AFC/NFC Championship Round: Breakdown and Key Matchups

Championship Sunday:

The AFC and NFC Championship games are all set after the divisional round finished up. The Patriots will face the Chiefs at Arrowhead stadium and the Rams will play the Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. All four teams in the championship round had a first round bye and were a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. The remaining teams also, are the top four scoring offenses.

Kansas City Chiefs vs New England Patriots (AFC):

This Chiefs and Patriots faced off once this season already during week six. It was an offensive shootout from both teams, coming down to who had the ball last. The Patriots pulled off the win during their first matchup 43-40.

The matchup this time around has different expectations with it being a playoff game. There’s always a lot on the line during the playoffs, but with the winner moving onto the Super Bowl, just adds additional expectations to the game.

Patrick Mahomes, the young prodigy, will have a big task at hand facing Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Not to mention, it will be the first AFC Championship game hosted in Kansas City.

Mahomes finished the season with a staggering 50 touchdowns, 5,097 yards and 12 interceptions. He’s likely to become the league’s MVP of the season, but he’ll have to face Tom Brady, who has stacked multiple MVP’s throughout his career.

Brady had what you could call a down year for his standards, throwing 29 touchdowns, 4,355 yards and 11 interceptions. Although, Brady looked astonishing against the Chargers in the divisional round. It was one of his best efforts this season, blowing out the Chargers 41-28. Brady’s stat line for the game was 343 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Nobody has beat Brady at home in six years, since Joe Flacco did so.

Brady’s going to need to be at his best when facing the Chiefs, in order to stay in tact with the Kansas City offense. Mahomes does things that not many quarterbacks have the ability to do, such as throwing left-handed and slinging the ball side arm to split defenders.

New Orleans Saints vs Los Angeles Rams (NFC):

The Saints and Rams faced off in week 9, with the Saints pulling off a 45-35 victory. It will be another showdown between two top notch offensive play callers with Sean Payton and Sean McVay on the sidelines.

Brees and Goff are both coming off of quality regular seasons. Brees set an NFL record with the highest completion percentage in a regular season with 74.4 percent. He threw for 3,992 yards, 32 touchdowns and five interceptions. Goff threw for 4,688 yards, 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

The Saints have a young core of dynamic playmaker’s, with Alvin Kamara in the backfield, Michel Thomas out wide and Marshon Lattimore covering the opposing receivers. Thomas was nearly unguardable in the divisional round totaling 171 yards, with 12 catches and one touchdown.

The Rams have two established defensive backs, Aquib Talib and Marcus Peters, who will try to slow down Michael Thomas. Brees and Thomas have been in sync all season and the Cowboys prolific defense didn’t stand a chance last Sunday.

Todd Gurley and CJ Anderson both rushed for over 100 yards against the Cowboys. The Rams are known for an aggressive ground attack with Gurley, but Anderson raised some eyebrows with his breakthrough game.

Key Matchups:

Saints/Rams:

  • Michael Thomas vs Aquib Talib/ Marcus Peters.
  • Alvin Kamara vs Aaron Donald/ Ndamukong Suh.
  • Gurley and Anderson against the Saints front seven.
  • How much pressure will get put on Brees, in the pocket.

Chiefs/ Patriots:

  • How the Patriots offensive line will stop the Chiefs pass rushers (Chris Jones, Dee Ford and Justin Houston).
  • Tyreek Hill vs Stephon Gilmore.
  • Tyreek Hill’s ability to return kicks.
  • How the Chiefs minimize Brady’s dink-and-dunk passes.

(Photo courtesy of Steve Sanders/ Kansas City Chiefs)

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