Championship Weekend: A story of Deja vu

NFL

By: Joe Zollo

It’s almost over. The NFL season is finally coming to an end after an amazing season. The commissioner was not heard from, there were high powered offenses, and there was almost no defense across the entire league. But before we put a bow on the 2018 NFL season, we have to crown a champion and that brings us to Championship Weekend.

In the NFC, the Rams go marching into New Orleans for their second matchup of the season while, in the AFC, the New England Patriots fly their private jet to Kansas City for another rematch against the Chiefs. Both games are rematches of some of the best games of 2018 so let’s start just like it will in Sunday, in New Orleans.

The #1 seed New Orleans Saints welcome in the #2 Los Angeles Rams to the Mercedes Benz Superdome for the second time this season. Each team possess scary weapons that include Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, and Robert Woods for the Rams and Alvin Kamara. Michael Thomas, and Mark Ingram for the Saints.

In terms of total offense, the Rams ranked 2nd in the league while the Saints ranked 8th. Los Angeles ranked Top 5 in both rushing yards per game and passing yards per game while New Orleans failed to make the Top 5 in either category. On the opposite side of the ball, both teams sat middle of the pack in total defense but New Orleans ranked 2nd in the league for the least amount of rushing yards allowed per game. Both teams have changed since they last met but I don’t think the outcome will change.

In their first matchup, each team went toe-to-toe on offense and New Orleans eventually came out victorious. I see more of the same from Brees and company as they defend their home turf and advance to the Super Bowl (SPOILER ALERT! I believe New Orleans wins the Super Bowl). There are too many weapons to contain on offense for New Orleans and Los Angeles does not have the fire power on defense to keep up. As much as I love Aaron Donald and believe he should be the league MVP, one person on the defensive line is not enough to stop the high powered Saints offense.

In the late game, the #1 seed Kansas City Chiefs welcome in the “underrated” #2 New England Patriots. Does anyone remember the last time New England wasn’t in the AFC Championship game? It was the 2010 season when Pittsburgh hosted the New York Jets. Pittsburgh advanced but ultimately lost to Green Bay. That is beside the point but just a fun trivia fact if you are ever in a bar.

New England has been consistently dominant since 2001 but have had a down year by Patriot standards. On the other side, Kansas City decision to move up the draft and take Mahomes last year makes everyone in that organization look like geniuses. Kansas City was #1 in total offense and had the third best passing offense of any team (best of any playoff team).

However, the downside of both teams lie in their defenses. Both teams ranked in the bottom 12 in the league in total defense while Kansas City was the 2nd worst team in total defense. One thing does set them apart, however, and that is the scoring defense. New England allows a full six points less on average per game than Kansas City and a touchdown, or even a field goal, could very well be the difference in this game. It was in Week 6 when New England beat Kansas City 43-40 in Foxboro.

This game will ultimately come down to coaching. Who comes in with the better schemes, both offensively and defensively, and who makes better halftime adjustments. As good an offensive mind Andy Reid is, I cannot bring myself to trust him late in a crucial game. Another big factor to consider is the weather.

It definitely played a factor last week for Kansas City against Indianapolis, a team that plays in a dome, and for New England against Los Angeles, a team that plays in warm weather. Temperatures are said to get as low as 1 degrees and possibly into the negatives. Tom Brady in games under 20 degrees in his career is 5-1 with the blemish coming in the 2010 Divisional Round game against the Ravens. As bad as New England has looked at times this season, I believe the defense will do its part to hold the Chiefs just enough to where Brady and company can emerge victorious.

There you have it. Kansas City and Los Angeles will be drafting at 29 and 30, respectively, while New England and New Orleans make their way to Atlanta to fight for the Lombardi Trophy. If I am right then I am genius. If I am wrong, then we will have another very entertaining matchup between the Rams and the Chiefs. Enjoy Championship Weekend. This will be one for the history books.