Conference Championship Picks

“Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown” – Luke 4:24

When will you people learn? What’s it going to take to get through to you?

Help me, help you.

If you consider yourself a professional in this business, and you got swept up in the dog fervor last week, shame on you. I expect such behavior from the squares, but you guys are better than that. Any handicapper willing to objectively assess the situation would have seen all the signs:

Fading recency bias, public action, and road dogs?

A warm weather team and a dome team playing outside in January?

How many times do you have to watch this movie before you realize the AFC Championship matchup always costars Tom Brady?

The Cowboys laid an egg with an NFC title game on the line? Who could of seen that coming?

I’m not going to lie, it felt damn good to have a vintage ‘Money Train playoff run’ and hit a 4-0. Even though I’m not going to be able to match last year’s mark of 9-2, its a nice consolation to go perfect in the Divisional Round.

The football season will soon be coming to an end, and we’ll all be stuck betting regular season basketball to get our fix… And while that thought does sadden me, the football gods truly blessed us with Sunday’s matchups. As a fan, I intend to soak it up. I cherish this weekend over the Super Bowl. Its become an event thats about much more than just the game, and championship weekend is the last weekend for true blue football fans to have as their own.

A lot has been said about offense being the engine that drives these remaining teams, but that line of thinking is slightly misleading. All four defenses had rather dominating performances in the Divisional Round. These teams are all complete, and I can make a case for any of the four winning it all. The level of parody among them makes for a compelling climax.

Rams +3 @ Saints

This Rams team sort of reminds me of the Seahawks when they had their recent run. Alpha dog personalities everywhere. When you got Talib, Fowler, Suh, Peters, and Donald on that defense, you’re definitely bringing a heavy swag factor to the table. Which brings me to the point: don’t underestimate the revenge factor in this game. Between Sean ‘Blue Steel’ Payton talking trash on the sideline, and Michael Thomas pulling the Joe Horn – cell phone move, there’s more than enough bulletin board material for Sean McVay to get his team foaming at the mouth by kickoff. The Eagles certainly didn’t forget Sean Payton running up the score on them, and they played the Saints tough as hell last weekend. Don’t mess with grown men’s pride, it can come back to bite you.

The Ram’s offense seems to be a little hotter than the Saint’s right now. New Orleans has only averaged 19 points in their last six games. And while Goff may be a lesser quarterback than Drew Brees, the Rams have a hell of a running game with that scheme headed by Todd Gurley and the human bowling ball CJ Anderson. They amassed an incredible 273 yards on the ground against a very formidable Dallas run defense. The Eagles running game was pedestrian this season at best, but the Rams are capable of exploiting the loss of defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins.

Perhaps the real question is if the Rams can limit the Saints from putting together these long soul crushing drives. Michael Thomas seems to be a 3rd down conversion machine, despite what the distance to gain is. I’m almost ready to declare him the best wide receiver in football right now. Last week he torched Philly for 12 catches, 171 yards, and a touchdown. When Los Angeles visited the Super Dome in early November, he went for 12 catches, 211 yards, and a touchdown. However, last go round Talib didn’t play, and he can help shoulder the burden of defending him along with Marcus Peters.

I bet this at 3.5, but at the time of writing this the line is 3, so in all fairness I’ll put the +3 on record. I would advise buying the .5 point, I have a weird feeling the line may come into play and the Saints win on a last second field goal. They are 6-0 all-time at home in the playoffs when Drew Brees is playing quarterback. I perceive this game being very close, and I like being on the side that’s getting points. Plus, from a pure personnel standpoint, I think the Rams are the most talented team in the NFL.

Patriots @ Chiefs -3

Before the start of the playoffs, the Chief’s organization brought in the big gun. The ‘Heartland Medium’ herself walked the grounds of Arrowhead stadium and tried to pinpoint the source of negative energy that’s seemed to rear its head during postseason games. She settled on a location near an end zone where a worker died during construction in the 1970s, and attempted to reconcile with the spirit. This past Sunday, Adam Vinitari missed his first kick since Eisenhower’s presidency, and it was a chip shot field goal no less. He happened to be kicking into that particular end zone…

Is it just me, or is it a little below the Patriots to be putting out this ‘Bet Against Us’ campaign leading up to this game? It seems too cute for them. Maybe the insanely competitive Brady is just looking for an extra edge anywhere he can get one.

And maybe they need the edge, cause the truth is, the Patriots aren’t the same team away from Foxboro. They’re 3-5 on the road this season, and not one of those teams that beat them managed to make the playoffs. And this isn’t just a phenomena from this season. Brady is 3-4 in the playoffs when playing on the road throughout his career. Including the last time they played on the road in the AFC Championship game against in the Broncos in 2015.

Speaking of that game, Denver managed to win with an old decrepit Peyton Manning at the helm. Why? Cause the blueprint to stopping Tom Brady is a pass rush. DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller ate him up that day. Surprisingly, guess who leads the NFL in sacks this season? The Kansas City Chiefs. Chris Jones has 15.5, Dee Ford 13, and Justin Houston 9.

A matchup to watch will be how Mahomes performs against the Patriot’s secondary, which is no doubt the strength of the New England defense. As special as Mahomes is, the Chiefs won’t be able to win this one on his arm alone. Especially with bitter cold expected. But I don’t think they’ll end up having too. I think Andy Reid gets creative in the ways he gets the ball in Tyreek Hill’s hands. Hill needs to touch the ball as much as possible in this game. Reverses, screens, whatever it takes. Also, I like the way the Chiefs offensive line is playing, and getting the run game going is key.

Made for Television

Its worth noting that in a sport governed by Fidel Goodell, it behoves us to delve into the optics of the possible Super Bowl matchups, cause this shit is at least semi-rigged.

I’ve heard it kicked around that the NFL wants to see Brees vs Brady, but I’m not sure I agree with that. For one, Patriot fatigue is just as real as Bama fatigue. Unless you’re a Chowder Head, you’re ready to see something different. Although they were obviously still insanely high, ratings from last year’s Super Bowl were down, and I have to imagine monotony had something to do with it. The public is hungry for something fresh…

There’s two individuals that are the future of this league: Patrick Mahomes and Sean McVay.

A young superstar quarterback and a young superstar coach. Throw in the rematch of the best regular season game of the year, and that’s something the NFL can sell to the American people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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