NFL Playoffs: Conference Championship picks
It’s Conference Championship weekend! The Kansas City Chiefs will host the New England Patriots, while the New Orleans Saints host the Los Angeles Rams. These teams will battle for a chance to go to the Super Bowl! If you didn’t get a chance to see the preface to our Conference Championship picks, check out our recent article, “Why the remaining NFL teams will win the Super Bowl and why they won’t.“
Instead of repeating what’s already been said about why or why not each team will win the Super Bowl, we’re going to give you a more full breakdown of the matchups in these games in addition to our staff’s Conference Championship picks.
Conference Championship Picks
Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints
These two teams met back in Week Nine of the regular season, where the Saints won 45-35. Expect this game to be just as high scoring. Both teams were top three in points scored per game in the regular season. The Rams ranked second (32.9), while the Saints were just behind them in third (31.5). New Orleans didn’t put on their usual offensive showing last week, but that was primarily because they dug themselves into an early 14-0 hole. If I’m the Rams, I’m not expecting that to happen again. I think we’d all love for this game to be a shoot out.
One of the key factors in this game will obviously be the play of the QBs. You’ve got Jared Goff, who’s making just his third playoff start and has been underwhelming in the playoffs to this point. On the other side, you’ve got Drew Brees, who’s an MVP candidate and has seen a lot of success in the playoffs. Who I picked to win this game heavily weighed on the QBs. If I had to choose one QB to have in this situation, I’m taking Drew Brees.
With that being said, I can see why the Rams are a popular choice. Jared Goff may not have had the best performances in his two playoff games so far, but the Rams can beat teams in more ways than just with their QB. I mentioned their play-calling as one reason why they’ll win the Super Bowl in our preface article. Then there’s Todd Gurley, who is a constant threat to any defense. Let’s not forget about C.J. Anderson. Both Gurley and Anderson had over 100 rushing yards last week. The Saints are going to have to find a way to stop the run game of the Rams.
Just like in any game against the Rams, the Saints are going to have to figure out how to stop Aaron Donald. The Dallas Cowboys couldn’t stop anyone on the Rams’ defensive line, but the Saints have played much better in that regard this season. The Saints ranked second in sacks allowed, giving up just 20 sacks all season long. They gave up less sacks than Aaron Donald alone recorded (20.5). If Drew Brees has time to throw, he’s going to carve up the Rams’ defense. Aaron Donald and company must find a way to disrupt Drew Brees.
Stopping Aaron Donald and company comes down to more than just pass protection. Last week they shut down the run game of the Cowboys. The Saints can’t let their run game be shut down. If they can run the ball on this defense, everything will open up for Drew Brees. Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara must find ways to keep the explosive offense of the Rams off the field as much as possible.
New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs
Will Tom Brady make it to his ninth Super Bowl? Unless you’re a Patriots fan or you really hate the Chiefs, you probably don’t want to see the same old thing. Yeah, we know it gets boring after seeing it so many times. No wonder our Conference Championship picks are heavily sided on the Chiefs. The thing is though, Tom Brady doesn’t care. Brady and the Patriots walked all over the Chargers last week by beating them 41-28. The game wasn’t as close as it appears. That game was a blow out.
Don’t expect that against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. These two teams faced off in Week Six of the regular season. A lot has happened since then, but the Patriots won that game 43-40 in a shoot out. Expect this game to be the same. Even if one team takes an early lead, the other team could easily come back.
One thing I loved about Patrick Mahomes last week, was that he showed everyone playoff experience doesn’t matter. Mahomes stuck to his game and looked comfortable as he went up against Andrew Luck, who has a lot more playoff experience than him. Now he’s up against Brady, who has A LOT more playoff experience than him. I want to see Mahomes come out and play this game like it’s any other. Don’t worry about playoffs. Don’t worry about the Super Bowl. Just play the game. Based on what we’ve seen from Mahomes this season, I have no doubt he can do that.
We can’t forget to mention the defense’s in this game. Last time around both defensive units were terrible, as made obvious by the 43-40 score. The defense’s for both the Patriots and Chiefs can’t have just a few good series or one good quarter in this game. They have to play a complete game. If either defense lets up at all in this one, there’s a 99% the other offense is going to light them up.
Even if one team is winning by 14, 21 or more, I don’t want to see the defense let up. With the game most likely being a shoot out, defense is what it will come down to. Which defense will play harder throughout the course of the game? Which defense will forget about the points they’ve given up all game and focus on making plays when the game matters most?
Both QBs are going to be good. Both teams have a lot of offensive weapons. This game isn’t about the offense. It’s about which defense gets it done.
Now that you’ve got our Conference Championship picks, comment your Conference Championship picks below. Let us know who you’ve got making it to the Super Bowl!