We have finally made it to the best weekend for all NFL fans: Championship Sunday. This seasons final four looks to out score last years, as this features the top 4 scoring offenses, while last year we had the top 4 scoring defenses in the Jaguars, Vikings, Eagles, and Patriots. It’s time to breakdown each team and how they got here.
The New England Patriots make it look way too easy, with this being their 8th straight year playing this weekend. Anytime the Patriots are led by Tom Brady and mastermind Bill Belichick, don’t count them out. The last time they didn’t get a bye week was 2009, and since then they’ve won 11 or more games every season. However, in order to reach their 3rd straight Super Bowl, the Patriots will have to do something they haven’t done for a while: Win a playoff game away from Foxborough. Sunday night marks Brady’s eighth career away game in January. The last time they won was at San Diego in the 2006 season, after a Troy Brown forced fumble to keep the comeback alive. This year they were subpar 3-5 on the road, with all losses being to non-playoff teams.
The Patriots got here behind a hard to stop dink and dunk passing attack and a very good running game behind Sony Michel, with underrated star Trey Flowers leading the defensive line. After last weeks complete demolition of the Chargers, look for their game against the Chiefs to be an all-time classic. To win, New England will have to hold the Chiefs to field goals and play mistake-free football.
The Kansas City Chiefs were the highest scoring team in the NFL this season, averaging over 35 ppg. This team is much better than last, as they replaced the all-time game manager with a young superstar and likely MVP Patrick Mahomes. They have offensive-minded Andy Reid, who is looking to win his first Super Bowl in his 20-year coaching career. He came out swinging this season, coaching much less conservative and playing to win the game. By manhandling the Colts last Saturday with a run stuffing defense and big plays from Damien Williams, Travis Kelce and star Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs earned their first home playoff win since the 1993 season.
The Chiefs play New England very tough and are one of the best teams against the Patriots, with their last home matchup being a 41-14 massacre in 2014. With two offenses this good, I think this will be very similar to their week 6 shootout, where the Patriots won 43-40. Look for Mahomes to scramble and make something out of nothing as he’s done all season. Also, what’s better than having your biggest home game in franchise history being played in 10-degree weather? With fans as loyal as Kansas City’s the cold won’t stop them from showing up to help the Chiefs become the new team to beat in the AFC for years to come.
The Los Angeles Rams started this season scorching hot at 8-0 before falling to the Saints on the road 45-35. After a surprising NFC West championship last year, the Rams went all in over the offseason to put together a dream team. Sean McVay has done an excellent job revamping this team after Jeff Fisher tried to suck the life out of it. He has completely turned Jared Goff from someone who looked like a bust to a top 10 NFL quarterback. Last week the Rams ran up and down the field to the tune of 273 yards from Todd Gurley and late season pick up CJ Anderson, who looks like he and Andy Reid would get along. They completely dominated the stout Cowboys defense behind star left tackle Andrew Whitworth and in turn completely shut down Ezekiel Elliott, holding him to just 47 yards. Aaron Donald and Suh make for the best remaining defensive line, and if they can shut down Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, they’ll have a chance.
The Rams run a very hard to stop play-action offense, with wide receiver Brandin Cooks and tight end Tyler Higbee being the main focal points. Overall, this is one of the best offenses in the NFL, and that’s why they’re playing for their first Super Bowl appearance since the 2001 season, where they lost to a 6th round draft pick known as Tom Brady. For the most part, the Rams travel well, going 6-2 on the road. Both losses were to playoff teams, the close game to the Saints, and an early December beatdown by Chicago in 15-6 fashion. Luckily, for the Rams, they don’t need to play in the Chicago temperature anytime soon. I expect this game will be similar to their week 9 matchup. In that game, the Rams had to fight back after falling into a 21 point hole. If they can control the game, they can win. The Rams will have to play their best in one of the most hostile environments in the NFL.
The New Orleans Saints are the only remaining team that did not blow out their wild-card opponent a week ago. By coming back from 14-0 against the greatest quarterback of our generation, Nick Foles, the Saints showed that their dominant regular season was no accident. The Saints were annihilating their opponents throughout November until they stumbled to a 10 points performance in a loss to the Cowboys. The Saints are probably the best remaining team and are deservedly the favorites to win it all. They are so balanced all across the board, with Kamara and Ingram leading the rushing game, and star Michael Thomas destroying opposing secondaries. Sean Payton is also an outstanding head coach who is very aggressive. To be a contender in the NFL, you need a good coach, and this years final four is filled with them.
The Saints, however, do have flaws. One of their best players, Defensive Tackle Sheldon Rankins was lost to a torn Achilles last week. They also were very fortunate that Alshon Jeffery somehow dropped a perfect pass and it bounced right into the hands of cornerback Marshon Lattimore. The Saints are undefeated at home in the playoffs under Brees and Payton and expect that to continue with a high scoring win over the Rams on Sunday.