The NFC and AFC Conference Title Games
Ah, one last chance to come up with a winning football teaser. Unless of course we somehow like something in the Super Bowl besides prop bets, which in my case almost always includes how long it’s going to take to sing the national anthem. Hey, it beats trying to get the coin flip right.
Sunday’s conference title games, one step short of the sport’s ultimate stage, are both rematches. Let’s start with the NFC, which is the opening matchup. The Rams go back to New Orleans, where they lost 45-35 in week nine. It was about what you would expect from those two offenses. But last week each team was just as impressive at stopping the other guy. Go figure.
No visiting team has won a conference final since 2012, when both won (San Francisco at Atlanta, Baltimore at New England). So there is that. The spread in both games is a field goal, which means Vegas makes it pretty much a pick-em. New Orleans came out flat against the Eagles but managed to survive. Barely. I don’t think that’s going to happen again. The Rams got over a hump, after losing their playoff opener last year. But I still give the edge to the Saints in the Superdome. Maybe not by much. But if you tease them down to a slight dog, that would still be enough. The only other time the Saints were the top seed, in 2009, they won the whole thing.
The other game is even more interesting. The Chiefs just won a postseason game for the first time in forever. The Patriots have been winning them ad nauseum since the turn of the century. KC lost by three in Foxboro in mid October, on a field goal at the buzzer after trailing by 15 at halftime. The Chiefs even took the lead with eight minutes to go.
Now they get another shot, at their place. It will be cold, but the Pats are used to that. The Pats were 3-5 on the road this season, which included dropping their last two. One was that last-second miracle pass and run at Miami. The other was at Pittsburgh, where they scored 10 points. Last week they jumped all over San Diego early. This time they’re a rare underdog, and are going out of their way to tell everyone they don’t appreciate being disrespected. Or something like that. The Pats are never the dogs, so you have to take that into account. And this could be the last best chance for Tom Brady. Or maybe he’ll never retire.
The Chiefs have a first-year starting quarterback, although he is going to be the MVP. Andy Reid is 1-4 in this game, 1-2 at home. Eagle fans already knew that. The Chiefs haven’t played in this game since 1993, when Joe Montana was their QB. The Pats are trying to become the first team since the Bills in the early 1990s to go to three straight Supes. Don’t think they’re not aware of that.
This is the 13th AFC final for Brady and Bill Belichick, who will always remain joined at the hip. They’re 8-4. But they’re 2-3 on the road. And those two wins were in 2001 and ’04, both at Pittsburgh. They lost at Indy in 2006, and at Denver in 2012 and ’14. All three of those teams had Peyton Manning. So …
I just think it’s finally Andy’s time. I hope I’m not going with my heart, because that’s the worst thing you can ever do. I would tease both home teams to a slight underdog and hope that the home-field karma holds up for at least one more year. At some point it won’t. That’s how it is with trends. The object is to try and stay ahead of the learning curves.
See you in two weeks.