Here are predictions for Sunday’s NFL championship games:
PACKERS (-3.5) over Buccaneers; Over 51.5
The “got there early” Bucs fans who anticipated Tom Brady’s choice of Tampa Bay as his optimal home (with no state income tax long a powerful incentive, one key to richly paid league stars) had sustained faith in Brady’s ability to reach this point in the campaign in one piece and are anticipating considerable potential rewards at this point.
One relevant factor that remains overriding is it became apparent early that Green Bay was going to be a potent NFC favorite, so long as Aaron Rodgers and his key compatriots sustained their solid regular season form to the extent they actually achieved home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
These two significantly popular sides met earlier this season in Tampa, where the Pack jumped out to a 10-point lead but failed to sustain, as Rodgers had a rare off day. The weather conditions will be far more favorable to the Packers and Rodgers this time around, but we’re looking at a projected high in the high 20s, after the primary threat of snow passes Sunday morning. This could be taken as unfavorable to the Bucs, but we’ve seen Brady turn in too many performances in inclement weather to be too apprehensive about backing this underdog for weather reasons alone in this spot.
As good as Tampa’s frontline interior defense can be, they’re up against one of the all-time masters in Rodgers, who employs as quick a passing release as anyone currently seeing meaningful playing time in this league. Brady will need all of that, because this is the Bucs’ third consecutive road game and their fifth in their past six outings, which is why owners and coaches place such emphasis on attaining the comforts of home-field advantage. As for those who would like a projected weather picture:
Green Bay’s offense, which also features RB Aaron Jones, is far better balanced than any of the remaining seasonal survivors. It’s not as if Brady and Tampa are DOA if they get off to another of their relatively slow starts, but Green Bay’s good behavior throughout this season has earned it home field, and we expect the favorite to give Rodgers a clear shot at his second ring.
Pick: Packers, 31-23.
CHIEFS (-3) over Bills; Over 53.5
Concurrent with the drafting and subsequent steady development of QB Josh Allen, hosts of smart football people feel this is strictly Buffalo’s game to lose, despite their road status. There’s considerable justified concern about modern marvel QB Patrick Mahomes, with his ouchy toe issue of even greater concern than his early week restriction under the concussion protocol. Mahomes continued to be limited in practices as late as Thursday but cleared protocol Friday and declared he will play, though concerns linger about the absorption of another critical blow.
The public is infatuated with these Bills, since the season’s second half has largely been a showcase for one standout Allen performance after another, in tandem with his flashy receivers. Impressive quarterback performance is fun to watch, especially when a team fields a stout running game to support it. That said, we will commit to the defending champs at this point for the record, despite their sustained past couple months of close narrow non-covers. When Kansas City is hooked in the late going, they respond, and hold their competition safe … and the performances the Chiefs have been turning in should be good enough to cover Sunday, given the prevailing number, which is more reasonable than the usual tariff on K.C.
We’re wary of the fevered public reverence for the Bills, and though we’re looking to go on tilt chasing an NFL side looking to nail down consecutive Super Bowl titles … we don’t want to commit to the under, given the explosive offensive talents on the field.
Pick: Chiefs, 31-24.
Last week: Sides: 2-2; Over/Unders: 1-3
Playoffs: Sides: 7-3; Over/Unders: 5-5