2019 NFL PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS: CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS
The contenders finally separated themselves from the pretenders, as the top two teams from each conference meet this Sunday for a shot at hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. Unlike conference championships of old, this one features four revolutionary offenses who are led by four quarterbacks -- two young bouls (Pat Mahomes and Jared Goff) and two old bouls (Tom Brady and Drew Brees) who have/are changing the game in some way. We know the ratings are going to be astronomical for this one, so here’s our picks for the 2019 conference title games.
Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints
Why New Orleans wins: I called the Boudain Boys frauds last week, but honestly I’m just reacting to arguably the most annoying fan base in Pro football. Never will you see a franchise with as little success, think so highly of themselves. Ok, I’m done hating.
In the first affair between these two teams, Sean Payton exploited an Aqib Talib-less Rams defense, picking on Marcus Peters -- which was hilarious -- as Michael Thomas went wild, totaling 12 receptions for 211 yards and a score during the Saints’ 45-35 win. Though they’ll have to devise a different game plan for this matchup, look for Thomas to line up in multiple spots in search of favorable matchups.
Unlike the Cowboys, who were abused upfront by the Rams in the divisional round, New Orleans runs more stretch plays, using its speed to gain the edge and mitigate the impact of interior monsters like Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. Also, unlike Dallas, whose offensive strategy is rather vanilla, the Saints incorporate multiple packages as a means of taking advantage of different matchups. This makes for an interesting game of Chess, and, quite frankly, it’s hard to battle Sean Payton when he’s in his bag, he’s Bobby Fisher-esque.
Defensively, the Saints are maybe the best they’ve ever been. After giving up a quick 14 points to Philadelphia in the first quarter, the defense settled in, refusing to yield another point and forcing Nick Foles into tough throws and two turnovers -- both interceptions by the Du-raged wonder Marshon Lattimore. Their penchant for disguising coverages and blitzing more than most -- Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen is a genius -- should bode well against a young Jared Goff, who had bouts with inaccuracy, missing on some routine throws against the Cowboys in the divisional round. This could be interesting. .
Why Los Angeles wins: Marcus Peters told us verbatim he’d be seeing Sean Payton again soon. Now that his dream has come to fruition, the only thing left to do is ball and shut everyone up. I love Peters’ confidence, knack for taking chances, and goldfish-like memory -- every cornerback has to have it to survive on the island -- and I’m going on record saying he’ll have a pick on Sunday. Not only will he be wired up for this matchup, but Aqib Talib, who missed the first meeting between these teams, will be out there on Sunday and the physicality/patience in his technique is the perfect recipe for limiting a big, physical wideout like Michael Thomas. Who else do you need to stop on the outside??
Despite the Rams’ front seven giving up a league-worst 5.1 yards per rush during the regular season, they still managed to help the team to 13 wins. With that being said, this is the very same Los Angeles group who proved to be extremely stout against the Cowboys in the divisional round, limiting Ezekiel Elliott to 47 yards on 20 carries, thanks to the dominant play of Aaron Donald and a flashback performance from Ndamukong Suh, who played his best ball of the campaign.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff’s only concern on Sunday should be taking care of the ball and placing the ball promptly in the bellies of his bell cows. With Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson eating up -- you see what we did here -- yards in bunches as a tandem, a Saints defense without rising defensive star Sheldon Rankins upfront could be in for a world of trouble. Don’t think about it too much Jared. Complete those easy throws that come with the scheme and let Gurley and “Fat Boy Slim” take over time of possession like they did last week and lead you to victory. McVay likes to play Chess, too.
Who wins: Los Angeles, 41-24
New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs
Why Kansas City wins: When the Royals won the 2015 World Series, more than 800,000 people turned out for the parade. Mind you, Kansas City’s population is less than that, sitting at roughly 500,000. Could you imagine what it would be like if the Chiefs, who’re playing in their first AFC title game in 25 years, won their first NFL championship since 1970? B-A-N-A-N-A-S.
Pat Mahomes passed his first test of the postseason with flying colors, slicing up the Colts’ secondary to the tune of 278 yards while hitting five different receivers, including…… Gehrig Dieter? Damien Williams, who touched the ball only six times in the season’s first 11 games, has returned from the dead since the dismissal of Kareem Hunt, racking up a host of primetime performances, including 129 rushing yards and five receptions during the Kansas City’s 31-13 win over Indianapolis. And the Chiefs are finally healthy, activating starting guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif for the first time since Week 5, coming out of the Indy tilt with Sammy Watkins relatively unscated and future Hall of Famer Eric Berry expected to play -- if he shows up and is at least 85 percent, Kansas City has its answer for Gronk. The Chiefs already know they can hang with the Pats, having taken them down to the wire in a wildly entertaining 43-40 loss in Week 6. If they can execute a similar game plan and limit the Patriots’ rising ground game, there’s a chance for Andy Reid and the boys.
PS: I love the Daniel Son vs Mr. Miyagi thing with Mahomes and Brady. The student vs.The master equals rating spikes and prime television.
Why New England wins: The #betagainstus bullshit is beyond delusional, wildly comical, but brilliant. The best way to keep yourself motivated is to think that everybody is against you. I mean, ya a lot of football fans don’t want to see the Pats making their annual visit to the Super Bowl, but nobody is betting against a ball club backed by the greatest coach-player duo of all-time in Tom Brady and Coach Belichick. Fans were worried about relying on the past as a reason to pick New England against San Diego last week, but look what happened? The past played a huge role in the present and the Patriots put together an incredible game plan, dismantling a Chargers team that came into the game with their pee pees hot -- aww don’t you love football terminology?
Now, I’m going to simplify this. Tom Brady gets the ball out much too fast to be affected by Kansas City’s pass rush, though I love the trio of Justin Houston, Dee Ford, and Chris Jones. New England’s running game is firing on all cylinders with Sony Michel, proving to be the team’s go-to tailback for years to come. And defensive genius Brian Flores found a way to confuse San Diego’s red-hot offense and is excellent in terms of making adjustments and devising schemes that make opponents uncomfortable. Philip Rivers couldn’t buy a second last week, and if the Pats can force Mahomes into abnormal situations, we’ll be seeing New England back on the main stage.
Who wins: Patriots, 38-34