Picking the playoffs
Iím taking a break from discussing politics this week and Iím going to devote this space to something really important: pro football.
I love baseball, but I need to have a rooting interest to watch it on TV. I probably watch 100 or more Chicago Cubs games every season, but I have no interest in a random Rangers-Mariners game on a Tuesday night.
Pro football is different. I donít have a favorite team per se, but I can be entertained by just about any NFL game. Thatís multiplied by about a thousand if itís a playoff game, and Iím especially amped up to see the final three games of this season ó the AFC and NFC championship games this Sunday and the Super Bowl on Feb. 7.
Three of the four starting quarterbacks whose teams are still alive in the playoffs have won at least one Super Bowl title. The NFC Championship Game already promises a matchup of two of the best quarterbacks of all time, and it seems almost destined that the Super Bowl will feature a similar scenario.
Hereís my best guess at how things will shake out. Please keep in mind, I thought Ohio State would beat Alabama, maybe by two touchdowns or more. That was not very bright, but it shows you what I know ó so donít rely on my opinion as advice for any wagering.
First, the NFC. Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady will be playing in his 14th conference championship game and is chasing his seventh Super Bowl title. Of course, itís his first NFC title game appearance after he left the New England Patriots in the offseason. Green Bayís Aaron Rodgers is no slouch himself. Rodgers will likely be voted the leagueís Most Valuable Player and will be playing in his fifth NFC Championship Game. Surprisingly, though, it will be the first time Rodgers has played for an NFC title on his home turf at Lambeau Field.
In my opinion, Brady is the best quarterback of all time and there shouldnít even be a debate. But Rodgers is a better quarterback right now, and playing at home should be an advantage. The biggest variables in this game are likely to be turnovers and the running game. If the Packers turn the ball over multiple times, it will give the Buccaneers a much better chance. And Green Bay running back Aaron Jones could have a huge game if Tampa Bayís defense doesnít pay attention to stopping the run. My best guess? Green Bay 34, Tampa Bay 23.
If there is a quarterback in the league right now capable of one day challenging Brady for the title of the best ever, itís Kansas Cityís Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes was knocked out of last Sundayís divisional playoff game because of a concussion, but he isnít going to miss a conference championship game. The Chiefs will host the Bills, who are led by a talented quarterback of their own in Josh Allen. Buffalo is a team on the rise, but Kansas City is still the best team in the NFL. Everyone knows about the Chiefsí offensive firepower, but they can play a little defense too.
My best guess? Kansas City 41, Buffalo 27.
That will set up a Green Bay-Kansas City meeting in the Super Bowl. Of course, that would be a rematch of the very first Super Bowl, which saw the Packers beat the Chiefs 35-10 on Jan. 15, 1967.
Fifty-four years later, I expect the Chiefs will get their revenge: KC 34, Green Bay 28 in an instant classic.