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Predictions for the NFL Conference Championship Games

NFL Picks: Patrick Mahomes

NFL Picks: Patrick Mahomes

Regardless of what your opinion is about the teams, NFL fans can't ask for anything more than for the top four seeds to go head-to-head in the playoffs to see which teams advance to the Super Bowl. And that's exactly what we have with conference championship pairings of the New England Patriots taking on the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC and the Los Angeles Rams vs. New Orleans Saints in the NFC.

But not only do we have the top seeds in the conference championship games for the first time since the 2015 playoffs, it also serves up a pair of regular-season rematches.

The Rams and Saints will kick things off on Sunday down in New Orleans. These teams met back in Week 9 as the Saints won a high-scoring affair, 45-35. That was Los Angeles' first loss as New Orleans took control of the NFC and never relinquished it, which is why this game is in the Superdome.

In the first meeting, these two teams combined for 970 yards, and no one would be surprised if we see similar offensive fireworks. However, both defenses have been playing well lately so there may not be quite as many points scored on Sunday. It could come down to which team (or specifically, which quarterback) makes fewer mistakes.

Offense also was the storyline when the Patriots and Chiefs faced each other back in Week 6 in a game that New England won 43-40 thanks to a Stephen Gostkowski field goal as time expired. Patrick Mahomes (352 passing yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs) stole the show from Tom Brady (340-1-0, rushing TD), on "Sunday Night Football," but it was Sony Michel (106 yds., 2 TDs) who led the way on the ground as the Patriots handed the Kansas City its first loss of the season.

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This time figures to be different, however. The game will be at Arrowhead Stadium not Gillette Stadium and while the forecast has improved from the "Arctic blast" that was initially predicted to bring temperatures in the single digits, it's still expected to be below freezing during the day and that will likely drop by kickoff (6:40 p.m. ET). The Patriots are certainly no strangers to playing in cold weather, but New England hasn't been as dominant in the playoffs on the road compared to home during the Belichick/Brady era.

For the Chiefs, the biggest difference is they won't have Kareem Hunt, as the team cut ties with the running back on Dec. 1 after a video surfaced that showed him assaulting a woman and he followed that up by lying to team officials about the incident. In the Week 6 matchup, Hunt totaled 185 yards, including a 67-yard TD catch. Damien Williams has filled in nicely in Hunt's absence but he doesn't provide the same type of explosive versatility. On the other side, Michel ran for 129 yards and three scores in New England's 41-28 win over the Chargers last week.

So while all of the attention may focus on the QB duel between Brady and Mahomes, which team runs the ball effectively and which defense rises to the occasion could play just as important a role in the eventual outcome.

So which teams will advance to Super Bowl LIII? Athlon's own Rob Doster (@AthlonDoster), Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven) and Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR), along with AthlonSports.com contributor Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer), predict the winners for every game this weekend:

NFL Conference Championship Games Predictions

 

Rob Doster

Bryan
Fischer

Steven
Lassan

Mark Ross

NFC Championship: Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans (Sun.)

AFC Championship: New England at Kansas City (Sun.)

Divisional Round*

4-0

3-1

3-1

3-1

Season*

160-89

164-85

167-82

166-83

*Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland in Week 1 and Minnesota vs. Green Bay in Week 2 both ended in ties.