Sir Robert Crawley on PBS’ “Downton Abbey” said it best. He wasn’t describing NFL Conference Championship Sunday when he said “Golly, Gumdrops” but let’s pretend that he was. Fans of the National Football League know very well that we are THIS CLOSE to determining the combatants in Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, Feb. 3. Conference Championship Sunday offers up a pair of compelling matchups, but we know one thing for sure. Any of the four possible outcomes will result in storyline after storyline headed into the week off. Let’s dive straight into Championship Sunday.
Los Angeles Rams @ New Orleans Saints from the Mercedes-Benz Dome in New Orleans, Louisiana.
If in September, you asked a football fan on the street who was going to be in the NFC Championship Game, these two may have been the selection. However, the path taken by the Rams and Saints has been a bit circuitous. The Rams started the season like their shorts were on fire. They averaged 35 points a game in the first five weeks, smoking the Raiders, Chargers, Vikings, Cardinals, and Seahawks with a high-flying offense and video game stats. Could they be stopped? Heck, many questioned if they would lose a regular-season game.
Indeed the Rams were 8-0 when they last came to The Big Easy…and they lost. Oh, they put up enough points to win most NFL games, but the Saints took them down, 45-35.
Undaunted, L.A. continued putting up gaudy offensive numbers, culminating in the Monday Night Football game for the ages. Rams-Chiefs was first scheduled for Mexico City, but the venue was changed to the Coliseum. The two teams combined for 105 points and the Rams got the better end of it, 54-51.
Whoopie Pie, baby, an offense without end. Except it didn’t turn out that way. Late in the season, the Rams offense stumbled. It fell in Chicago and stumbled again in Philadelphia. Last week, in the Divisional Round, the L.A. attack found its legs, putting up 30 points in defeating the Dallas Cowboys.
Is the Rams’ train blowing steam high into the sky again…or not?
As for the New Orleans Saints, their offense took off almost as quickly as the Rams high-powered attack. Unchecked in their division, the Saints and their record-amassing quarterback Drew Brees sailed into the postseason and scored the Number One seed and home field throughout. Save for a late-season defeat at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans has been the class of the conference since the season began.
Saints’ fans now, though, that offense alone is not a recipe for a championship. This version of the Saints play stellar defense, and that may be what will take them the rest of the way.
It should be a 60-minute Gumbo cookoff within shouting distance of the French Quarter. The Saints are a 3.5 point favorite, but we’ll take L.A. plus the points in the NFC Conference Championship Sunday game. Fox has the call. Kickoff is at 3:05 pm, Eastern.
New England Patriots @ Kansas City Chiefs, from Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.
Two iconic National Football League teams with history and passion on their sides are about to play on Championship Sunday. We’re so excited that we’ll start with a discussion of…the weather?
Apparently, an Arctic blast (sounds like a Dairy Queen treat to me) is about to descend upon the middle third of the United States. In its path is Arrowhead Stadium, in which fans should expect numb fingers and temperatures in the 10-20 range.
This is actually good news because earlier this week we were hearing about zeroes on the thermometer. Somewhere, Vince Lombardi was smiling.
It will be cold, to be sure, but these teams ought to be ready, as they play their home games in two of the nation’s January iceboxes. Frankly, unless there is wind accompanying the cold-snap, Gildshire Sports does not think the cold air will have much impact. That’s our considered opinion, and we took a semester of meteorology at College of the Redwoods, so we know what we’re about.
Tom Brady and his New England Patriots are trying to get into their 37th Super Bowl in the last 39 years, or so it seems. While most pro football fans head into Championship Sunday saying, “Anyone but the Pats,” fans in the Boston-area are saying, “We can’t hear you, because our Super Bowl rings make a harmonic hum in the cold weather.”
What can be said about New England?
They appeared to be ripe for the picking at the beginning of the season when they started 1-2. Then they rattled off six wins in a row. They appeared to be ripe for the picking by a loaded Los Angeles Chargers team. The Bolts looked like dolts last weekend. The Patriots have just enough defense and just enough offense. They’re not as fast as Kansas City, but they have Tom Terrific and Head Coach Bill Belichick so it may not matter.
Kansas City has flash and dash in the person of quarterback Patrick Mahomes and some of the quickest skill personnel around. They have a defense that gave up plenty of points, but that was surprisingly effective while playing at home. A recap of the regular season shows the dichotomy between the home Chiefs and the road Chiefs when it comes to playing defense. They gave up 37 points at Pittsburgh. At New England, they gave up 43 points. The Chiefs allowed only a field goal to the Raiders when they played them in Kansas City. At home against a potent Bengals’ offense, they gave up 10 points.
So, what should I believe in a game that the oddsmakers have called the Chiefs a three-point favorite? Will it be a K.C. Masterpiece, or a Boston Tea Party? We’re taking the Patriots plus the three, for no good reason other than Bill Belichick’s unsmiling face manning that sideline, and guiding his team. CBS has the call. Kickoff is at 6:40, Eastern.
That’s our prediction package for Championship Sunday? What do you think? Enjoy the games!