6:55 AM ET
The NFL playoff conference championship games are here, both starting on Sunday. The fifth-seeded Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the first-seeded Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game and the second-seeded Buffalo Bills take on the first-seeded Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship game. The winners will advance to the LV Super Bowl on the 7th. February.
We will discuss both games. Our NFL Nation reporters give us the keys to the games, a bold prediction for each game and the final score.
In addition, ESPN Stats & Information provides statistics for each game and the Football Power Index (FPI) enters the numbers with a game rating (on a scale of 1 to 100) and a prediction of the game. Dave Bearman of ESPN Chalk offers helpful advice and NFL analyst Matt Bowen highlights an important game to watch. Here’s everything you need to prepare for an exciting NFL playoff weekend.
Play the game:
TB-GB | BUF-KC
15:05 ET | Fox
Compliance Rating: 96.3 | deviation : GB -3 (51.5)
What to look for: If there’s one thing that has caught Matt LaFleur’s attention during his two successful years coaching the Packers, it’s probably the slow pace of adjustment. When these teams met in Week 6, the Bucs were playing with 61% quarterback coverage from Aaron Rodgers, and Rodgers had his only multiplayer game of the season. And in general: The more teams Rodgers has played in the zone over the past two years, the better off they are. LaFleur and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett know what will happen in terms of coverage, and how their game plan will dictate their level of success against a tough Tampa Bay defense. — Rob Demovsky
Bold prediction: Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, who scored the winning touchdown, will not throw to receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown or Scottie Miller, or defenders Rob Gronkowski or Cameron Brate, or defenders Ronald Jones II or Leonard Fournette. No, he’s switching to the Tyler Johnson receiver. Last week, the Minnesota rookie made just one catch in game five against the Saints, but that 15-yard tackle on the rotating perimeter was a masterful one. The only reason we don’t talk about Johnson anymore is the depth chart he’s buried on. He knows how to make tough catches in high-pressure situations, and he’ll do it again Sunday. — Jenna Lane.
Find out urgently: The two main factors in Brady’s performance this season were pressure and vertical play. In 13 wins over the season (including the playoffs) he averaged 1.1 sacks per game, saw pressure on 14% of his losses and posted 82 QBRs. But in five defeats, his sacks have dropped to 2.2 per game, his pressure level has risen to 27% and his CBI has nearly halved (44). As for the deep ball, think about this: He hit 45 percent on passes thrown more than 20 yards down the field for 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the win, but just 21 percent on singles and five penalties in the loss.
Bowen’s match button: How will Tampa Bay catcher Davante Adams control? It will start at the line of scrimmage on cover 1, with Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis looking to use his length and physical attributes to disrupt Adams’ exit. If he doesn’t, Davis’ lack of recovery speed in light of Adams’ sudden ability to obtain lost spells is a problem for the Bucs. Details.Insider
What’s at stake? A Buccaneer win would be the first non-divisional champion to reach the Super Bowl since the Packers in 2010. He will also give Brady his tenth. The Super Bowl’s contribution, which spans three decades. Rodgers, however, only played one Super Bowl. And after losing his last three NFC Championship games in this one and dropping to 1-3 in his career, Rodgers is trying to avoid becoming just the third QB with fewer than two wins and more than three losses in conference titles (Ken Stabler and Donovan McNabb are both 1-4).
Injuries: Spinner | Spinner
A fucking bet: Brady has a record of 9-4 in conference championship games in direct scoring and 6-7 in indirect scoring. The Juniors have an 8-5 record in these games, 7-2 in their last nine games. More information can be found here.
Domonique Foxworth predicts who will have the biggest day in the NFC Championship Game between Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.
Lane’s choice: Spinners 26, Packers 24Demovsky: Packers 31, Buccaneers 17
FPI Prediction : GB, 53.2% (with an average of 1.1 points)
The audience at home: Last week, 8,456 people attended the playoff game at Lambeau Field. With a large number of players and coaches from both teams potentially in attendance at the stadium this week, a crowd of 8,500 to 9,000 is expected. This represents about 10-11% of the 81,441 seats in the Lambeau.
The juxtaposition should read: Finally, Rodgers versus Brady: Inside the playoff game 13 years in the making…. Too much information is never enough for the Packers’ dominant offense…. WR Brown (knee) will be in play for the Bucs … A royal achievement: The recipients of the packages prove once and for all that they are worthy…. The Bucks have beaten Rodgers before, but does the formula change? … Rogers feels no undue pressure, says his future is a beautiful mystery.
18:40. ET | CBS
Conformity assessment : 92.3 | Distribution : KC -3 (53.5)
What to look for: Will Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes play (concussion protocol)? That’s the question on everyone’s mind, because if Mahomes is eliminated, Chad Henne will take over. But with or without Mahomes, the Chiefs’ race game will be worth watching. Kansas City rushed for 245 yards against Buffalo in Week Six when the Bills played a lot of deep snaps and were determined not to let Tyreek Hill and other receivers get deep. They are definitely going to change their strategy this time, but at what cost? Last time out, the Chiefs only had one pass of more than 22 yards against the Bills. Can the Bills effectively slow down the Chiefs’ play while limiting the number of long passes? — Adam Thacher.
Bold prediction: Quarterback Josh Allen will pass for 350 yards and receiver Stephon Diggs will score 100 receiving yards and a touchdown for the third straight game. And a little bolder: Not only will the Bills win, but they will beat the Chiefs in their own backyard, winning Buffalo’s first Super Bowl ticket since the 1993 season. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
– Previews of the
Conference Championship – Match schedules of the four teams
– Schedules, brackets, TV time.
Find out urgently: The Bills dropped to 73% this season, and only one team reached the conference title game by passing more often – the 2015 Patriots (83%), who lost the AFC championship game that season. Buffalo gained 32 yards last week – the fourth-highest number in the playoffs, according to Elias’ Sports Bureau – and Allen currently leads the team with 57 yards in two postseason games. This season, the Bills averaged 64.0 running yards per game, fewer than any other team ever to reach the Super Bowl; in 1999, the Bills had 41.0 running yards.
Bowen’s racing knot: Look for the Chiefs’ defense to apply pressure and make a late rotation to play cover flight 2, with Safety Tyrann Mathieu as the mid-hole defender. This allows the Chiefs to let Allen work the après-ski with a late game, but it also allows Kansas City to cover the playing field while Mathieu is at midfield to steal an inside-the-breakout. Details.Insider
What’s at stake? The Chiefs are looking to become the first multiple Super Bowl champions since the Patriots in the 2003-04 season, ending the longest streak in NFL history without a new champion. You’re the 12th. The Super Bowl was won by the defending conference champions, and the previous 11 teams won 10-1 (the only defeat was suffered by the 49ers in 1990). Meanwhile, the Bills are trying to get back to the Super Bowl for the first time in four consecutive losses in the 1990-93 season. They haven’t won a title since the 1965 AFL Championship, and their 0-4 Super Bowls record is tied with the Vikings for the windiest performances.
Injuries: Bills. Mahomes: Latest news.
A fucking bet: The Chiefs are 1-8 against the run in their last nine games (8-1 away) and 0-5 at home against the run in their last five games. More information can be found here.
Louis-Jacques’ choice: Bills 31, Chief 28Elected : Chiefs 27, accounts 22
Forecast REIT : COP, 58.3% (average 2.7 points)
Damien Woody sees Josh Allen compared to Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady if he can lead the Bills to the Super Bowl.
The audience at home: The Chiefs have kept attendance at Arrowhead Stadium (total capacity of 76,416) at or below 22% this season, with the highest attendance last week against the Browns (16,730). Expect a similar number in the AFC championship game.
The juxtaposition should read: Bills might justify Mahomes’ commercial choice upon reaching Super Bowl For the chiefs, Reid, every fall is a setback, even on fourth and 1….. How serious is Mr. Davis’ ankle injury? The biggest questions for the AFC game…. The practice of mahomey in limited capacity, remains in the concussion protocol.