Who Makes It To Superbowl LIII In This Weekend’s Conference Championships?
This weekend sees the two NFL Conference Championships games taking place, with both matches featuring the top two seeded teams in each conference, which has been something of a rarity in recent years.
Last weekend’s Divisional Playoffs saw New England and Kansas City make it through to the AFC Championship game, while in the NFC it was the Los Angeles Rams and top seeds New Orleans Saints who made it through to renew a rivalry that began earlier this season.[featured_offer id=”2416″]
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Let’s preview both these games now by looking at some key factors that could decide the game for both teams.
NFC Conference Championship
Los Angeles Rams @ New Orleans Saints
The first game on Sunday night pits the Los Angeles Rams against the New Orleans Saints in the Louisiana Superdome. The teams met earlier this season, with the Saints winning a real shootout 45-35, inflicting the first defeat of the season on the previously unbeaten Rams. That victory proved crucial as it is the deciding factor in which team plays this game at home, with both teams having a 13-3 record in the regular season.
It is a match between two potent offenses and two coaches with similar offensive outlooks and it should be a cracker to watch for the NFL fan.
Los Angeles Rams Key Players & Staff
- Jared Goff (Quarterback)
- Todd Gurley (Running Back)
- J.Anderson (Running Back)
- Aaron Donald (Defensive Tackle)
- Ndamukong Suh (Defensive Tackle)
- Brandin Cooks (Wide Receiver)
- Marcus Peters (Cornerback)
Coach – Sean McVay
Los Angeles Rams Keys to Victory
- Have balance on offense
There’s no doubt that Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and to a lesser extent C.J.Anderson provide huge threats for the offense against any defense. Add into that the fleet of foot Brandin Cooks and this is a hugely explosive offense that works best when it is balanced. The Rams cannot become over reliant on either Gurley or Goff to win them the game as that will make the Saints defense job that much easier.
- The defensive line must win their battles
Most games in the NFL are won ‘in the trenches’ in the battle between the two lines, offense and defense and for the Rams to have a chance of victory, their defense needs to disrupt Brees rhythm and win their personal battles against their opponents in the Saints offensive line. If they can do that and allow Aaron Donald the chance to get at Brees, the Rams could be in for a good evening.
- Don’t forget the Tight End position
The Rams offense is so explosive in the wide receiver and running back positions, that it is easy to overlook the tight end position. Given the wealth of offensive options New Orleans may offer little protection down the middle, which could be hugely profitable for Goff and his tight end.
- The secondary must be ready for the deep threat
There’s no doubt the Rams secondary gives up too many touchdowns at times and against the Saints offense, that is especially likely. Stopping the deep ball, especially on third down, is going to be key to keep Brees off the field and the Saints scoreline down.
New Orleans Saints Key Players & Staff
- Drew Brees (Quarterback)
- Cameron Jordan (Defensive End)
- Alvin Kamara (Running Back)
- Marshon Lattimore (Cornerback)
- Michael Thomas (Wide Receiver)
- Taysom Hill (Quarterback/Special Teams)
- Ted Ginn Jr (Wide Receiver)
Coach – Sean Payton
New Orleans Saints Keys to Victory
- Give Drew Brees time to play
The Saints offensive line will know that the likes of Donald and Suh will be tasked with ensuring Drew Brees has as little time as possible to find his targets. Saints success could well be built upon ensuring the Rams pass rush doesn’t get to Brees anywhere near as much as it would like.
- Use Kamara and Ingram to establish a viable run threat
Everyone in the world knows that Drew Brees is a huge threat through the air, but to keep the Rams defence honest, the Saints need to establish a viable run threat early in the game, hence I expect to see a lot of work early on in proceedings for Alvin Kamara and Melvin Ingram.
- Throw in the trick plays
The New Orleans Saints turned the tide of the game against Philadelphia with another trick play in the first half, this time a fake point. Taysom Hill is more than a quarterback, he serves a real threat on special teams and on unusual plays to catch out a defense. I would be surprised if Sean Payton does not use Hill in a couple of situations against this Rams defense.
- The Saints defense must turn up big
There was a time when the Saints defense was one of the most mocked in the NFL. They have the respect of their peers now but there is no doubt that this is not a top ranked defense and against this stellar offense of the Rams, the Saints will need every one of their defensive players to perform to a man.
Our Tip – We’re expecting a shootout here and we’re backing the Rams to come up trumps and claim the win. However the best bet may be for the Over 57 points bet, which is a 10/11 shot with bet365.
AFC Conference Championship
New England Patriots @ Kansas City Chiefs
The late game on Sunday is the AFC game which pits top seeds Kansas City against a New England team making their eighth successive appearance in this game, an incredible record that is testament to the legacy that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have built in New England. The teams met earlier in the season in a classic shootout in Foxborough, with New England coming through with a stunning 43-40 victory thanks to a Gostkowski field goal as time expired. Could this game be as dramatic, or will home advantage help the Chiefs more this time around?
Let’s take a look at the key factors in this game for both teams
New England Patriots Key Players and Staff
- Tom Brady (Quarterback)
- Julian Edelman (Wide Receiver)
- Rob Gronkowski (Tight End)
- Sony Michel (Running Back)
- James White (Running Back)
- Devin McCourty (Safety)
- Donta Hightower (Linebacker)
Coach – Bill Belichick
New England Patriots Keys to Victory
- Belichick’s scheme for the game
When it comes to strategy to nullify even the most dangerous of opponents, there has been no greater exponent of the art than Bill Belichick. He may only have a clipboard in his hands, but the New England coach may be their best chance of victory with the scheme he puts together to nullify this Kansas City Chiefs team in front of their own crowd.
- Use their experience
Between them Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have more experience in these games than almost every other player and member of staff in the NFL. That experience could well be utterly crucial in a game like this which I expect to be close and which could be decided by an experienced player making the right decision and an inexperienced one the wrong.
- Stay with the Chiefs in scoring
New England managed to win the game in Foxborough earlier in the season by managing to match the freescoring Chiefs offense. They are going to need to stay in the game and keep the Chiefs within 10 points or so in order to allow them to play a balanced game and expose the weaknesses in the Chiefs defense.
- Brady will have to play exceptionally well
New England’s success is built upon Tom Brady executing the Belichick plan to perfection and that what the self-styled Greatest of All Time has done for many years. He will have to do the same again here for New England to stand a chance of victory, but you know that he will.
Kansas City Chiefs Key Players and Staff
- Patrick Mahomes (Quarterback)
- Tyreek Hill (Wide Receiver)
- Travis Kelce (Tight End)
- Eric Berry (Safety)
- Sammy Watkins (Wide Receiver)
- Damien Williams (Running Back)
- Steven Nelson (Cornerback)
Coach – Andy Reid
Kansas City Chiefs Keys to Victory
- Let Mahomes do his thing
The rookie quarterback has had a stellar first season in the NFL, earning a pro bowl spot and throwing an incredible 50 touchdowns in the regular season. He is unorthodox, exciting and unpredictable and that is what makes him so effective. Let him free to do his thing should be Andy Reid’s first key point to his team.
- Get Tyreek Hill involved as much as possible
There is no defense against pure, unadulterated speed in the NFL and while the Patriots will likely try to clog him up, if the Chiefs can get Tyreek Hill involved as much as possible, then his explosiveness, both on offense and on special teams, could be a key to their eventual success in the game.
- The defense must improve from their last game against the Patriots
Last time out against the Patriots, the Chiefs offense was outstanding but their defense was extremely poor and that allowed New England to snatch the win right at the death. Andy Reid will know every player on defense will need to up their game to improve that. The return of Eric Berry at safety from injury could well help with that.
- Expose the flaws in the Patriots defense
There’s no doubt that this New England defense is not as strong as others have been in the past. Bill Belichick will scheme to take away one or more of the Chief’s main weapons on offense, but that will open up other avenues. If Kansas City are clever enough on offense, then these players, such as the running back duo and receiver Sammy Watkins, could play a huge part in the win by exposing flaws in the Patriots defense.
Our Tip – This should be another classic but I can’t see as many points being scored as in the first game between the teams this season and home advantage sways be towards a Chiefs win. Back the Chiefs to win at -3.0 on the Spread bet option at bet365.