Who Will Be Playing In Super Bowl LV?

Who Will Be Playing In Super Bowl LV? | Sports Takes & News | TooAthletic.com

The time has arrived for the AFC and NFC to crown their 2020 champions as the Midwest becomes the center for the NFL world this weekend.  As the final quartet of teams remaining in the playoffs prepare to play this weekend, we take a look at each matchup and try to predict who will win and advance to Super Bowl LV or fall short of their goal and need to wait until next season.  Here, now, are my previews and predictions for conference championship weekend in the National Football League.

Tampa Bay at Green Bay:  Those of us old enough will remember many people on television calling this the “Bay of Pigs” game when the Buccaneers and Packers were in the old NFC Central division.  This game features two veteran quarterbacks, Tom Brady for Tampa Bay, and Aaron Rodgers, who will be hosting his first NFC Championship Game for Green Bay.  This game is a rematch of a Week Six showdown that turned into a 38-10 blowout in Florida, this time the scene shifts to Lambeau Field, and provides the cold weather Brady was hoping to avoid when he went to the Buccaneers as a free agent this offseason. 

Many (including Bill Belichick’s girlfriend) noted that it was the Tampa Bay defense that did most of the heavy lifting last week when they defeated New Orleans by setting up the offense with short fields, enabling them to score their only three touchdowns on the day in a 30-20 win.   The Bucs will need something close to that level of effort from the defensive unit to defeat the red-hot Aaron Rodgers, who has become the odds-on favorite to win this year’s MVP.  One thing that Rodgers has not done this season, however, is turn the ball over, having only throw nine interceptions over the last two regular seasons, two of which did come in his Week Six game against Tampa Bay.

Green Bay enters this game on a seven-game winning streak that dates back to the beginning of December, during which they have only allowed over 20 points twice, and both of those were in divisional game.  The Packers defense is aided by a two-pronged offensive attack that features the right arm of Rodgers and a running game that can help them rest up and play harder. It was this running game that disappeared in Tampa Bay when they lost in Week Six but that has come on stronger since then, catapulting them to the top seed in the NFC Playoffs.

The Packers are getting the standard three-point favorite status from oddsmakers and bettors after this game opened with a 4.5-point spread.  With the game at Lambeau Field, many people agree that the stars are as closed to being perfectly aligned as they can be for Green Bay, especially Aaron Rodgers, who is looking to win his second Super Bowl, elevating this status as one of the best quarterbacks in history.  Standing in his way is Tom Brady, who has figured out a way to raise an 8-8 team from last year and turn them into one of the two best teams in the NFC despite not winning the division and playing all their postseason games on the road.

Winning breeds confidence, and both teams have plenty of that this week; however, while Tampa Bay’s confidence is probably more in their defense, Green Bay’s bravado lies in their entire team who has helped win games on both sides of the ball with full, sixty-minute efforts for two months.  That’s why I am taking Green Bay to win, cover the spread and return to Super Bowl LV.

Buffalo at Kansas City:  In contrast to the showdown between two old gunslingers in the NFC, the AFC Championship offers two of the NFL’s two young rising stars at quarterback in Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes.  Early indications are that Mahomes, who suffered a concussion last week against Cleveland, is making progress and should be able to play in this game against the Bills.  On the other side of the field, we find one of the NFL’s best players in Josh Allen, who in his third season, took over the AFC East and lead Buffalo to their first divisional title in a quarter century.  He may not have done much in their 17-3 win over Baltimore last week, but he also didn’t make the big mistake that Lamar Jackson made to cost his team the win; something the former Wyoming quarterback might have done in his first two years in the league.

This is also a rematch of a Week Six game that Kansas City won 26-17 in one of Josh Allen’s worst games of the year.  The biggest question this week, however, is how effective Patrick Mahomes can be if he does clear the concussion protocol and is able to play.  Will he be willing to take off and run for a first down, or will he be become a passing first and second quarterback, making him easier to defense and giving the Bills more players to use in pass coverage?  For Buffalo, holding down KC’s offense to three TDs and two FGs might be the best they can hope for in this game, meaning that their offense is going to need to find away to produce points, with a defensive or special teams’ contribution likely needed to swing momentum during the game.

Two things to watch for in this game will be who controls the ball with their running games and who converts more third downs, two stats that Kansas City dominated in their Week Six matchup, allowing them to win by more than the scoreboard showed.  Of course, in what may be a wet Arrowhead Stadium, turnovers will also be important, something Cleveland gifted Kansas City with at the end of the first half last week and could provide a mini-run of points for one team.

Like the NFC’s top seeded team, Kansas City has also been bet down to just a three-point favorite in this game, mainly since the early week bettors felt that Patrick Mahomes either won’t play or won’t be 100% if he does.  Regardless of if Mahomes or backup QB Chad Henne plays, KC’s head coach Andy Reid only knows one way play games like this, all out for sixty minutes, leaving every page in his playbook used.  If the Bills defense can somehow turn their aggression against them, perhaps Kansas City is ripe for an upset; if, however, as they have done most of the year, they are able to turn their high-powered offense into points, then they are the better all-around team and should prevail.  My heart wants to pick Buffalo in this game, but it difficult to do so when you break down each team’s strengths and weaknesses, which is why my pick is KC -3, but I will be hoping I am wrong since setting up an Allen/Mahomes rivalry is exactly what the NFL needs going into this new era as quarterbacks like Brady, Brees, Rivers and one day Rodgers all say goodbye to the National Football League. 


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