Four teams remain in the hunt of Super Bowl LIII: The Kansas City Chiefs (#1 AFC), New England Patriots (#2 AFC), New Orleans Saints (#1 NFC), and Los Angeles Rams (#2 NFC). In what has been an ultra-competitive season in the NFL, the four highest scoring offenses throughout the season are still fighting. Even though all four teams have their strengths and weaknesses, only one team can walk away on February 3rd with the Lombardi Trophy in hand. Will the youth of Quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes or Jared Goff triumph? Or will it be the experience of former Super-Bowl Champions Tom Brady or Drew Brees? Here is a breakdown of what to expect this coming weekend.
AFC: Chiefs vs. Patriots (Sunday 1/20, 6:40 ET)
The Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
The one seed Chiefs undeniably defied expectations in the 2018 season. They finished as the 1 seed in the AFC with a record of 12-4. In his first year as a starter, MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes took the NFL by storm. Mahomes posted a record breaking stat line of 5097 passing yards to go with a NFL leading 50 Passing Touchdowns. The combination of explosiveness from Mahomes to speedster Wide Receiver Tyreek Hill and Tight End Travis Kelce, and a commanding running game, is causing a nightmare for defensive coordinators around the league. The weapons that this young Chiefs team has offensively is arguably the best in the NFL. This was displayed accurately last week as the Chiefs steamrolled the Colts in their first playoff game, dominating on both sides of the ball and bringing home their first home playoff victory in over 25 years. There is no denying the offensive power this Chiefs team has, but their defense poses many questions for the Conference Championship game. Tom Brady and the Patriots are playing in their 8th straight AFC Championship, and the Chiefs will need to play their best defensive game if they want to contain the Patriots offense. Playing with home field advantage will also benefit the Chiefs, as Arrowhead Stadium is known for being one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL. This weekend’s game will answer a great amount of questions about the Chiefs franchise: Is Andy Reid a legitimate elite coach? Is Patrick Mahomes ready to perform on the biggest stage in football? Can the Chiefs win in the playoffs with a bottom tier defense? Will the lack of playoff experience between both the coaches and players play a role in the game? The Chiefs have a great task ahead of them facing the dynasty of the New England Patriots. However, if any team in the AFC can dethrone the franchise… it is the Kansas City Chiefs.
The New England Patriots (11-5)
Are you surprised that the Patriots are back in the AFC Championship? The legacy of Quarterback Tom Brady and Coach Bill Belichick continues on for their 8th straight AFC Championship. Many questions were raised across the 2018 season about Tom Brady (41 years old) potentially reaching a cliff in his hall of fame career. The 5-time Super-Bowl Champion proved all the doubters wrong in last weeks destruction of the Los Angeles Chargers. The Patriots posted 35 points in the first half, breaking a postseason record for first half points, along with playing fantastic defense. Brady and the rest of the offense seemingly scored at will, using a variety of weapons and playcalls. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels received criticism throughout the year, but last week he gameplanned one of the most efficient and effective offenses the NFL has seen this year. Wide Receiver Julian Edelman is a proven top-tier receiver in the playoffs, as he moved to second all time in postseason receptions last week (98) while torching the Chargers secondary for 151 yards. Running back James White tied a postseason record for receptions in game by a running back with 15, and has proven to be Brady’s safety blanket. Sony Michel had a career game as well, becoming the third rookie with 3 TD’s in their first playoff game. These are only three of many of Brady’s offensive weapons, as the Chiefs also have to matchup with future Hall-of-Famer Rob Gronkowski and others. For the Patriots, however, their defense has shown flashes of being elite but has yet to show consistency. If the Patriots are able to gameplan against the Chiefs high-power offense effectively, then the rest will fall into the hands of Brady. This Sunday will showcase two offensive superpowers and will undoubtedly be an exciting game to watch.This game will be a symbol for whether the Patriots dynasty is reaching an end, or if Brady and Belichick have enough left for another Super Bowl win.
Predicted Score: Patriots 41, Chiefs 34
I believe Brady has enough to make one last run at Super-Bowl number six. In a offensive shootout, the Patriots prevail by seven points over the Chiefs. The lack of experience and freezing temperatures will cause the Chiefs to break down and be unable to stop the Patriots offense. I predict it will be a game that will mostly be dominated on the ground from the Patriots, with big games coming from Sony Michel, James White and Rob Gronkowski. Travis Kelce and Damien Williams will also have a big game for the Chiefs, but Mahomes will struggle against the disciplined Patriot’s defense in the cold.
NFC: Saints vs Rams (Sunday 1/20, 3:05 ET)
The New Orleans Saints (13-3)
The New Orleans Saints suffered a heartbreaking loss in the 2017 playoffs to the Vikings, but are back again for revenge. The Saints finished with the best record in the NFL, and obtained the 1 seed in a very competitive NFC. Drew Brees had an MVP caliber season throwing for 3992 yards and 32 TDs with only 5 interceptions. The 40 year old Quarterback is surrounded by many young weapons, such as star running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, and All-Pro Wide Receiver Michael Thomas. The Saints have a unique offense that can beat you with both their running game or passing game. Many of their offensive players play roles that other teams are not used to matching up with. Alvin Kamara has become an elite Running Back as well as receiver, causing matchup nightmares for opposing teams who already have to focus on containing Michael Thomas. Add Taysom Hill to the mix, the positionless player who has played snaps at Quarterback, Running Back, Wide Receiver, Tight End and is a Special Teamer, and you have a very dynamic offense. The Saints defense has struggled at times, as seen in the first quarter last week against the Eagles, but is also one of the best run stopping defenses in the NFL. When the Saints bring their A-game, they are the best team in the NFL. Playing with a home field advantage on Sunday, the Saints are favorited but will have their hands full with the Los Angeles Rams. The last time these two met the Saints were the victors (45-35) in an entertaining shootout; a game the Saints hope to repeat. If the Saints play well defensively, their offense will be able to lead the way to victory.
The Los Angeles Rams (13-3)
Going into the 2018 season, many ranked the Los Angeles Rams as the number one team. They did not disappoint. If it were not for the spectacular season that Drew Brees and the Saints put together, then the Rams would most likely be regarded as the best team in the NFL. The Rams have a young offense, led by Quarterback Jared Goff and Running Back Todd Gurley, and almost always score 30+ points at will. Robert Woods has found his team in the NFL, and has emerged as a top-10 receiver. Woods finished the season far above expectations with 1219 yards and 6 TDs on 86 receptions. In addition to Woods, receiver Brandin Cooks also had a career year posting 1204 yards and 5 TDs on 80 receptions. Goff has two great passing options with Cooks and Woods, but the focus of the Rams offense is still their run game. Todd Gurley is one of the best running backs in the NFL, if not the best, and finished the year with 21 total Touchdowns. Along with Gurley, the Rams have also found a hidden gem in CJ Anderson. Anderson, who was cut by 3 different teams this season, found his way onto the Rams roster on Week 16 and has averaged 140 yards per game since. The combination of Gurley and Anderson practically ran over a top tier defense of the Dallas Cowboys last week in their Divisional Round victory. The explosiveness and variety of offensive weapons on both the Rams and Saints will more than likely lead to a high scoring game. When it comes to defense, the Rams have been shaky at points, but have some big name players. The highlight of the Rams defense is Aaron Donald, who will almost certainly be the NFL’s defensive player of the year. Donald broke the record for most sacks by a defensive tackle with a league leading 20.5 in the 2018 season, and will be hunting for Drew Brees on Sunday. The Rams will need both their offense and defense to play efficiently in order to dethrone the Saints. The Rams are hungry to regain their position on the top, and the Saints will definitely have their hands full with this team.
Predicted Score: Saints 48, Rams 45
I believe this game will be one of the most fun games to watch all year. An offensive shootout will be won by a mere three points by the Saints. The home-field advantage and experience of Drew Brees and Sean Payton will be enough for New Orleans to prevail against a very good Los Angeles team. Both defenses will struggle, and it will come down a Quarterback duel. Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, and Alvin Kamara will have big games for the Saints, with Keith Kirkwood and Taysom Hill being the sneaky heroes. For the Rams, Gurley will have a big receiving game along with Robert Woods. Jared Goff will post big numbers in the loss, but it will not be enough. A matchup between Brees (40) and Brady (41) in the Super Bowl could be in the making.