Championship games feature fantastic four at quarterback

Veterans Brady and Rodgers face off in NFC, while young guns Mahomes and Allen battle it out in AFC

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Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Daily News

Quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, left, and Tom Brady face off Sunday with the NFC title on the line. If Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers win, he will reach his 10th Super Bowl. Rodgers is going for his second trip to the big game with the Green Bay Packers.

Ben Olson, Photographer, Staff Writer

A pair of young guns and veteran leaders will define Sunday’s championship games as four of the top quarterbacks in the NFL should determine which teams will be playing in Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. 

Here’s a look at the matchups involving the final four teams remaining in what has been a strange season.

NFC Championship

No. 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. No. 1 Green Bay Packers

12:05 p.m. on FOX

Brady. Rodgers. Two explosive offenses with respective legends at the quarterback position will highlight the NFC Championship game. I always said from the beginning of the playoffs that if there was any team that could knock off the Packers at Lambeau Field, it would be Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. After all, the Packers were stomped in their regular season meeting against Tampa Bay. 

In that game, likely league MVP Aaron Rodgers threw two of his five interceptions this season, en route to a 38-10 Bucs win. Brady did throw for fewer than 200 yards in the game, while the running game was a key factor on both sides. 

The Packers have an awful run defense, whereas the Bucs have the best ranked run defense by a large margin. With the Sunday forecast calling for temperatures in the 20s with snowfall throughout the day, the run game will be the deciding factor. This will be the biggest upset of the playoffs, with the Bucs toppling the top seed for the second time this season and sending Brady to his 10th Super Bowl appearance in 21 seasons.

FINAL SCORE: Buccaneers 28-24

 

AFC Championship

No. 2 Buffalo Bills vs. No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs

3:40 p.m. on CBS

Like the NFC championship matchup, this game has a deciding factor and it’s obvious… Patrick Mahomes’ health. The star quarterback was in concussion protocol all week after an ugly hit in the divisional round that knocked him from the Chiefs win over the Browns. Mahomes announced he was cleared to play on Friday. If he’s able to perform at his typical Pro Bowl level on Sunday, then the Bills are in for a tough game, especially at Arrowhead Stadium. 

The Bills defense is not the same second ranked unit from last year. This will still be a matchup for the ages with two young superstars in Mahomes and the Bills Josh Allen at the quarterback position. In the ultimate offensive battle, the Chiefs have more weapons, including wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. With the possibility that the Chiefs’ young phenom running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire can play this week, this may end up being the game of the year. Edwards-Helaire had a season-high 161 yards in the Chiefs 26-17 win at Buffalo on Oct. 19.

Kansas City has now hosted three straight AFC Championship games, so they Chiefs have the experience in big games and know what to do during crunch time. Look for the Chiefs to move on to the Super Bowl to represent the AFC for the second straight season, giving them the chance to become the first team since New England repeated as champions in 2004 and 2005. If my predictions hold up, the Chiefs will only do this by beating Brady, who quarterbacked those Patriot teams.

FINAL SCORE: Chiefs 37-34