By Saransh Sharma, Rohan Krishnan, & Pranav Thiriveedhi
This NFL Playoffs has had it all. Tom Brady dominating on the biggest stage, this time in the NFC, Aaron Rodgers proving why he is the most talented man to ever play the sport, the Chiefs playing like the defending Super Bowl champions with Chad Henne instead of Patrick Mahomes, and the Buffalo Bills playing like its the 1990s. These 4 teams now face each other for a ticket to Tampa Bay, with history on the line for the Buccaneers, as they could be the first team ever to host a Super Bowl. Here are our predictions for how these Conference Championship Games will go down:
AFC Championship Game: #2 Buffalo Bills @ #1 Kansas City Chiefs
Saransh’s Prediction: One year ago, people were questioning whether Josh Allen was the long-term option for the Bills. He improved quite a bit from his rookie season but still made glaring miscues, and they were most apparent in the Bills’ Wild Card loss to the Houston Texans where they blew a 16-0 lead. Now, Josh Allen is a top-5 QB and is looking to lead the Bills back to the promised land, this time hoping to hoist the Lombardi Trophy instead of watching their opposing team do it, as the Bills did 4 consecutive years (1991-1994).
On the flip side, Kansas City is looking to repeat and will have Patrick Mahomes back from the concussion he sustained, as well as rookie RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who went down with a knee injury in Week 14. Kansas City went 14-2 this season but at times looked like they were coasting too much and letting go of big leads or getting into close games against teams they should have no problems. That also was true against the Browns, as they let a 16-3 lead go, and had Andy Reid not decided to keep the offense out there on 4th down, the Browns could have won that game. Sure, they did not have Patrick Mahomes, but they still let up a bit and gave Cleveland a chance to win the game. Against a QB like Josh Allen, that cannot happen. No one in that secondary can stick with Stefon Diggs, and he and Allen will feast on the Chiefs. Mahomes or not for Kansas City, Buffalo wins. Final Score: 30-23, Bills
Rohan’s Prediction: The biggest question and player of this game is Patrick Mahomes. He has now been cleared to play, but is he truly 100%? He suffered not one but two injuries against the Browns: a foot injury and a concussion. The Chiefs were still able to pull out a victory with Chad Henne, but they will be facing a much better and more composed team this time around. Not only that, the Bills are extremely hot as they just dismantled the Ravens and are on an 8-game winning streak.
Furthermore, they have won all but one of those games by 10 or more points. Their defense is legit and they can certainly handle the dangerous 3-headed monsters of Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce. Josh Allen did not stuff the stat sheet against Baltimore’s tough defense, but he was able to lead the offense down the field and do just enough to give the Bills the victory. Allen should have a smoother ride against the Chiefs defense, and I expect this game to be a shootout. However, it is hard for me to bet against Kansas City as Andy Reid and company always find ways to get it done Even if Mahomes is less than 100%, I think the Chiefs will win in a thriller due to home field advantage and Super Bowl experience. Final Score: 38-35 Chiefs
Pranav’s Prediction: As Saransh mentioned above, Josh Allen was questioned if he could be a franchise quarterback for any team, not just the Bills. Many questioned his size, talent, and awareness, but those many who questioned him will now be watching him play in the AFC Championship from their couches. Josh Allen is legit, and with the newly acquired talents of Stefon Diggs, who seems to have created beautiful QB-WR chemistry with Josh Allen, The Bills have gone from playoff probable to Super Bowl contenders in just one season. On the other side, the Chiefs, led by Mahomes, are the best team in the NFL, possessing a 14-2 record. The Chiefs are your standards for American Football in the NFL. Mahomes will become one of the greatest to ever play, Tyreek is showing the world why it was a mistake for him to be drafted in the fifth round, and Travis Kelce is en route to upping Rob Gronkowski in the record books. There is so much talent on the offense, as well as promising talent on the defense. However, the Bills possess one of the best defenses in the league. The Bills are ready to break more tables on Sunday, and the Chiefs are ready to make their second consecutive visit to the Super Bowl. A great game calls for a great prediction, and I will be calling the Bills to get business done in Kansas City. Final Score: 27-24 Bills
NFC Championship Game: #5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ #1 Green Bay Packers
Saransh’s Prediction: Who would have expected that the first time we would see a Brady-Rodgers playoff matchup would not be in a Super Bowl? Many thought that Tom Brady would never leave the Patriots, and those that did think that the Chargers would be the perfect destination. Being in LA would be great as he often stays there in the offseason, LA has great weather, Hollywood, and so much more. Instead, Brady chose Tampa last spring, shocking the football world, but what has not been as much of a shocker is his playoff greatness, as he is yet again competing for a Super Bowl. Meanwhile, we see Aaron Rodgers leading the Packers to the Super Bowl after the Packers decided to draft a QB in the first round of the NFL Draft this past spring. Who knew that all it would take for Rodgers to play the best football of his career again was to make him mad and think he would be replaced? That is mostly a joke, but you get the idea. Rodgers has established himself with Davante Adams, the best WR in the league, and players like Allen Lazard, Robert Tonyan, and Aaron Jones all stepped up big last week after Adams drew a very tough matchup against Jalen Ramsey. Brady has found himself having a nice rapport with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and of course, his best friend, Rob Gronkowski. Despite that, the team has been a bit shaky in these playoffs despite their wins. In their game against Washington, the defense had lots of trouble stopping Taylor Heinicke, and against New Orleans, their offense did not score a single touchdown except for off turnovers. This team needs to be much more consistent both offensively and defensively to ensure that they can keep pace with this historic Packers offense. Antonio Brown has not been a huge factor for the Buccaneers, but he certainly is a great player who can provide big plays, and for him to be out this Sunday (knee) will loom larger than it seems on paper. This team does not have the secondary to cover Adams and does not have enough balance on offense to keep up with Green Bay. The Brady-Rodgers matchup will be one for the ages, but Rodgers will come out on top. Final Score: 35-31, Packers
Rohan’s Prediction: For more than a decade, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have sat at the top of the league at the quarterback position. On Sunday, we will see these two elite players square off in the postseason for the first time. These two teams have met in the regular season in Week 6 as the Bucs came out on top 38-10. The Tampa Bay defense shut down Aaron Rodgers (160 yards, 2 interceptions) and Aaron Jones (10 carries, 15 yards) en route to a blowout victory. However, things will be different this time around as it will be in Green Bay. The weather is also going to be very cold which works in Green Bay’s favor. The Packers’ offense has improved into a killer machine recently which has also benefited their defense. They simply do not turn the ball over, which helped them hold the highest figure in the league for an average time of possession. Tampa Bay came up with four turnovers against the Saints, so they need to have another multiple takeaway game to control the Packers. This is the toughest opponent Tampa Bay has played in a while and will need to put together their best performance of the season to beat this crazy talented Packers team in the cold. Brady will get it close, but it will not be enough for the Bucs as Green Bay returns to the Super Bowl for the first time in a decade. Final Score: 32-27 Packers
Pranav’s Prediction: We have seen Brady vs. Manning, Brady vs. Brees, and even Brady vs. Mahomes. But now we have the opportunity to see number 12 vs. number 12 in the playoffs, Brady vs. Rodgers. Something football fans have wanted to see for over ten years is coming true this Sunday. The Packers are an incredible team in all aspects on the offensive side. Rodgers is your surefire MVP, Davante Adams is your number 1, league-wide receiver, and Jones is your top 5 running back. Even the secondary on the Packers is scary, with Jaire Alexander. But on the Buccaneers, Brady leads one of the most electric offenses in the NFL, except the Kansas City Chiefs. With so much depth on both sides of the ball, Tampa Bay will surely present an excellent matchup for the Green Bay Packers. We might even witness overtime in this game, as both teams will be dropping points every drive. This is one of the hardest games I will ever have to call, but I know Tom Brady in the playoffs. There is nobody better than him in the playoffs, regardless of who is on the other team. When Manning was the MVP, Brady won. When Mahomes was the MVP, Brady won. Rodgers has presented a historic stat line as one of the greatest to ever play, but he will be facing the greatest to ever play. I will be putting all my money on the table and calling for the Buccaneers to win, which will allow them to host the Super Bowl in February. Final Score: 36-30, Buccaneers