NFL Championship Sunday Preview
Buccaneers @ Packers
There are two heavy weight fights going on this Sunday and it starts with two legends facing off head-to-head in the playoffs for the first time of their careers. Aaron Rodgers vs Tom Brady, first ballot vs first ballot, the most talented quarterback vs the greatest quarterback. While a football game is never just the quarterback vs the quarterback, this game has the potential to be. This game could be a complete shootout. The fans want to see each quarterback letting it rip and slinging that rock. We want to see a high scoring game filled with up's and down's, "ooh's and ahh's", that finishes with a "hurrah". This game could be one for the record books with two quarterbacks that will be wearing gold jackets in the near future.
The coach with the most pressure riding in this game is Buccaneers Defensive Coordinator, Todd Bowles. Bowles needs to find a way to slow down the NFL's most electric offense in the 2020-2021 season. Aaron Rodgers is playing at the highest level and the only defense that has really been able to slow the Packers down is the Buccaneers. These two teams faced off in week 5 and the Buccaneers defense put on an absolute spanking. Tampa Bay was the only defense that made Aaron Rodgers seem human in 2020, but this is an entirely different game. In order to repeat their success, the Buccaneers need to get pressure on Rodgers. Shaquille Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul need to make Rodgers uncomfortable. While last season was very different from this year, the 49ers were able to get Rodgers out of his comfort zone with Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Deforest Buckner, and Arik Armstead. Robert Saleh would send Fred Warner and K'Waun Williams on third down in calculated blitzes. Bowles will need to do the same with Devin White and Lavonte David. If any team has the formula to slow down the Packers, it will be Todd Bowles and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
While the Buccaneers offense has been dynamic all season long, they have really heated up the past few weeks. However; this week they are going to be without one of their most lethal targets, Antonio Brown. Brown got better each week in Bruce Arians' system and this offense will be hurt by the absence of AB. The Bucs NEEDS to run the football. In typical Green Bay fashion, this will be a snow game. It will be hard to tackle both Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette who are known for running angry. RoJo is due for a breakout game and he will be able to slip tackles due to the weather. Tampa needs to make game-changing plays of over 20 yards in order to secure a victory. This game will look a lot different compared to when these two teams faced off in week 5.
The Bucs may have a hard time getting things going for a few reasons: the weather, the absence of Antonio Brown, and Jaire Alexander. Alexander is the most underrated corner in the NFL, he is both physical and a technician. Brady won't be able to throw to his side this week. Against the Rams last week, Alexander allowed -3 yards and he will be putting on the clamps against Mike Evans and Chris Godwin this week. The Packers defense has taken disrespect all season long and have proven everybody wrong. The Packers need to get pressure on Brady with their four man rush. Kenny Clark, Zadarius Smith, and Preston Smith need to get Brady out of the pocket. He picks defenses apart when he's comfortable in the pocket. The Packers won't let that happen to them again.
The most deadly side of the game is the Packers offense. Davante Adams has proven to be the best receiver in the NFL this year. Davante has scored at least one touchdown in every game he was active in this year, but one. Last week the Bucs secondary held Michael Thomas without a catch. With all do respect, Adams is playing at a way higher level than Thomas this season. Adams has a more versatile route tree and does a better job at gaining separation. Last time these two teams faced off, the Packers couldn't get their run game going which made this offense one dimensional. Matt Lafleur needs to find a way to get AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones the ball in space. This game will be decided in the matchup of the Packers offense vs the Buccaneers defense.
I think the Bucs will struggle to play in this weather. Playing in Tampa Bay is completely different than playing in Green Bay and while Gronk and Brady are used to the snow, everyone else isn't. The Packers second tier playmakers have stepped up since the last time these two teams faced off. Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling have been holding their own in one-on-ones and AJ Dillon has been a thumper in the run game. This is the Packers season and Aaron Rodgers is playing at another level right now. I like the Packers to win this game.
Player of the Game: Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling WR Packers
Final Score: Buccaneers 23 Packers 30
Bills @ Chiefs
The four teams left in the playoffs all have elite quarterbacks which proves exactly why you need an elite quarterback to win a super bowl. Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes show why drafting a quarterback early pays off in the long run. This game goes so much deeper than just Mahomes and Allen. The playmakers on both offenses and the coaches in the booth will have just as big of an impact.
The Chiefs offense this week will look much different than it has all season. Mahomes is banged up from head to toe. Mahomes won't be as mobile this week because of his turf toe and the Bills defense will be licking their chops if he can't move out of the pocket. Mahomes' game revolves around his athleticism and ability to make throws from all different platforms. By no means is Mahomes 100% so his playmakers will need to step up around him. This week he will be relying a lot on both the run game and his safety blanket in Travis Kelce. Chiefs RB, Clyde Edwards-Helaire is back and he was one of the biggest X-Factors the first time these two teams squared off. Last time these teams played, Clyde has over 160 yards and he could have a big role today. The Chiefs could be running the football a lot this week.
Tyrann Mathieu has been one of the best players in the playoffs so far. Last week against the Browns, he was dominant and he has been overlooked his entire career. He is quietly putting together a hall of fame career and people don't appreciate him enough.This week he has his toughest task all season which is stopping Josh Allen. The Chiefs defense will need to be physical and in attack mode. The Bills are the hottest team in the NFL and the Chiefs defense needs to bring surprises to catch Brian Daboll off guard. The Chiefs secondary is finally healthy and will have L'Jarius Sneed, Breshaud Breeland, and Charvarius Ward all playing. This gives Kansas City a chance at slowing down Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley.
The Bills offense is so much fun to watch this year. Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley both made the all-pro team and Josh Allen put up MVP caliber numbers. Against the Chiefs, Allen is going to utilize his strong arm. Allen is going to throw the ball downfield and test the Chiefs young cornerbacks. Allen makes all the players around him better and will need to find a way to keep Mahomes on the sideline. There aren't many teams that can keep up with the Chiefs offense, but the Bills can. Daboll needs to find a way to keep the clock rolling. Last week, the Bills didn't even try to run the football, but they will need to keep the clock moving to ensure Mahomes isn't on the field. It is ridiculous that neither Daboll or Eric Bieniemy have coaching jobs, but they will produce an awesome showdown today.
The Bills have arguably the best secondary in the league. It will be fun to watch Tre'Davious White go one-on-one with Tyreek Hill and Tre'Maine Edmunds match up against Travis Kelce. Bills defensive coordinator, Leslie Frazier is going to blitz a lot on Sunday. He knows that Patrick Mahomes is banged up and he will do his best to make him as uncomfortable as possible. Expect a lot of cover 0 from Buffalo and a lot of 50/50 balls from Mahomes. Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde will have their chances to pick off Mahomes and they need to capitalize on their opportunities.
Believe it or not Bills fans, it is your time. I expect Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs to take Buffalo to the super bowl for the first time in over 25 years. It's time Bills Mafia.
Player of the Game: Jordan Poyer S Bills
Final Score: Bills 33 Chiefs 26