Here are Jack Green’s NFL predictions for the two Conference Championship games on Sunday night.
Green Bay Packers (-3) vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The NFC Championship game is a rematch of a week 6 meeting in Tampa, when the Buccaneers thrashed the Packers 38-10.
That result would seem to give Tampa Bay the edge heading into this weekend, but their Divisional round victory over the New Orleans Saints – who beat the Buccaneers 38-3 in week 9 – shows that one-sided regular season wins mean very little come playoff time.
As impressive as Tom Brady and the Buccaneers were last week, they were facing a quarterback in Drew Brees who played poorly and looked very ready for retirement. All three of Tampa Bay’s touchdowns came from great field position gifted to them by Saints turnovers.
Aaron Rodgers presents a completely different test. The Packers’ quarterback has led an offense that ranked first in the NFL in points per game this season (31.8), and he’s the overwhelming favourite to be named league MVP.
Rodgers carved up the Los Angeles Rams’ top-ranked defence in a 32-18 win last week, and the Packers have now won seven consecutive games, with all those wins coming by a margin of at least seven points.
Tampa Bay have hit their best form just in time for the playoffs, but the Packers have lost just one of their last 15 games at Lambeau Field and it’s hard to see how Rodgers can be stopped on home turf.
Buffalo Bills (+3) vs Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs squeaked past the Cleveland Browns 22-17 last week after losing star quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a concussion in the third quarter.
Kansas City held a 19-3 lead at half-time and looked to be in full control up until Mahomes got hurt, but the game should really have been closer than it was at that point. The Browns saw two long drives stall in the first half and also fumbled what should have been a touchdown into the endzone.
Nevertheless, the Chiefs got the job done and will almost certainly have Mahomes back for this match-up with another of the league’s best offenses.
The Bills ranked second in points per game in the regular season – averaging an incredible 37.9 over the final eight weeks – and they haven’t lost since week 10.
Buffalo’s defence has stepped up during the postseason, holding the Baltimore Ravens to just a field goal in last week’s 17-3 win, and they have a chance to at least limit the Chiefs’ offense.
Kansas City won 26-17 when these teams met back in week 6, but Buffalo found another level over the second half of the season and look capable of keeping pace with the reigning champions.
In what should be a shootout, it’s worth backing the Bills to stay within a field goal and perhaps even reach their first Super Bowl since 1993.
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