NFL Predictions: Picks for the Conference Championship Games

Athlon's NFL experts make their picks for the AFC and NFC title games

The NFL playoffs are down to the final four teams, as Championship Sunday will feature a pair of intriguing regular-season rematches to determine who goes on to Super Bowl LV. The AFC Championship Game has the top two seeds going head-to-head while the NFC Championship Game serves up a quarterback matchup for the ages.

 

The NFC will go first on Championship Sunday as Tampa Bay heads north to take on Green Bay at Lambeau Field. The tundra figures to be frozen with the forecast calling for temperatures in the high 20s along with a chance of snow showers. But the big storyline for this game is the head-to-head matchup between Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, two of the best to ever play quarterback. This will be their fourth head-to-head meeting with Brady holding a 2-1 edge. Rodgers' worst game this season came against the Buccaneers back in Week 6. He completed just 16 of 35 passes for 160 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He also was sacked four times as Tampa dominated in all phases of the game, winning 38-10.

 

Last weekend, the Bucs' defense had its way with Drew Brees and the Saints, picking him off three times and holding the offense under 300 yards in their 30-20 win in the Superdome. The Packers faced even less resistance in their 32-18 Divisional Round win over the Los Angeles Rams. Rodgers threw for 296 yards and two touchdowns while the ground game generated 188 yards and two scores. Defensively, Green Bay sacked Jared Goff four times and held the Rams to 244 total yards. So as much attention as the quarterbacks will get, and rightfully so, the defenses and running games could end up having just as much say in the outcome.

 

Quarterback also will be in the spotlight for the AFC Championship Game, but for a different reason. Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes will need to clear concussion protocol to play against Buffalo on Sunday. Chiefs backup Chad Henne made the necessary plays to secure last Sunday's 22-17 win over Cleveland in the Divisional Round, but there's no argument that Kansas City's chances of repeating as Super Bowl champions hinge on Mahomes' health. The Bills' Josh Allen is playing like an MVP in his own right in his team's first two playoff victories. Allen could use some more support from his running game and Buffalo's defense could have its hands full against the Chiefs, especially if Mahomes is cleared to play.

 

Just like the NFC, the AFC Championship Game also is a rematch of a Week 6 meeting. The Chiefs won 26-17 in Buffalo in a game that was moved to Monday because of schedule changes brought on by COVID-19 concerns. Neither quarterback really lit it up in that game, as the big performer was Kansas City running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire who ran for 161 yards on 26 carries. Edwards-Helaire hasn't played since injuring his ankle in Week 15 and his status for this game is something else to keep an eye on. Darrel Williams provided a spark with 78 rushing yards last weekend against the Browns, Edwards-Helaire's return would be an even bigger boost for the Chiefs.

 

The Bills' defense is eager for a shot at redemption against Kansas City and this unit may be peaking at the right time. Buffalo held Baltimore to just a field goal in the 17-3 victory last Saturday, limiting Lamar Jackson to 196 total yards (34 rushing) with an interception before he left the game after suffering a concussion on the final play of the third quarter. On the other side, the Chiefs limited Cleveland's ground game for the most part, harassed Baker Mayfield into a 23-for-37 passing performance, and generated two takeaways, including a fumble by Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins at the goal line late in the second quarter that resulted in a touchback. Kansas City will need a similar, if not stronger defensive effort, to slow down Allen and the Bills.

 

So which teams will advance to Super Bowl LV? Athlon's own Rob Doster (@AthlonDoster) and Ben Weinrib (@benweinrib), along with AthlonSports.com contributor Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer), predict the winners for every game this week:

 

NFL Conference Championship Games Predictions

 

 

Rob

Doster

Bryan
Fischer

Ben

Weinrib

NFC Championship
Tampa Bay at
Green Bay

(Sun.)

NFL Picks: Packers
28-24
NFL Picks: Packers
31-27
NFL Picks: Buccaneers
27-23

AFC Championship
Buffalo at

Kansas City

(Sun.)

NFL Picks: Chiefs
27-20
NFL Picks: Chiefs
33-24
NFL Picks: Chiefs
34-27
Divisional Round 2-2 4-0 3-1
Total^ 181-84 175-90 173-92

^Cincinnati vs. Philadelphia in Week 3 ended in a tie.

Event Date: 
Tuesday, September 5, 2017 - 09:29
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