After the drama this weekend of the Divisional Round games, we now know the four teams that will compete in the penultimate round of games of the NFL season in next weekend’s Conference Championship Games.

The seedings were right for once as both the top seeds in the AFC and the NFC made it through to the Conference Championship game, with Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers hosting the games. The Kansas City Chiefs will face second seeded Buffalo Bills in the AFC Game at Arrowhead, while in the NFC the Green Bay Packers host the fifth seeds Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lambeau Field.

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Let’s now take a quick look back at how the four teams qualified for their respective Conference Championship games through the Divisional Playoff games this past weekend.

NFL Divisional Round Results

  • NFC – Los Angeles Rams 18 – 32 Green Bay Packers

A solid performance by the Packers defence, allied to some superb protection of Aaron Rodgers by the Green Bay offensive line against the top ranked Rams defense was enough to earn the Packers a shot at the NFC Championship next weekend.

Aaron Jones rushed for 99 yards while Jamal Williams added a further 65 on the ground which combined with 296 yards of passing for two touchdowns and no interceptions, was the foundation for the Packers victory.

  • NFC – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30 – 20 New Orleans Saints

Four turnovers killed the Saints against the Bucs, especially late on when the Buccaneers defense picked off Drew Brees with the Saints looking to go back ahead of the Bucs while trailing 23-20. A touchdown resulted from that interception and effectively ended New Orleans hopes, which was then compounded with yet another interception in the Saints final possession.

Tom Brady worked his magic with the Buccaneers offense which was efficient if not spectacular in this game but there was no doubt that this victory was one that the Bucs defense laid the foundation four with those four key turnovers.

  • AFC – Baltimore Ravens 3 – 17 Buffalo Bills

In a game badly affected by the wind, both teams missing two field goals apiece, it was a crucial fourth quarter interception by Taron Johnson, who caught Lamar Jackson’s attempted touchdown pass in the Buffalo End zone and then returned it 101 yards for a vital pick-six.

Both offenses struggled with the passing game in a gusty wind and with both rush offenses also struggling, it was the Bills that prevailed largely thanks to Stefon Diggs touchdown and that crucial interception as the Ravens looked to level the game at 10-10.

  • AFC – Cleveland Browns 17 – 22 Kansas City Chiefs

The Superbowl favourites Kansas City Chiefs hung on to claim the win over the battling Browns, but not before superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes was knocked out of this game, and potentially next week’s Championship decider, due to a concussion.

Chad Henne stepped in and led a crucial final drive which saw the Chiefs land enough first downs to run out the clock, but Mahomes health is now going to be the focus of attention in Kansas City this week as they hope he will be fit enough to play against Buffalo next weekend.

NFC Conference Championship Preview

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Green Bay Packers

Factfile

  • In games where Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have faced off against each other, Brady leads the series 3-1, including a 38-10 victory this season over the Packers in Tampa on Week 6.
  • In matches between the two teams, Green Bay leads by 33 victories to 22, with one game being played to a tie.
  • The Packers have won three of the last four between the teams stretching back to 2011, but the Buccaneers were comfortable winners when the teams met this season.
  • Go back to 2000 and it is actually the Bucs that have the best record winning seven of the 13 games between the two teams to the Packers six.
  • Green Bay are ranked by many as the top offense in the NFL, especially in terms of points/touchdowns scored and interceptions. The Bucs offense is ranked around fifth.
  • In terms of defense, the Bucs are ranked 9th while the Packers are around 15th.
  • The Packers have the advantage in special teams though ranked 9th, compared to 26th for the Bucs.
  • Lambeau Field’s cold weather is a big advantage for the Packers usually but they face Tom Brady, a quarterback who has plenty of experience of playing cold weather games from his time in New England.
  • Tampa are 0-8 against the Packers in cold weather games.

How do we see the game going?

I think weather conditions in Green Bay may make this game more a war of attrition, clock control, and keeping the running game turning over. It also means that in cold weather, the chances of a Tampa win seem to decrease markedly.

However, those Tampa teams did not have Tom Brady and he may be the X-factor that gives the Florida-based team a chance here. Brady has a good record against the Packers, with three wins and just one loss and he is one of the few quarterbacks capable of matching Rodgers point for point in a shootout.

That said, I think it will be the running game and defense that decides this and with the Tampa defense playing very well against the Saints, forcing four turnovers, I think that could be a factor here. This will be a very close one and it is so hard to call but I am just going to go for the Buccaneers to claim a narrow victory. Take Tampa to win at 167/100.

AFC Conference Championship Preview

Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs

Factfile

  • The Chiefs and Bills met earlier this season in Buffalo, the only time that Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen have faced off in the NFL, and the Chiefs came out on top 26-17. Clyde Edwards-Helaire was a big part of that win rushing for 161 yards on the day for he winning team.
  • In all time games between the teams, the Bills have a slight edge winning 26 of the 49 games between the teams. Kansas City has won 22 with one game finishing as a tie.
  • The Chiefs have the better record of the two teams in most recent games. They have met five times since 2013, with the Chiefs winning four of those games.
  • The Bills have only managed to score more than 17 points once in those five games (22 in a 30-22 defeat back in 2015).
  • However, Patrick Mahomes was forced out of the Divisional Round game last weekend with a concussion and he is not certain to play in the AFC Championship game as a result. His participation will depend on how well he recovers throughout the week beforehand and will be assessed by a team of independent doctors.
  • The Chiefs Offense are ranked 1st in many lists while the Bills are ranked around 3rd on the same lists.
  • In terms of Defense, the Chiefs have the 10th ranked defense in the NFL and the Bills have the 15th ranked Defense although it is fair to say both have stepped up their efforts in the post season.
  • The Chiefs also hold the advantage on special teams having the top ranked unit in the NFL, with the Bills ranked 11th.

 How do we see the game going?

This game hinges entirely on Mahomes health. If he is fully fit and plays, I think the Chiefs wil relatively comfortably. If he is not fully fit and plays, it will be much closer but I think the Chiefs will just edge it. But, If he does not play, then I think the Bills will win.

As such, I would suggest you wait to get a definitive report on Mahomes status before you place your bets for this one, even if that means waiting until an hour before kick-off to put your bet on as I think his participation and health will completely shape how this game goes.

I have a gut feeling he will be fit given how we saw him jogging into the locker room after his concussion at the weekend and if he is fit and raring to go, then the Chiefs are the smart pick here to win at 5/8.

*All odds shown were correct with bet365 Sport as of 10.45am on Monday 18th January.

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