It’s championship weekend, and the two games on Sunday should both be spectacular.  In the early game, Tom Brady squares off against Aaron Rodgers up in Lambeau, then in the later game, Josh Allen and the Bills take on Patrick Mahomes and the defending Super Bowl champs in Arrowhead. Get your popcorn ready.

Buccaneers @ Packers

Spread Pick: Packers -3

The Tom Brady vs Aaron Rodgers playoff matchup is one that we have been waiting to see for a while.  In the past during the regular season, Brady is 2-1 against Rodgers when both QB’s have started, with the most recent victory coming in October of 2020 when the Buccaneers handed the Packers a 38-10 loss in Tampa. 

The Packers got here by taking down the LA Rams 32-18 in the Divisional Round.  Rodgers picked apart the No. 1 defense in the league by completing 23-of-36 passing attempts for 296 yards and two touchdowns.  The running game also thrived, as Aaron Jones ran the ball 14 times for 99 yards and a touchdown, and Jamaal Williams ran 12 times for 65 yards.  Rodgers himself added a rushing touchdown too.  The presence of a solid running game makes this Green Bay team all the more dangerous. 

On the other hand, Tampa Bay got here by taking down Drew Brees and the Saints in New Orleans.  Tampa has now won back-to-back road playoff games, and will look to make in three in a row in order to become the first team play in a Super Bowl in their own stadium.  Tom Brady completed 18-of-33 passing attempts for 199 yards and two touchdowns, but it was the defense that really stood out.  The Bucs forced four turnovers against the Saints, picking off Drew Brees three times and recovering a fumble as well.  They will need another strong defensive performance like that if they want to get past Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to move on to the Super Bowl.

The problem is, that is going to very very difficult to do.  Aaron Rodgers is not Drew Brees.  Brees has had an incredible career and is one of the best QB’s to ever do it, but it was evident that his deep ball was pretty much non-existent this season, and the Buccaneers made sure to pounce on the poor throws that he made last weekend.  I think Aaron Rodgers poses a much bigger threat this week.  

At age 37, Rodgers is having an unreal year.  He posted the highest passer rating in the league this year (121.5), and had a ridiculous 48:5 TD/INT ratio.  He played exceptionally well last week against the Rams, and they had the No. 1 passing defense in the league this year.  The Bucs ranked No. 21 in the league against the pass, and I can’t help but feel like they will have some trouble with Rodgers.  

The Bucs defense is great against the run though, as they were No. 1 overall allowing just 80.6 rushing yards per game to their opponents this season.  The Packers ran the ball well against the Rams, who had the No. 3 rushing defense in the league.  To me, that shows that although it may be tough, the Packers can use the run effectively against top-notch defenses in the playoffs.  That is a dangerous combination, and I think it will lead the Packers to a win and cover in this NFC Championship Game.

I think this will be an exciting and entertaining game, but I see Rodgers making a big play late to take the Packers to the Super Bowl.  GB -3.

Total Pick: Over 51.5

Both of these offenses know how to put up points.  The Packers led the league in scoring this season with 31.8 points per game, and they just hung 32 on one of the best defenses in the league last week.  The Buccaneers were third in scoring this season, as they put up 30.8 points per game.  In their two playoff games thus far, they put up 31 and 30 points against two very good passing defenses in Washington (2nd in the league) and New Orleans (5th in the league).

The Buccaneers just have so many weapons offensively that it makes them extremely difficult to cover.  Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Cameron Brate, Scotty Miller, and Antonio Brown can really create a lot of problems for any opposing defense, and although Jaire Alexander is one of the best corners in the game, there are just too many options for Tom Brady to throw to.  Add in Ronald Jones running the ball along with Leonard Fournette, and this is a very dynamic Tampa Bay offense.  

The Bucs defense played great against Drew Brees and the Saints, but I’m not so sure they can create a repeat of that performance.  Sure Tampa Bay had their way with Green Bay in the first matchup, but I think this time will be different. Green Bay’s offense has been the most consistent and efficient in the league, and they will be playing in their home stadium in front of their home fans. In addition, it wasn’t more than two weeks ago when this very Bucs defense made Taylor Heinicke look like superman.  Heinicke balled out against them and it was just his second career start.  Aaron Rodgers is in MVP-form, and playing against him in the playoffs at Lambeau is definitely an uphill battle.  Give me the Over.  

Bills @ Chiefs

Spread Pick: Chiefs -3.5

Patrick Mahomes is good to go.  Obviously that was the main concern for the Chiefs after they punched their ticket to their third-consecutive AFC Championship game on Sunday against the Browns, and it has been announced that Mahomes is officially cleared to play.  

With Mahomes at the helm, the Chiefs offense had another amazing season.  They averaged 415.8 yard per game which led the league, and they put up 29.6 points per game which was 6th in the league.  Mahomes’ 108.2 rating was third-best and his 4,740 yards were second in the league.  Mahomes was having a solid day against the Browns before he left the game, as he completed 21-of-30 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown.  He also ran for a touchdown.  

Not only is Mahomes cleared to play, but wideout Sammy Watkins (calf) and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle) appear to be back after missing the Divisional Round.  I think that is being a bit overshadowed with all eyes on Mahomes’ status, and those two playmakers add more firepower to an already explosive offense.

For Buffalo, Josh Allen is leading the Bills to a historic season, and dare I say the Bills have become America’s team this year.  Allen led Buffalo to their first AFC East title since 1995, and gave them their first playoff win since that same season.  The Bills offense has been transformed with Allen at the helm and the addition of Stefon Diggs at wide receiver. However, the Bills offense managed just 10 points in the Divisional Round against the Ravens, and now they will be on the road for the first time this postseason and tasked with trying to hang with the Chiefs offense. While they are certainly capable of doing so, I think I have more trust in Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes. This will be their third straight AFC title game, and I think that experience will show against Josh Allen and Sean McDermott.

The Chiefs may be 15-2 on the season, but they are just 7-10 ATS.  They went through a stretch where they failed to cover five weeks in a row, and have covered the spread just once in their last nine games—and they covered by half a point.  For whatever reason, the Chiefs seem to let teams hang around, and if they do that against the Bills, there is a good chance they will get burned.  However, perhaps they haven’t really played their best football yet, and I think they are overdue to cover the spread. KC is 15-1 with Mahomes as their starting quarterback this season, and I think they move on to the Super Bowl with a win and cover here at home. I’m rolling with KC -3.5.

Total Pick: Over 54

I also think the Over makes some sense here.  Sure this is a bit of a high number, but these offenses are two of the best.  The Chiefs averaged the most yards per game in the league (415.8), while Buffalo averaged the second-most (396.4).  The Bills scored 31.3 points per game this season, which was second in the league, and the Chiefs scored 29.6 points per game which was 5th in the league.  

One main aspect that I think favors the Over is the defensive problems for both teams in the red zone.  Kansas City ranked dead-last in the NFL in red zone defense, allowing a touchdown rate of 76.6 percent.  Buffalo was also near the bottom of the league throughout the season, but a few solid weeks recently helped their final standing.  They are currently allowing opponents to score touchdowns on 60.6% of their red zone trips.  They limited the Colts in the red zone in the Wild Card Round, but I attribute a lot of that to the Colts leaving points on the board and poor play-calling close to the goal line.  They also picked off Lamar Jackson in the end zone last week and ran it back for a touchdown.  As impressive as that play was, banking on something like that happening again is tough.  Andy Reid is one of the most creative play-callers out there, especially in the red zone, and I think he will make sure the Chiefs capitalize on their red zone opportunities. 

In a game with limited possessions against the Browns, the Chiefs put up 19 points with Mahomes on the field in the first half.  Once he went out, their offense managed just three points in the second half.  Not only is Mahomes cleared to play, but wideout Sammy Watkins (calf) and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle) appear to be back after missing the Divisional Round.  That gives Mahomes more options, and gives the Bills defense two more playmakers to worry about.

The game against the Browns had limited possessions because the Browns took their time and focused on running the ball.  That enabled them to do exactly what they wanted to do—slow the game down and burn clock.  That is not how the Bills play.  Buffalo will put their trust in the man who got them here: Josh Allen.  They will trust his arm and his legs to make big plays down the field, and I don’t see them turning to their running game too often.  I think they’ll let Allen air it out against the KC secondary.  In addition, if they fall behind, which is entirely possible, it will really force them to throw the ball.

Sure the Bills offense scored just 10 points last week, but I don’t think they will have another poor performance like that in this one. I think Josh Allen and their offense will enable them to hang around for the first half and part of the second half, but I don’t think it will be enough to outscore the Chiefs in the end. I think KC will pull away late with a few big plays. Give me a high-scoring game and the Over.  

Best of luck. Cheers.

@stadium_times

Title Photo: Appleton Post-Crescent / USA TODAY

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