’s a storyline to watch. But Chiefs have home field advantage and that will be a key factor.

Tali Raphael: Patriots.

Tabari McCoy: Patriots.

National Football Conference Championship

Los Angeles Rams vs New Orleans Saints

Rams

With a convincing 30-22 victory over a solid Dallas Cowboys squad whose defense is outstanding, Los Angeles looks to carry that momentum against a strong New Orleans team. The running game for the Rams was the key to victory in their last contest as running back Todd Gurley rushed for 115 yards for a touchdown, but running back C.J. Anderson had a game to remember as he rushed for 123 yards for two touchdowns. The Cowboys defense is very good, but if Los Angeles could put as many rushing yards on Dallas’ defense like they did, then they have to take advantage of that against a weaker defense in New Orleans. The Rams will also look to avenge their 45-35 loss earlier in the season against the Saints as they hope they can prove that it was a fluke. Los Angeles’ defense is very good, but facing an offense like New Orleans’ is no easy task and they will have to step it up here if they want to win.

Saints

When down 14-0 early against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Divisional Round, some became concerned. Not Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees as he helped New Orleans storm right back as they claimed a 20-14 victory as he threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns while his primary target wide receiver Michael Thomas set a new Saints postseason record with 12 receptions, 171 yards, and a touchdown. New Orleans has a very good offense with weapons like Thomas, Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara, Benjamin Watson, and Ted Ginn Jr. The Saints will have to hope that their offense produces like it did against Rams when they won 45-35, but the struggles against a solid Philadelphia defense is worrisome as New Orleans will face a very good Rams defense. And speaking of defense, the Saints defense has been suspect this season, but they will have to step it up against such a good Los Angeles offense.

Matchup notes

Rams: Los Angeles was the second highest scoring team in the league with 32.9 points per game.

Saints: New Orleans was the third highest scoring team in the league with 31.5 points per game.

Predictions

James: Rams. With Benjamin Watson out and how much of a struggle they had against Philadelphia’s defense last week, the Saints’ magic will simply run out as Los Angeles is a very good team. While the Saints have the home field advantage, especially in a dome that gets very loud, the Rams have played there already this season and know what to expect.

Tali: Saints.

Tabari: Saints.

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