NFC And AFC Conference Championship Preview And Prediction – Who Is Going To The Super Bowl?

The NFL’s Conference Championship games this Sunday will feature two sides of the same quarterback coin: old wise heroes (Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers) and new elite cannons (Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen). And then, in the Super Bowl, we will be forced to answer (what my father claims is an ancient, and already decided question): Does youth and enthusiasm fall to old age and treachery every time? Maybe. Maybe not. If you know anything about football, the NFL, then you know this is a quarterback’s league. Old or young, the league’s best gunslingers are more often than not the Super Bowl starters and winners. But let’s now break down, dissect and articulate the complexities of the total team pictures anyway. Onward!

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Green Bay Packers 1/24 on Fox @ 12:05 PST

Offense: Packers. No question. Green Bay humiliated the best scoring defense in the NFL last weekend. Jalen Ramsey was mentioned, maybe(?) three times during the broadcast once the game began, as opposed to Ramsey’s typical dozen or more name mentions. Aaron Donald was crying on the sidelines due to a combination of severe internal injury pain, but also because, and I’m guessing on this, the Rams were sliced and scorched and burned and destroyed by the best offensive play calling I’ve seen since the Seahawks played their first five games this season. (Ironic, Hawks nation, isn’t it?) At this point the entire NFL universe has not only awarded Aaron Rodgers the MVP award prematurely, but has also proclaimed this is possibly the greatest season of his close to immaculate career; one now only, arguably, clearly besmirched by a lack of Super Bowl wins. Most sports pundits, writers, fans and haters can all accept the NFL logician’s low hanging fruit when they agree Mike McCarthy’s routine incompetence, or less than stellar head coaching, is all there is to blame for Rodgers’ low ring total. Others like to blame some series of seriously inept front office moves to explain away poor draft day decisions that didn’t result in a championship, a franchise with some sort of unwillingness to admit when things for the team (defense) weren’t working very well. Another thing to consider is that Matt LaFleur is just the next and greatest evolution in quarter back whispering to date. It’s simple: Rodgers is playing better because a far better coach arrived to help. Last week, we highlighted the Packers regular season stats, and we should revisit them quickly: Rodgers owns the league’s best QBR, 84.3, has thrown 48 TD, and has 4,299 yards in the air, with only 5 INT, another league best. Plus, Davante Adams had 115 REC, 1,374 yards, and 18 TD this season. Against the Rams, Rodgers was 23/36 for 296 yards and 2 TD. That may sound pedestrian, unspectacular. But isn’t a quarterback genius hallmark the illusion that not much is happening at all, that the coach on the field makes it look uncomplicated, while dominating the opposition? I absolutely expect much more of the same this Sunday. The Packers have the edge.

Defense: Tampa Bay. Even after all the Rodgers hype, the Bucs have the advantage on the defensive side of the ball. Through two postseason games so far, Tampa has improved their 3rd down completion percentage by 10, reduced their points allowed per game by one and change, stopped the single fourth down attempt against them. And last week, they forced four turnovers en route to eliminating Brees, Payton and the W-finger-eating back up Winston Saints from the playoffs. Seems that if the Tampa D plays extremely well, allowing fewer than 200 yards through the air, not giving up more than a dozen first downs, taking the lead into halftime on the strength of two or more turnovers, then and only then, will the Bucs have a true shot to win at Lambeau.

Head Coach: I’m tempted to call this a draw because both are excellent at what they do, and are superlative, but for very different reasons. Both coaches are relatively new to their teams, but not new to triumph. Both coaches are great at different elements of the game. And why should we bother comparing an exotic super car with a cushy, mostly successful and safe running on auto pilot Tesla Cybertruck? Can you guess which coach is which? Tampa Bay’s extra gadget heavy (Cybertruck) Bruce Arians recently admitted the Bucs offensive game plan is far more efficient when he allows Brady total and complete deference and control on the field. Was this remark some sort of misdirection? Or is this type of hands off approach the masterminding of a robust, yet at times, minimally invasive man who uses a similar ideology to another leader from Netflix’s latest high profile casualty, “The Office.” When Robert California’s managerial style, and decision making were both questioned, the self proclaimed lizard king and former geisha said in defense of his unorthodox angle, “Sometimes the flowers arrange themselves, Jim.” To me, this is akin to, “Let Russ Cook.” And we all know how well that worked this season. On the other hand, Lafleur was, at first, roundly criticized by Aaron Rodgers last season because the new offensive system was so staggeringly complex, Rodgers had to wear a new arm band with all of the play calls printed out so he could make sense of the vast and varied and exotic LaFleur playbook on the fly, while navigating the field, trying to survive. So in some sense, both teams feature the extreme ends of the head coach and quarter back play calling spectrum. But Green Bay was far more efficient than Tampa Bay last week. Brady’s genius is in adapting. Rogers in controlling the flow of the game and maintaining a cool head under pressure. Drives started clicking for the Bucs in NOLA despite two consecutive early three and outs against the Saints D, when they avoided a third consecutive three and out in the first quarter, after a 4th and 1 QB sneak. Rodgers makes it look easy, therefore making LaFleur look good, and yes, look better.

Why Tampa Bay Will Win: If Tampa Bay wins, the Bucs will become the first NFL team to host the Super Bowl in their home stadium. This should have happened at least once by now, right? Well, maybe. Aside from that, there is no one better at winning post season games than Tom Brady. He’s defeated 17 different teams in the playoffs. There are now only four NFL franchises with more playoff wins, New England, Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Green Bay – Brady has more individual playoff wins than the rest of the NFL, 32. And we must not forget the other time these two teams matched up this season. During their regular season showdown in Tampa Bay, the Packers scored 10, before the Bucs rattled off 38 unanswered points. Tell me why anyone bets against the GOAT?

Why Green Bay Will Win: If Tampa Bay wins, the Bucs will become the first NFL team to host the Super Bowl in their home stadium. This should never happen. Not once, right? Well, maybe. Aside from that, the Packers have played superlative football the entire season. The other quarterback routinely included in the GOAT discussion is the man in green and yellow, Rodgers, who owns far fewer rings than Brady. And then we, as we articulated once before, explain away the lack of championships because McCarthy’s incompetence was to blame. Well,  no longer! Lambeau Field allowed fans for the first time last week. The noise seemed to bother the Rams more than not at all, as well, so this must become a part of what we consider this Sunday. Finally, the Packers have not lost since dropping a squeaker of a game to the Colts many moons ago (Week 11). Since then, nothing, and no team has looked on the same high level of this excellent Green Bay squad.

Prediction: I wholeheartedly do not know because both teams and both quarterbacks are phenomenal. And it is unwise to bet against either. But I’ll make a decision anyway: the Green Bay Packers. How about a hypothetical scenario? I’ve got many on hand, yet I like this one the most. Maybe this is the game when we recall some of the extraordinary Manning vs Brady gunfights of the previous decade, and in an entirely different era of the NFL. Maybe this is that insane game that goes to OT (probably not). Or maybe this is a game that features an historic scoreline that boggles the mind, astounds us all, blows everyone away. I’m indulging a phantasmagoric itch right now. But I would love to see Brady and Rodgers throw five TDs each, even if logic (and snow and ice) decrees I should expect a game score just south of twenty points for each team. However, because I can, I’m sticking with the ludicrous option, a game winning two point conversion for Rodgers and LaFleur.

Packers 43 – Buccaneers 42.

2. Buffalo Bills vs. Kansas City Chiefs 1/24 on CBS @ 3:40 PST

Offense: So many hypotheticals surround this game. And not only because the entire NFL universe suffered a monumental, empathetic, vicarious and stunning concussion of our own, when Patrick Mahomes wobbled and nearly tumbled face first to the grass after his teammate hoisted him up. I’ve never seen Mahomes so rattled on a football field. He was limping from an earlier toe injury before his post-concussion noodle leg hobble to the sideline, and then on-field cameras caught his subsequent glazed spacey thousand yard stare. So within this several minute period in KC’s win over Cleveland, all of us at home were served a haunting reminder of what can happen on a football field. As morbid as it may sound, this is also one of the many reasons we watch the game. These players are gladiators. Fearless. And these players are warriors. They risk their lives every single time they walk onto the field. It’s brutal for us watching from the non-contact section in the zealous Church of the NFL to see talent compromised so severely. We know what they are up against, even if we don’t understand or feel this struggle completely. I hope Mahomes is doing well, recovering quickly. Throughout the week, the quarterback news out of Kansas City has been good, but not great. If Mahomes clears concussion protocol again tomorrow, it’s the Chiefs with a huge advantage over the Bills. (But if not, Josh Allen and the Bills will blowout the Chiefs at Arrowhead.) The Chiefs were outrageously efficient possessing the ball. Mahomes was near perfect prior to going down. Through the first half against the Browns, and at one point, they were up 19-3, after 4 drives they had 4 scores, Mahomes had outgunned Mayfield on the ground and in the air, and the Chiefs outgained the Browns 293-144, running 37 plays to Cleveland’s 24. The Bills defense is great at creating takeaways and forcing turnovers when no one expects them to; yet this element of the unexpected is exactly why the Chiefs have been astronomically deft this season. Makes sense these two should meet for the AFC crown. If one requires a single exemplary maneuver to comprehend the Andy Reid/Kubrickian masterpiece work of plotting and visual strength, and a team capitalizing on misdirection, motion, and unpredictable paths toward success, one need only watch a replay of the Henne to Hill fourth and one call, with Tony Romo’s audio running. Shrill, Romo shouted, “There’s no play, look at the body language…!” seconds before the final magic gentle swooping pass out wide as the final excellent twist to ice KC’s victory in last Sunday’s game. So, expect more of the unexpected.

Defense: The Bills not only contained Lamar Jackson last weekend, they knocked him out of the game. Another brutal reminder of what can happen to our stars on the field. Last week, I said the Bills D had been criminally underrated all season. I stand by this assertion. Against Baltimore, the Bills defense allowed 3 points, were 7-17 on Third Down and stopped both Baltimore Fourth Down attempts. But most crucial to Buffalo’s success last weekend, the Ravens were 0-3 in the Red Zone. That is huge. The 3 points the Ravens scored were the career lowest for Harbaugh as head coach. Maybe this Bills defense will perform the same way against the best offensive genius left not named LaFleur.

Head Coach: Andy Reid. There is no debate here. Moving on…

Why Buffalo Will Win: Not only is Josh Allen the NFL’s most improved player and my personal dark horse candidate for the MVP award (I’ve said this at least 100 times this season.) But the Bills are not even close to peaking. They are still finding new ways to win and they look much the better team every single time any game remains close. The Chiefs are much more of a shock and awe squad. The Bills are like a bulldozer. Josh Allen is as much of a dual threat as Mahomes. And there is more than a good chance – forgive me for predicting this next part – Mahomes will get injured again. If that happens, Josh Allen will certainly triumph.

Why Kansas City Will Win: Not only does ESPN give KC a 58.1% chance of winning this Sunday. It seems the only way the Chiefs lose is if they make a mistake and beat themselves. The Bills are excellent. But KC is never outplayed, outwitted, outgunned. During their single less than superb regular season game, Patrick Mahomes, against Las Vegas, threw one interception with 5:44 left to go in the fourth quarter. KC lost by one score. Goes without saying, I’ll say it anyway. If Mahomes isn’t picked off, the Chiefs would have won this game. Aside from Hill and Mahomes and Reid, the single most powerful piece on this team is TE Travis Kelce. During the regular season, Kelce caught 105 REC, racked up 1,416 yards and grabbed 11 TD. Last week, against the Browns, Kelce and Hill proved why they are, without question, the most potent dual wide receiving threat. Hill’s stat line was 8 REC for 110 Yards and Kelce’s stat line was 8 REC for 109 yards and 1 TD. With a healthy Mahomes, these numbers might double by the final whistle Sunday.

Prediction: Time for a short anecdote. When my brother read my NFL Week 14 Power Rankings piece, he was mystified. At the top of list, I said the Bills were the best team in the NFL. The Bills were number one and the Chiefs were number two. And He said, “Wait, not the Chiefs?” No, not the Chiefs, not this year. Do I have a vivified set of secret statistics or analytical tools that tell me why Buffalo is so good this year? Absolutely not. They are just the best team in the NFL, and have been since the middle of the season. They have the right combination of skills, key pieces; and then also this poetic arsenal of adjectives that cling to them any time I try to show anyone why or how they play so well. Words like vim, vigor, heart, and unstoppable, titanic, all come to my thought stream. There is some untamable and intangible quality thrumming throughout every single game the Bills play. They have not lost a single game since the Hail Murray. And they will win and have won games when the rest of the league doubts their excellence. Not only do none of us know how good Josh Allen truly is, because he is not even close to touching his quarterbacking ceiling, but I’m not exaggerating when I say Allen explicitly reminds me of John Elway. All of the sports world, and the NFL universe, expects that with a healthy Mahomes, and Reid calling plays, the Chiefs will win this game. If I bought into this vibe, I’d say the Chiefs win this game at home, 27-24. But I won’t do that, because I can’t say this will happen, because in the strangest NFL season we’ve never seen, the inexplicable guides the way, and shows up literalized on field every single Sunday. Bills Mafia, Josh Allen and the rest of this mighty blue charging juggernaut will embrace a thrilling chance to avenge their four consecutive Super Bowl losses in Tampa Bay against Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers. The Buffalo Bills will win this Sunday’s game on a deep TD pass at the buzzer.

Bills 28 – Chiefs 27

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About Jackson Pappin 50 Articles
Jackson Pappin is a freelance writer. A 2018 WSU Edward R. Murrow College of Communication alumni, he writes fiction, journalism, columns, essays and poetry. His work has been published in Anastamos, The Oregonian, The Spokesman Review, The Seattle P.I. Reader Blogs, The Daily Evergreen, The Central Circuit, LandEscapes and at the Spectra Art Gallery. His writing is available at