Based on their regular season matchups, the AFC and NFC title games will be fun as hell.
Normally, the AFC and NFC Championship games featuring the top two seeds in each conference might seem a bit anticlimactic. All-chalk? Booooring. That’s not the case this year, though. Not only did the Chiefs, Patriots, Saints, and Rams boast the highest-scoring offenses this season, but they’re all fun teams to watch in their own way.
We’re also getting two rematches between the four titans of the 2018 season. Sequels don’t always match the excitement of the originals, but there’s reason to be hopeful for this weekend — especially since the first time these teams played it left us clamoring for more. Whether you like offensive firepower or a bizarre rivalry between a player and a coach, Conference Championship Weekend should live up to the hype.
Here’s one reason in particular we wanted these teams to meet again — and why we’re looking forward to each of Sunday’s big games.
Like points? Hello, Chiefs-Patriots Vol. 2
In Week 6, the Chiefs gave the Patriots all they could handle in an offensive explosion that almost resulted in a loss at THE Gillette Stadium — a place where the Patriots have won 16 straight games. It would’ve been the best games of the season had the Chiefs and Rams not played in what legitimately was one of the best NFL games of all time.
Youngsters like Patrick Mahomes (352 yards, four touchdowns) and Sony Michel (106 rushing yards, two touchdowns) played out of their minds, but it was 41-year-old Tom Brady who led a seven-play, 65-yard drive to get the Patriots in position for the game-winning field goal.
That 43-40 Patriots win included:
- Three touchdown passes to Tyreek Hill — one was a 75-yard pass to tie the game at 40 with three minutes left.
- Rob Gronkowksi taking a short pass and running 42 yards to put the Patriots in field goal range.
- A 4-yard touchdown run by Tom Brady where a Chiefs defender had Brady wrapped up for a sack before letting him go to avoid a penalty.
- A 97-yard kickoff return by the Chiefs.
- A 39-yard deep pass to Gronkowski to set Stephen Gostkowski up for the 28-yard game-winner.
The second matchup might not end in 83 combined points, but there should be healthy amount of touchdowns again. According to Bill Connelly’s advanced numbers, both offenses have considerable advantages in this one — particularly when it comes to creating big plays against defenses that struggle to stop big plays.
The Chiefs happen to be the best team in the league that generating big plays.
There are two key differences regarding these offenses than the last time that they played. The Patriots will be without Josh Gordon, who caught five passes for 42 yards on nine targets in the first matchup. The Chiefs don’t have Kareem Hunt, who had 15 touches for 185 yards and a touchdown.
Even with those losses, both offenses have still remained extremely effective. The Chiefs replaced Hunt with Damien Williams. Over the past four games, Williams has rushed for 322 yards and four touchdowns as he shoulders a larger role in the offense.
The Patriots have leaned heavily on Michel and their rushing game since the loss of Gordon. In the past three games, Michel has rushed for 295 yards and four touchdowns, including a three-touchdown performance against the Los Angeles Chargers in a dominant 41-28 win in the Divisional Round.
With the amount of talent that both of these teams have on offense, no one should be surprised to see these teams put together another thriller of a game with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. It’s Mahomes vs. Brady for the right to represent the AFC in Atlanta — how much more fun can that be?
Marcus Peters vs. Sean Payton is one of the budding rivalries in the NFL
The biggest story of the rematch between the Rams and the Saints isn’t two of the best offenses going toe-to-toe. It isn’t getting to see Aaron Donald throw around offensive linemen again. It isn’t even Michael Thomas potentially outdoing his cellphone celebration from the first game.
The most important aspect of this game is the mini-rivalry between Saints head coach Sean Payton and Rams cornerback Marcus Peters.
After the game, Payton said that Thomas vs. Peters was a matchup that they were looking forward to going into the game.
“That was the plan,” Payton said, via the Los Angeles Times. “They were going to travel Marcus to him, and that was fine by us. We thought we really liked that matchup — a lot.”
Peters didn’t take kindly to Payton’s comments after the game and said that they were going to eat a bowl of gumbo together after the next time they played each other.
“Tell Sean Payton keep talking that shit, we’re going to see him soon,” Peters said. “You feel me? I liked what he was saying on the sidelines too. So I’ll tell [him] ‘Keep talking that shit and I hope you see me soon. You feel me? And then we’re going to have a nice little bowl of gumbo together.”
Peters, a former first-round pick of the Chiefs, struggled with injuries and poor play early this season. Now he has a chance to redeem himself on one of the largest stages football has to offer against a team that intentionally picked on him in their previous game.
For what it’s worth, Peters has played a lot better since the first game against the Saints.
QBs targeting Marcus Peters in Weeks 1-9:— Adam Stites (@AdamStites_) January 15, 2019
34 of 47, 591 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT, 145.2 passer rating
QBs targeting Marcus Peters in Weeks 10-17:
17 of 28, 149 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 45.1 passer rating
And now the Rams have Aqib Talib back, which has been a massive boost to their pass defense. Talib missed the first Saints-Rams game with a high ankle sprain.
Peters made it clear that he doesn’t expect the Rams to lose this time around:
He also teased some gumbo content in tweets that have since been deleted.
Rams CB Marcus Peters, in a since-deleted Tweet. Gumbo week. pic.twitter.com/sCp6Msv3wL— Lindsey Thiry (@LindseyThiry) January 14, 2019
Peters and Payton downplayed their little “rivalry” earlier this week, but once the game kicks off the trolling will likely continue.