The best weekend of the NFL season is finally here. Sure, everyone points to the Super Bowl as the ultimate game of the season but the battles by four teams to represent their conferences in this game have resulted in some epic contests.
There are a lot of potential storylines that can emerge from these games to get us warmed up for Super Bowl Sunday. Will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers become the first team to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium? Will the Green Bay Packers face the defending NFL champions in a celebration of their Super Bowl I matchup? We could also be looking forward to a showdown between the experienced gunslinger and the young hotshot from Buffalo who’s looking to make his mark in the league.
As we head into Championship Sunday, here’s how I see the two games playing out.
NFC Championship Game
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Green Bay Packers -3.5, Over/Under 52 (3:05PM ET; Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI)
Two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history throw down at Lambeau Field in the first game of Championship Sunday. Neither is a stranger to the spotlight, even though Brady has played under a few more of them.
Tampa Bay isn’t going into this game feeling that their Week 6 victory gives them an advantage in this battle. They beat a Saints team last week that had crushed them twice during the regular season. That’s a good thing because Green Bay isn’t the same team that the Buccaneers blew out in Tampa.
Green Bay has been putting up points all season. They finished first in the NFL in points scored and also lead in points per play and points per drive.
Aaron Rodgers led the league with a 121.5 passer rating and was second in net passing yards per attempt. He also topped NFL quarterbacks with 48 touchdown passes. Running back Aaron Jones finished fourth in the NFL in rushing yards and seventh in overall yards from scrimmage.
Wide receiver Davante Adams rounds out the Packers attack. Adams finished the 2020 season was fifth in receiving yards and second to Alvin Kamara in total touchdowns with 18.
For Tampa Bay, Tom Brady may not have put up the passer rating that he did during the prime of his career but he still managed to finish third in the league in passing yards. He also finished the season tied for second among all starting quarterbacks with 40 touchdown passes.
The advantage the Buccaneers bring into Championship Sunday is their defensive front, first in rushing yards per attempt allowed.
The problem Tampa Bay has is shutting down all the weapons that Rodgers has available. To start, Jones also caught 47 of the 63 targets thrown his way. At receiver, Carlton Davis and company will not only have to keep track of Adams but also the speedy Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard and tight end Robert Tonyan.
Tonyan is a particular danger to the Buccaneers when Green Bay drives inside the red zone. He was tied for second on the Packers with 11 touchdowns.
The Packers will be challenged on defense. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin combined for 1,846 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2020. Tampa Bay should also be able to find some success on the ground with Ronald Jones II.
The final part of this game to look at is the Buccaneers injury report. The good news is they’re getting nose tackle Vita Vea back after suffering an ankle fracture in Week 5 against the Chicago Bears. The bad news is deep threat receiver Antonio Brown has been declared out.
Tampa Bay has beaten the 7-9 Washington Football Team and a beat up Saints squad to get to this point. Green Bay sliced and diced the top defense in the NFL last week in a 32-18 win over the Los Angeles Rams.
Nostrathomas is picking the Packers to cover the spread and represent the NFC in Super Bowl LV. Green Bay has also hit the over in six straight postseason games and their last eight January games. Take the over 52 total on Championship Sunday.
Green Bay Packers 33 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25
AFC Championship Game
Buffalo Bills +3 vs Kansas City Chiefs (6:40PM ET; Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO)
The NFC half of Championship Sunday features two certain first-ball Hall of Fame quarterbacks. The nightcap game that will decide the AFC’s representative in Super Bowl LV features two of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL doing battle.
Both of those quarterbacks are primed to fill the air with footballs Sunday night. Buffalo doesn’t pretend about their intention to move their offense through the right arm of Josh Allen, and their getting as good at it as Patrick Mahomes is with the Chiefs.
Kansas City may be forced to rely on Mahomes’ arm more than they would like to in this game. Running backs Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Le’Veon Bell are both fighting injuries that could slow them against the Bells.
Buffalo carries advantages into this game that the Chiefs are going to find difficult to overcome. The Bills have the better pass defense of these two teams. Their fifth in passer rating and eleventh in net passing yards per attempt allowed.
Kansas City nearly lost last week against the Cleveland Browns but took advantage of two fourth quarter coaching miscues by Kevin Stefanski and a bold Andy Reid fourth down play call to get to this weekend’s showdown.
Victory in this game could very easily come down to last team to touch the ball on offense. In this case, I expect that team to be the Bills.
Buffalo Bills 30 Kansas City Chiefs 27