Championship Sunday is upon us.
The top seeds from both conferences have made their way through for a chance at playing off in Super Bowl 53.
In the AFC game, arctic-like conditions await both teams as New England – a team who seemingly thrive in bad weather – enter Arrowhead Stadium for a shot at Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. That stadium will be absolutely rocking – and freezing.
Much kinder conditions await the NFC participants as Mercedes Benz Superdome plays host to the Saints and Los Angeles.
Both games are Monday morning (Australian time) which means I will be out on the training paddock. But rest assured, I have my sources who will feed me some scores throughout the training session.
Here’s how I see both games going down;
LOS ANGELES RAMS at NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
These two teams met under the same roof in week nine when Drew Brees and the Saints exploded to a commanding lead early in proceedings. LA came calling, though, as Jared Goff threw for almost 400 yards and three touchdowns.
Keys to the contest;
Can’t Guard Mike: Saints WR Michael Thomas believes he is unguardable and based on his last performance versus LA, he might be right. Thomas torched Marcus Peters – and others – to post 211 yards and a TD. Peters has been talking tough, mainly aiming his fury at Saints coach Sean Payton, but it will likely be veteran Aqib Talib tasked with shutting down Thomas.
Running back battle: Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara are two of the most deadly weapons in the NFL. And with Lev Bell not participating this season, I’m hard pressed to find a RB who I’d want on my team more than either of these two guys.
Kamara’s numbers have declined with Mark Ingram returning but he’s always well used by Sean Payton and is a missed tackle away from six points.
Gurley has had a monstrous season, albeit one where he has struggled with injury late in the piece. He’s peeled off an amazing 21 scores and logged more than 1,800 yards. His health could determine LA’s chances in this one and for all neutrals tuning in, let’s hope he is 100% fit.
Jittery Jared: Jared Goff has been excellent this season. He can make any throw and has led some incredibly impressive drives throughout the season. At times, however, he has looked shaky and the crowd in the Superdome will really test out Goff’s resilience. He has what it takes to be a great QB and one day he will be but it’s going to be a lot to take in for a player who recently turned 24.
TIP: Rams 34, Saints 31
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS at KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Like the NFC contest, we’ve seen this movie before however last time it was in Foxboro where basically no one wins.
This time, we venture to Arrowhead where one of the loudest and most passionate fans bases in the NFL reside.
In the original, New England came out victorious 43-40 in an epic. Sony Michel scored twice and Tom Brady scored a late rushing TD to secure the win.
Keys to the contest;
More Mahomes Magic: Patrick Mahomes has exceeded even the most hopeful of fans with a regular season which consisted of 50 passing touchdowns and likely a MVP trophy. In the Foxboro clash, the Texas Tech product threw up 352 yards and four scores, three of which went to Tyreek Hill. Can Mahomes produce a special in the snow ?
New England’s new weapon: Of course, IF Tom Brady plays poorly then New England will be entering its off-season but there’s a new playmaker on the Patriots offence. Not Rob Gronkowski, not Julian Edelman and not Brady – it’s Sony Michel. Only once has Michel not produced 100+ rush yards when he gets 20 carries and last week he produced big time with 24 totes, 130 yards and a hat trick of touchdowns. In poor weather, you can be sure Michel tests this KC defence early and often.
Anything left in #87: Rob Gronkowski is already the best tight end to have ever played in the NFL, in my opinion. But it’s clear his body is ailing and not allowing him to be the player he once was. This season, Gronk has only tallied 682 yards and three scores. His past four games have yielded 70 yards without a TD. Hopefully big No. 87 has something left in the tank.
TIP: Kansas City 33, New England 24