The Californian

It’s young guns vs future Hall of Famers in title games

Mahomes and Goff look to knock off veterans Brady and Brees

Cameron McKeon, Sports Editor

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We’re one step away from the Super Bowl, and the tops four teams most of the season have given us two intriguing title game  match-ups tomorrow afternoon.

AFC Championship
Patriots at Chiefs – About 95 percent of America wants to see the Pats lose this game. A Super Bowl berth would grant them their third straight trip to the big game, and fourth in the last five years. It’s about time we see a team not named the Broncos or the Patriots representing the AFC in the Super Bowl. New England is coming off a 41-28 divisional win over the Chargers that was lacking in much suspense. Hopefully the Chiefs, led by their phenomenal offense, can provide a more entertaining and competitive affair. Unless you live under a rock, Patrick Mahomes has been a name brought up time after time, and everyone is banking on the 23-year-old quarterback to lead the high-powered Chiefs to their first Super Bowl appearance in 49 years.

Take a look at the Chiefs offensive numbers and you’ll see they’re world beaters. Shift over to the defensive side of the ball and it is a sight for sore eyes most of the time. If you follow sports, you’re familiar with the phrase, “Defense wins championships.” If you are pulling for Kansas City to win this game, you’re going to want to disregard that widely accepted belief. They surrendered the second most yards in the NFL during the regular season and opponents averaged 26.3 points per game, the worst of any playoff team. With those numbers, you need an MVP on your team to make a Super Bowl run. Good thing they have one of those.

True, this isn’t as strong of a Patriots team as we have seen in years past. The regular season wasn’t smooth sailing (to their standards) and the reliable Rob Gronkowski isn’t what he used to be. But none of that matters, thanks to two factors: Belichick and Brady. As long as they are together, the Patriots will always pose as a major threat. The Chiefs have an exciting toy in Mahomes but Brady has been here before, and rarely does he underperform. From a coaching standpoint, Belichick or Andy Reid? If you even considered Reid, think again. The Chiefs will have some success stretching out the Patriots defense in addition to gaining momentum from home-field advantage, but their subpar defense will roll over against Belichick’s gameplan and Brady’s execution.
Prediction: Patriots 34, Chiefs 31

NFC Championship
Rams at Saints – When the Saints and Rams met in week 9, New Orleans prevailed at home in a shootout. It’s very possible we see a repeat of that, with Drew Brees leading a potent offense and the Rams somehow adding yet another productive offensive piece since their last meeting in RB C.J. Anderson. There should be fireworks galore in this one, with stars across the board specifically on one side of the ball, with the exception of Aaron Donald. The Rams now have a two-headed monster of their own in the backfield with Anderson and Todd Gurley. It’s a duo that comes close to the potency of the Saints’ own backfield, featuring Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. It’s tough to imagine this one ever getting out of reach for either team, setting up the stage for what could be a classic.

Sean McVay has become one of the most enviable coaches in the NFL the past couple years. For all we know, he spends every night studying the tendencies and backstories of every player in football. There’s no question come Sunday, he will have a set gameplan that only needs proper execution to slay the Saints. But can Jared Goff and Co. execute? Similar to the AFC Championship, a young inexperienced quarterback in Goff is tasked with outperforming the battle-tested veteran in Brees. On the defensive side, Rams cornerback Marcus Peters took most of the blame for Michael Thomas’ 211-yard game the last time these two faced off. Peters and the rest of the secondary cannot let the Saints run all over them like last time, while the front seven need to figure out a way to slow down Kamara.

The Saints squeaked by with a 20-14 win over the Eagles last week to take down the defending champs. It was closer than many thought, but it was evident New Orleans controlled the game from the second quarter on. Brees and coach Sean Payton have been here before and have a better roster than when they won in all in 2010. If they can get the ball to Thomas with regularity and do enough in the trenches to have some success on the ground, the Saints should be on their way to Super Bowl LIII.
Prediction: Saints 38, Rams 33

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It’s young guns vs future Hall of Famers in title games