NFL Conference Championship Preview Podcast - 19 January 2021
The NFL conference championships are upon us and our experts, Bob and Ben Dunkel, take a look at both matchups in this week’s Dunkel Index podcast.
Here’s how the team breaks it down:
TAMPA BAY AT GREEN BAY
Just another conference championship in the HOF career of Tom Brady. This will make No. 14 for TB12, but his first in a uniform other than the New England Patriots. He’s looking for ring No. 7 in his attempt to get to SB 55.
Aaron Rodgers makes his first appearance at Lambeau Field in the NFC Championship. When they won SB 45, the Packers did it as a wild card.
It’s been a satisfying year for both QBs. Brady has proven he can win at a high level without Bill Belichick on the sideline. And Rodgers played with a chip after the Packers drafted Jordan Love and had an MVP-caliber season.
The Buccaneers dominated, 38-10, when the two teams met in Week 6. But as we saw with New Orleans regular season dominance over Tampa Bay, that can be discarded during playoff time.
Tampa Bay finished with the No. 28 rushing offense and can get too focused on Brady’s ability to sling it to super wideouts Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown. When they beat the Pack, the got a solid game out of Ronald Jones (113 yards, 2 TDs).
The Packers have been more balanced while registering the No. 1 scoring offense in the league this year. Their No. 8-ranked rushing offense gashed the top-ranked Rams defense in the divisional round for close to 200 yards on the ground behind Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. Of course, when the Pack have to turn to the passing game, they have Rodgers and the No. 9 ranked passing attack to call on. Green Bay found a way to get Davante Adams open against LA’s Jalen Ramsey and should be able to do the same against Tampa Bay’s young secondary that ranked only No. 21 against the pass during the regular season.
The Bucs finished 2nd in passing offense, but Green Bay’s pass defense was no slouch, finishing ranked No. 7. Pressure from Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith will be a key to keeping Brady and the wideouts in check.
The Bucs are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 January games; Packers are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 playoff home games.
Dunkel’s Pick: Green Bay (-3.5).
BUFFALO AT KANSAS CITY
The defending champion Chiefs haven’t always looked sharp, but they return to their third straight AFC championship game. Overall, it’s KC’s sixth straight trip to the playoffs.
Kansas City’s 22-17 win over Cleveland was marred by QB Patrick Mahomes head and neck injury, which forced Chad Henne in at QB down the stretch. Early indications are that Mahomes will play this week.
Ironically, like the Packers and Bucs, these two teams also faced each other in Week 6. The Chiefs took that game. 26-17.
Kansas City’s defense had some trouble with Cleveland’s running game, but does not face the same kind of threat from a Buffalo attack that managed only 32 yards on the ground against Baltimore in the divisional round. The loss of rookie Zack Moss (ankle) for the season will hurt the Bills attack.
The Chiefs did have success on the ground against Buffalo in the first matchup, rushing for 245 yards with Clyde Edwards-Helaire getting 161. There’s a chance he can play in this week’s contest. Overall, Buffalo’s No. 17-ranked defense against the run opens some opportunities for a team that can mix it up more than the run-happy Ravens.
Both teams should be able to move the ball through the air as Buffalo’s No. 3 passing offense faces KC’s No. 14 pass defense, while the Chiefs No. 1 ranked passing offense faces the Bills’ No. 13 pass defense. Against Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson, Buffalo should have a much harder time than it did against Baltimore’s passing game.
This is a matchup of the mentor, Andy Reid, against the mentee, Sean McDermott. While McDermott continues to be a rising star, the veteran Reid has been pushing all the right buttons since taking over at KC.
The Bills are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games versus the Chiefs; KC is 5-2 ATS in its last 7 home games versus a team with a winning road record. And while KC is 1-7 ATS in its last 8 games as a favorite, most of those lines have been over a TD. This one looks much more reasonable.
Dunkel’s Pick: Kansas City (-3).