This Sunday the road to the Super Bowl continues when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers face off against the Green Bay Packers for the NFC Championship and the Buffalo Bills take on the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC Championship. What can you expect to see this weekend? Our NFL Conference Championships preview guides you through the actions.
NFL Conference Championships 2021 preview
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Green Bay Packers (Sunday, 20:05, Sky Sports)
The road to Tampa continues this Sunday and it kicks off from 8pm with the NFC Championship game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Green Bay Packers. Playing for the George Halas Trophy at Lambeau Field, the game sees Tom Brady (the quarterback with the most post-season wins in NFL history) take on the franchise with the most world championships in the Green Bay Packers.
This is the first championship game for the Buccaneers since the 2002 season, when they went on to win Super Bowl XXXVII. Whereas the Packers are making their second consecutive appearance.
Historically, the Buccaneers and Packers were division rivals in the NFC Central between 1977-2001 But this is only their second postseason matchup. Their last postseason meeting was the 1997 Divisional playoffs. Where Green Bay won 21-7.
Looking at the season, the teams last met in Week 6. It was a game which the Buccaneers won 38-10, which they will take confidence from, but the Packers will have also learnt not to make the same mistakes. That said, the Packers can feel good about the fact they hold a 33-22-1 all-time series advantage (including the postseason).
Head Coaches: Bruce Arians vs. Matt LaFleur – This is Arians second season at the helm of Tampa Bay. He guided the team to its first franchise playoff berth in 13 years and their first postseason victory since that 2002 Super Bowl season. He also led the Arizona Cardinals to the NFC Championship Game in 2015. He is now the 12th Head Coach since the league merger in 1970 to take multiple franchises to a conference Championship Game. Whereas LaFleur is the sixth individual Head Coach since the league merger in 1970 to reach the conference Championship Game in each of his first two seasons as an NFL head coach.
Quarterbacks: Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers – This week, Brady is expected to make his 14th start in a conference Championship Game. In Tampa Bay’s 30-20 Divisional victory at New Orleans, Brady threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, becoming the oldest player in NFL history to score a postseason touchdown. Brady has the most postseason games played (43), wins (32), passing yards (11,968) and passing touchdowns (77) of any player in NFL history. On the other side, Aaron Rodgers passed for 296 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions for a 108.1 passer rating in the Divisional round, marking his eighth consecutive postseason game with multiple touchdown passes. He (12 career postseason games) is one of four players in history with at least 10 postseason games of 250-or-more passing yards and two-or-more touchdown passes. Rodgers is expected to make his fifth career start in a Championship Game, but his first at home. He led the NFL with a career-high 48 touchdown passes this season, and also led the NFL with a 121.5 passer rating, the second-highest single-season mark by a quarterback in NFL history, trailing only his 122.5 rating in 2011. He enters Sunday’s game having thrown a touchdown pass in 15 consecutive postseason games, the fourth-longest streak in NFL history.
In terms of who takes the victory here? It’s so tough. Both have proven themselves. Brady set off on his mission at the start of the season to prove he can win without Belichick. I’d personally love to see the Bucs go on to the Super Bowl, but something tells me that Green Bay takes the victory here so they are the first pick in the NFL Conference Championships preview.
Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, 23:40, Sky Sports)
At 11:40pm it is over to the AFC Championship for the second game in our NFL Conference Championships preview, between the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs. Playing for the Lamar Hunt Trophy at Arrowhead Stadium, the game sees the top two seeds in the conference face off. Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, (concussion protocol and recovery permitting) could become just the second pair of opposing quarterbacks under the age of 26 to start a conference Championship Game.
For Buffalo, this is their first Championship game since the 1993 season (when they defeated the Chiefs to advance to Super Bowl XXVIII). Whereas Kansas City will become only the second team in NFL history to host three consecutive Championship Games, joining the 2002-04 Philadelphia Eagles, who were also led by head coach Andy Reid.
Looking at the history of this match-up, the Bills and Chiefs meet in the postseason for the fourth time, and first time in Kansas City, with Buffalo winning two of the three previous matchups. This Sunday marks their 50th all-time meeting, including the postseason, between the clubs. Buffalo holds a 26-22-1 advantage in the series. The teams last played in Week 6 (Oct. 19), with the Chiefs winning, 26-17, at Bills Stadium.
Head Coaches: Sean McDermott vs. Andy Reid – McDermott has led the Bills to the playoffs in three of his four seasons as Head Coach. He is very familiar with Reid’s style, having worked together for 12 years on the Eagles’ staff. Whilst this is McDermott’s first Championship Game appearance as a head coach, he brings to this his experience having coached in five conference Championships and two Super Bowls. Reid on the other side makes his eighth conference Championship appearance as a Head Coach.
Quarterbacks: Josh Allen vs. Patrick Mahomes – Allen completed 23 of 37 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions for an 86.1 rating in Buffalo’s 17-3 Divisional playoff win over Baltimore last week. In the week before, Allen became the first player in NFL history to pass for at least 300 yards with a completion percentage of 70 or higher and rush for 50-or-more yards in a postseason game. Allen during the regular season had 4,544 passing yards with 37 touchdown passes and eight rushing touchdowns, becoming the first player with at least 4,500 passing yards, 35 touchdown passes and five rushing touchdowns in a single season in NFL history. On the other side, Mahomes completed 21 of 30 attempts for 255 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions for a 106.9 rating, and rushed for a touchdown, in the Divisional victory over the Browns. He ranks as the NFL’s career leader among qualified players in both regular-season passer rating (108.7) and postseason passer rating (106.6), with a minimum of 150 attempts. Plus, if he were to start on Sunday, Mahomes can become the 12th quarterback since the league merger in 1970 to start three consecutive conference Championship Games and the first to accomplish the feat prior to his 26th birthday.
In terms of how I see this game going? I think much of it depends on Mahomes. It wouldn’t shock me at all if the Chiefs won this game, they’ve been incredible all season, and have been for a few years now. I would however really love for the Bills to win, as I think they’ve had the biggest glow up this season and they truly deserve it. So I’ll take them as my second pick in the NFL Conference Championships 2021 preview.
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