I went 3-1 last weekend, which was even MORE impressive than my fantastic 3-3 performance in Week 1 of the playoffs. The New Orleans Saints’ ineptitude, a suddenly decrepit looking Drew Brees and what seemed like 17 turnovers are all that kept me from a perfect weekend, and yes, I’m still quite bitter about it. Still, if I can nail both of these games this week, I’ll have clinched a winning record for the 2021 postseason, and I’m sure there are some lovely parting gifts as a reward for such an achievement.
This week’s conference finals boast one of the best collection of signal callers to ever play in the NFL’s version of the Final Four (Tom Bzrady, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes (we hope) and Josh Allen), and that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been closely following the league this year. Offense is up, WAY UP (the average game score in 2020 was a ridiculous 49.6 points, the largest number ever) and the old adage that Defense Wins Championships has been forcibly removed and sent packing. Green Bay, Buffalo and Tampa Bay ranked 1, 2 and 3 in the league in scoring this year, respectively. Kansas City arguably has a better offense than any of them. Only Tampa Bay is considered an elite defensive team, and we can probably expect a couple more shoot-outs on Sunday. Who will win? Glad you asked.
Tampa Bay at Green Bay
Nothing like a good Battle of the Bays. Tom Brady vanquished Drew Brees last week and now gets to take on Aaron Rodgers. Not a bad farewell tour, right? Oh, who are we kidding; even though Brees and Philip Rivers are retiring this season, Brady is probably going to play until he’s a septuagenarian. Rodgers is only 37 so he’s probably still wearing a training helmet. Last weekend we saw the Packers take control of their divisional round game with the Rams in the 2nd quarter and never look back, playing very much like the NFC’s number one seed with it’s 32-18 victory. The Buccaneers may have been even MORE impressive against the Saints, showcasing a suffocating defense as well as an explosive offense. Both teams are red hot, with the Bucs winning their last 6 games and the Pack one better with a 7-game winning streak. Tampa Bay had the best rushing defense in the lease this season, and while Green Bay is a far better passing team than running team, shutting down their ground game and making them one-dimensional would go a long way towards limiting their offense in general. The Pack rushed for 188 yards against the Rams, and Tampa Bay can’t allow a repeat of that performance. Of course, forcing Rodgers to throw a lot to Davante Adams when you don’t have an elite cornerback to guard him isn’t necessarily the road to success. The Bucs would rather not get into a shootout with Green Bay, but they have a lot of offensive weapons as well, and aren’t really set up as a ball control team. Expect a ton of passing, a combined score of over 55, and I say it’s Aaron Rodgers’ year. Green Bay advances to the Super Bowl.
Buffalo at Kansas City
Obviously the big question is whether Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs’ transcendent quarterback, will play this week. He suffered a concussion during their 22-17 win over the Browns, and this game takes on an entirely different feel if Chad Henne is calling the shots from behind center. That said, I’m going to assume Mahomes is playing, and that he will be healthy enough to play at the level we are accustomed to seeing from the best quarterback in the game. I don’t have any inside information on this, but it’s y column and I can do what I want, OK? Anyway, the Chiefs’ offense looked typically unstoppable last weekend against Cleveland until Mahomes got hurt, and I would expect them to be able to put up plenty of points against Buffalo. The Bills shut down the Ravens last week but as good as Baltimore and Lamar Jackson are, their offense doesn’t compare to Kansas City’s. However, the Bills offense DOES in fact compare pretty well to Mahomes & Company, and they were certainly peaking at the end of the regular season, especially in Week 17 when they scored what seemed to me to be something in the neighborhood of 36 touchdowns against Miami. Josh Allen is playing inspired football, Stefon Diggs in largely un-guardable, and I say that the scoring dip we have seen from them in the playoffs (averaging 22 points a game as opposed to 35 during the last 9 games of the regular season) won’t continue this week. Kansas City is probably the better team, their championship pedigree is superior (they ARE the defending Super Bowl champs after all, and the last 3 AFC title games have been played at Arrowhead Stadium for a reason), but a lot of things have to go right (or NOT go wrong) to win back-to-back titles in any major sport, and whether it’s the Mahomes injury or something else, I think something goes wrong for KC this Sunday. Bills Mafia returns to the Super Bowl!
Commercial Real Estate Broker/Sports Fan
Staff writer at Six Feet Apart, commercial real estate broker for CBRE, Inc., and most importantly, a father of two.