The cream rises……

The Championship game line up is complete and in both the AFC and NFC it is the No 1 seed versus the No 2 seed. The pretenders to the throne have been vanquished and the dominant sides in the respective conferences will now face off. As a reminder we have:
AFC Patriots @ Chiefs
NFC Rams @ Saints

For both fixtures they have already had a regular season matchup, which adds a little spice to the games, as if they needed it.
AFC Kansas visited New England in week 6 and came up just short 40-43, as Tom Brady was given 3 minutes to engineer one final drive to set up the game winning 28yd field goal. Let’s not forget 30 4th quarter points and approaching 1000 yards of total offense too. Granted playoff football is a little different to a week 6 matchup, particularly when a place in the Super Bowl is at stake – however, I think we can all agree this will not be dull.
In order to secure their places both the Chiefs and Patriots took the Colts and Chargers apart. In both games the result was not in doubt by halftime. For me the difference was that the Chiefs have individual talent in Pat Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce which suit their RPO based offense, whereas the Patriots have a set of players able to execute highly sophisticated offensive gameplan. Their experienced offensive pieces – Brady, Gronk, Edelman, James White – are completely at ease with the plans from Josh McDaniels &co. Plenty of defensive talent too and it was particularly impressive to see the Patriots plan, which at times borrowed from the Ravens (certainly early on).
NFC Well, for the first quarter it looked like the Eagles and Nick Foles were going to take this one away from the Saints in the Super Dome. The Eagles looked like defending champions and the Saints were nervous, jittery, including Brees their veteran QB. Then a big momentum swing with Lattimore’s interception and Taysom Hill on the 4th and 1 fake punt. What could have been 17-0 or even 21-0 became 14-7 – even then using another gutsy 4th and goal play. From there on in the Saints defense stonewalled the Eagles as the offense devoured the clock (11 minute drive which basically was the 3rd qtr!) and gradually took a 14-20 lead. The Eagles still had an opportunity at the end of 4th qtr to comeback but by now they looked spent which was demonstrated in Alshon Jeffery’s missed catch which fell straight to Lattimore for his 2nd INT.

In the Rams – Cowboys game the Rams D put the brakes on Zeke early with Dallas struggling to move the ball downfield consistently. Conversely the Rams marched up and down the Coliseum with +100yd games for both Todd Gurley and CJ Anderson. This dominance set up an unassailable 15-30 lead in the 4th qtr – game over.

So Rams @ Saints – that was dull in regular season right?? NO 45-35 LA….

A quick word for the teams exiting at the ‘Elite 8’ stage – as noted earlier it felt like the Colts and Chargers never stood a chance, both got behind early and looked second best. The Cowboys got beat at their own game and the Eagles (and Nick Foles) rollercoaster ran out of steam. One point of note is 3 of those teams (Eagles, Colts and Cowboys) looked dead and buried and various points of regular season and they should be an example to other teams next season that you play hard all 16 games and you can be rewarded with a shot at the title in January. However, when you get this close the cream really does seem to rise to the top – bring on the Championship games!

What do I think? Well I backed a Chiefs v Saints Super Bowl match up at the start of the playoffs so let’s stick with that but hey anything could happen!

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