The conference championship games of the NFL playoffs have arrived, with each kicking off on Sunday. The fifth-seeded Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face the top-seeded Green Bay Packers within the NFC Championship Game, after which the No. 2-seeded Buffalo Bills will play the No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs within the AFC Championship Game. The winners advance to Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7.
We’re previewing each title video games. Our NFL Nation reporters deliver us the keys to the video games, a daring prediction for every matchup and remaining rating picks.
Moreover, ESPN Stats & Data supplies a stat to know for every recreation and the Football Power Index (FPI) goes contained in the numbers with a matchup ranking (on a scale of 1 to 100) and a recreation projection. ESPN Chalk‘s Dave Bearman arms out useful nuggets, and NFL analyst Matt Bowen factors out a key matchup to observe as effectively. It is all right here to assist get you prepared for an thrilling weekend of NFL playoff football.
3:05 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup ranking: 96.3 | Spread: GB -3 (51.5)
What to observe for: If there was something to gripe about in Matt LaFleur’s extremely profitable two-year run because the Packers’ coach, maybe it’s being a step sluggish to regulate. When these groups met in Week 6, the Bucs performed zone protection on 61% of quarterback Aaron Rodgers‘ dropbacks, and Rodgers had his solely multi-interception recreation this season. And basically, the extra groups have performed zone towards Rodgers over the previous two years, the higher they’ve fared. LaFleur and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett know what’s coming when it comes to protection, and the way they plan for it should dictate their stage of success towards a tricky Tampa Bay protection. — Rob Demovsky
Daring prediction: Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady‘s game-winning landing cross won’t be thrown to large receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown or Scotty Miller, tight ends Rob Gronkowski or Cameron Brate, or working backs Ronald Jones II or Leonard Fournette. Nope, it should go to large receiver Tyler Johnson. The rookie fifth-round pick of Minnesota had only one catch final week towards the Saints, however that 15-yard spinning seize on the perimeter was masterful. The one purpose we aren’t speaking about Johnson extra is the depth chart he is buried on. He has a knack for making troublesome catches in high-pressure conditions, and he’ll do once more on Sunday. — Jenna Laine
Stat to know: The 2 greatest components in Brady’s efficiency all season have been stress and the vertical recreation. In 13 wins over the course of the season (together with playoffs), he averaged 1.1 sacks per recreation, noticed stress on 14% of his dropbacks and posted an 82 QBR. However in 5 losses, sacks jumped to 2.2 per recreation, his stress charge climbed to 27% and his QBR practically break up in half (44). And so far as the deep ball goes, contemplate this: On passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield over that 18-game span, he has hit on 45% for 11 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in wins, however simply 21% for a single rating and 5 picks within the losses.
Bowen’s matchup key: How will Tampa Bay hold Packers large receiver Davante Adams in verify? It’ll begin on the line of scrimmage in Cowl 1, with Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis making an attempt to make use of his size and bodily traits to disrupt Adams’ launch. If he cannot, Davis’ lack of restoration velocity versus Adams’ sudden potential to separate will spell bother for the Bucs. Read more.
What’s at stake: A win for the Buccaneers would mark the primary non-division champion to achieve the Tremendous Bowl because the 2010 Packers. It could additionally deliver Brady’s 10th Tremendous Bowl look, spanning three many years. Rodgers, nonetheless, has performed in just one Tremendous Bowl. And after shedding his previous three NFC Championship Recreation appearances and going 1-Three over his profession on this recreation, Rodgers is trying to keep away from turning into simply the third QB to have fewer than two wins and greater than three losses in convention title matchups (Ken Stabler and Donovan McNabb are each 1-4).
Betting nugget: Brady is 9-Four straight up and 6-7 towards the unfold in convention championship video games. The below is 8-5 in these matchups, together with 7-2 in his previous 9. Read more.
Domonique Foxworth predicts who can have a much bigger day within the NFC Championship Recreation between Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.
Laine’s decide: Buccaneers 26, Packers 24
Demovsky’s decide: Packers 31, Buccaneers 17
FPI prediction: GB, 53.2% (by a mean of 1.1 factors)
Residence crowd: Final week’s playoff recreation at Lambeau Subject had an attendance of 8,456. With probably extra company of gamers and coaches from each groups within the stadium this week, anticipated attendance is within the ballpark of 8,500-9,000. That is roughly 10-11% of the 81,441 capability at Lambeau.
Matchup must-reads: Finally, Rodgers vs. Brady: Inside the playoff matchup 13 years in the making … ‘Too much information’ never enough for Packers’ dominant offense … WR Brown (knee) to be game-time call for Bucs … Crowning achievement: Packers receivers prove worthy once and for all … Bucs have beaten Rodgers before, but does the formula change? … Rodgers not feeling extra pressure, says his future is ‘beautiful mystery’
6:40 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup ranking: 92.3 | Spread: KC -3 (53.5)
What to observe for: Will Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (concussion protocol) play? That’s the query on everybody’s thoughts, with backup Chad Henne set to begin if Mahomes is out. However with or with out Mahomes, the Chiefs’ run recreation can be one thing to regulate. Kansas Metropolis rushed for a season-high 245 yards towards Buffalo in Week 6, when the Payments performed their safeties deep on many snaps and had been decided to not let Tyreek Hill and different receivers beat them deep. They are going to definitely change methods this time, however at what price? The Chiefs obtained only one cross play of greater than 22 yards towards the Payments the final time round. Can the Payments successfully sluggish the Chiefs’ working recreation whereas nonetheless limiting the variety of large cross performs? — Adam Teicher
Daring prediction: Payments quarterback Josh Allen will surpass 350 passing yards and large receiver Stefon Diggs will flip in his third straight recreation with 100 receiving yards and a landing. And slightly bolder, the Payments won’t solely win but additionally completely outpace the Chiefs in their very own yard, punching Buffalo’s first ticket to the Tremendous Bowl because the 1993 season. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Stat to know: The Payments have dropped again to cross 73% of the time this postseason, and just one workforce has ever reached a convention title recreation passing extra usually — the 2015 Patriots (83%), who misplaced within the AFC Championship Recreation that season. Buffalo gained final week with simply 32 dashing yards — the fourth fewest ever in a playoff win, per the Elias Sports activities Bureau — and Allen at the moment leads the workforce on the bottom with 57 yards over two postseason video games. The Payments averaged 64.Zero dashing yards per recreation this season, fewer than all however one workforce to ever attain the Tremendous Bowl; the 1999 Rams averaged 41.0.
Bowen’s matchup key: Look ahead to the Chiefs’ protection to point out stress and spin late to play Cowl 2 “robber,” with security Tyrann Mathieu because the middle-hole defender. This permits the Chiefs to make Allen work post-snap with late motion, but it surely additionally permits Kansas Metropolis to play zone protection with Mathieu mendacity within the weeds as a middle-of-the-field presence, in place to steal an in-breaker. Read more.
What’s at stake: The Chiefs are aiming to change into the primary repeat Tremendous Bowl champs because the 2003-04 Patriots, ending the longest stretch in NFL historical past with out a repeat champion. They’re the 12th defending Tremendous Bowl champion to host a convention championship, and the prior 11 groups went 10-1 (solely loss was by the 1990 49ers). The Payments, in the meantime, try to make it again to the Tremendous Bowl for the primary time since shedding 4 straight throughout the 1990-93 seasons. They have not gained a title of any form because the 1965 AFL Championship, and their 0-Four report in Tremendous Bowls is tied with the Vikings for many appearances with out a win.
Betting nugget: The Chiefs are 1-Eight towards the unfold of their previous 9 video games (8-1 outright), they usually’re 0-5 towards the unfold of their previous 5 at house. Read more.
Louis-Jacques’ decide: Payments 31, Chiefs 28
Teicher’s decide: Chiefs 27, Payments 22
FPI prediction: KC, 58.3% (by a mean of two.7 factors)
Damien Woody sees Josh Allen being in comparison with the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady if he can lead the Payments to the Tremendous Bowl.
Residence crowd: The Chiefs have saved their attendance numbers at or under 22% capability at Arrowhead Stadium (76,416 complete capability) this season, with their greatest crowd coming final week towards the Browns (16,730). Count on the same quantity on the AFC Championship Recreation.
Matchup must-reads: Bills can justify trading Mahomes pick by reaching Super Bowl … For Chiefs’ Reid, ‘every down is a throwing down,’ even on fourth-and-1 … How serious is Davis’ ankle injury? Biggest questions heading into the AFC title game … Mahomes practices in limited capacity, remains in concussion protocol