by Terri Bey
I am writing this blog with a heavy heart as one of my favorite sports heroes, MLB Hall of Famer Henry “Hank” Aaron passed away today in his sleep at age 86. Aaron is known to most baseball and sports fans for breaking New York Yankees legend and fellow Hall of Famer Babe Ruth’s then home run record of 714 home runs on April 8, 1974 in 1974 in Atlanta, GA by hitting #715. This is important as Atlanta was still considered the “Deep South” and leading up to the big moment, Henry Aaron was receiving 3,000 racist letters a day. Even though Aaron still retains other records, it was the dignity and grace that he carried throughout his quest for #715 that made him a legend and a hero in every sense of the word. He became a part of the Braves front office for over 40 years and has been an inspiration for millions. To me and many others, he is the real home run king. Rest in Peace, Mr. Henry Aaron.
Now, let’s get to the subject of this blog. Last week, the NFL saw the 2020-21 NFC and AFC Divisional Round games. Let’s discuss the games, briefly. I also was a bit under the weather this weekend and missed some of each game, so I had to watch highlights, particularly the two Sunday games. As for my picks, I went 3-1, and only got the Baltimore Ravens vs the Buffalo Bills game wrong. I really thought that the Bills run defense was going to collapse and Ravens QB Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ running backs were going to have a field day. I was wrong. Both defenses kept the scoring low, which I expected, but I have been saying that Lamar Jackson needs to be more proficient at throwing the ball for a long time and also the team needs to get him more weapons. That pick-six Jackson threw was a killer. Bills QB Josh Allen didn’t set the world on fire, but he played well enough to win.
The Green Bay Packers vs Los Angeles Rams game went as I expected. The Los Angeles defense did what they could to keep Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers off the field, but their pop-gun offense did not help them out at all. I was not surprised at the 32-18 win by the Packers. The Cleveland Browns vs Kansas City Chiefs game on Sunday, from looking at the highlights, looked like a game that the Browns could have won. I did see parts of the game. From looking at the highlights, I don’t understand why the Browns didn’t run the ball more. As most of my readers know, during the game, Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes suffered some sort of toe injury and later in the game suffered a concussion, after getting hit, so backup QB Chad Henne had to take over. I was able to watch the last few minutes of the game, so I want to know how on earth was the Browns defense not able to stop backup Qb Chad Henne? We are talking about Chad Henne, a journeyman QB, mind you. The play call by Chiefs head coach Andy Reid to seal the game was awesome, though. I will say that the Kansas City safety Daniel Sorensen got away with a “clear and obvious,” head to head hit that was missed, when Browns WR Rashard Higgens fumbled the ball in the end zone, which was, by rule, called a touchback for the Chiefs. That rule HAS to be changed. Nonetheless, the Browns organization and their fans should be proud. They are definitely set at QB in Baker Mayfield and at head coach in Kevin Stefanski and I see this team being very competitive in the future.
I only saw the first few minutes of the New Orleans Saints vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers game. I watched the highlights and I felt badly for Saints QB Drew Brees, in that this was a terrible way to go out. I know he was battling physical injuries and had just turned 42, but I felt bad as he had given so much to the game and to the city of New Orleans. He, along with head coach Sean Payton, brought that city, battered by Hurricane Katrina, hope and a Super Bowl Title. Whatever decision Brees makes, he will always be a hero to that city. He wasn’t the only one who made errors, though. Sean Payton deserves some blame, too. Why didn’t he use RB Alvin Kamara more? This was a weird decision. WR Michael Thomas was playing hurt, so why not lean on Kamara? WR Jared Cook had the ball punched out, and was not happy. The turnovers killed the Saints in the game.
The Buccaneers played a clean game, as QB Tom Brady threw for 199 yards and 2 TDs. Brady also rushed for a TD. The Buccaneers’ running game was efficient. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles called a very good game. The Buccaneers defense was aggressive. They picked off Drew Brees three times. The kicking game was also efficient. Unfortunately, WR Antonio Brown injured his knee and will not play this weekend.
So, now the Conference Championship games are set for this Sunday, January 24, 2021. The NFC Championship Game will feature the Green Bay Packers vs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the AFC Championship will feature the Kansas City Chiefs vs the Buffalo Bills. In this blog I will preview and give my predictions as to which two teams will be going to Tampa for Super Bowl 55. I hope you enjoy this blog. Feed back is welcome and encouraged.
NFL 2020-21 NFC AND AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION AND PREVIEW
2020-21 NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Green Bay Packers
This game will be played at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI and will air on FOX. Kickoff will be at 3:05pm, EST.
PREVIEW: This should be the best of the two games, considering the two quarterbacks involved, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady. If you look at the four quarterbacks remaining, the Super Bowl match-up, no matter how you slice it, will be a battle of youth (Mahomes or Allen) vs experience (Rogers or Brady). As a woman of a certain age, I am certainly going to be pulling for the QB with the experience.
All jokes aside, we are looking at two pretty evenly matched teams. Green Bay is 5th in offense, while Tampa Bay is 7th. Green Bay is 9th in defense, Tampa Bay has the 6th ranked defense.. Green Bay is 9th in passing and Tampa Bay is 2nd in that category. The only category where there is a huge disparity between the two teams is the Rushing category. Green Bay is 8th, while Tampa Bay is 28th. On paper, this looks like it might be a close game for awhile, until someone screws up.
Of course, they don’t play the games on paper. NFL fans are looking at two quarterbacks who are playing as well as anyone at this point. Aaron Rodgers is the leading candidate for the NFL’s highest honor, the MVP of the league and is playing like one. Despite the prognosticators of doom, Tom Brady has been sensational. I am expecting both to play well.
PREDICTION: Matt LeFleur and Bruce Arians are going to have to out-wit one another. Tampa Bay Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles has to come up with a slightly different game than the last time the two met, when the Buccaneers blasted Rodgers in Tampa during the season, as Rodgers and LeFleur will know what to expect. The Buccaneers secondary must contain WR Davante Adams and must contain Aaron Rodgers or Rodgers will just eat them alive. Buccaneers Rookie Antoine Winfield, JR has been listed as questionable due to an ankle injury, so this injury is one to watch. Some good news for their defense is the activation of their DT Vita Vea. While not having WR Antonio Brown hurts, other guys like WR Scott Miller, WR Mike Evans and TE Rob Gronkowski should help the Buccaneers offense. WR Chris Godwin needs to hold on to some balls as well. Bruce Arians also has to use the run game as well, because snow is expected and it will be cold.
I know this game is in Green Bay and a southern team is going up to the “frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.” I know certain media people have jumped off their picks of Tampa Bay to go to the Super Bowl to pick the Green Bay Packers to win (cough Stephen A. Smith cough). I realize that it is a good chance that the Packers may wind up winning, but an NFL MVP winner has not won the Super Bowl since the St. Louis Rams QB Kurt Warner in 1999, either. I am sticking with my Super Bowl 55 pick to win this game and if I am wrong, so be it.
Winner and NFC Champion: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The 2020-21 AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME:
This game will be played at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO and will air on CBS. Kickoff will be at 6:40PM, EST.
PREVIEW: The good news for the home team is that Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes told reporters that he passed all the concussion tests and will play on Sunday. Of course, the Chiefs have to make the official announcement, but from watching the news reports, it looked like he was going to play. Nothing against Chad Henne, but I think the game would have been terrible with Henne vs Josh Allen.
Like we have in the NFC Championship Game, this game also features two teams who are fairly evenly matched. We have the two teams with the #1 offense (Chiefs) and the #2 offense (Bills). The Chiefs have the #16 defense, while the Bills have the #14 defense. The Chiefs are #1 in passing. The Bills are #3 in that category. Finally, the Chiefs are #16 in rushing, while the Bills are #20 in rushing. The last time these two teams met, the Chiefs won by a score of 26-17 on October 19, 2020. I expect another tight game.
PREDICTION: If there is a team that has a real chance to stop the Chiefs from a possible Super Bowl repeat, it is the Buffalo Bills, in my view. Many times, it is the team that is play the best football that winds up with the Lombardi Trophy and the Buffalo Bills could be that team. Their defense is peaking at the right time. QB Josh Allen is playing well and he and WR Stefon Diggs have great chemistry. Head coach Sean McDermott, however, needs to call a perfect game to out-coach Chiefs head coach Andy Reid.
As we all know, the Chiefs have a team made up of all stars. The Bills have to play lights out to win this game. The Bills have a pretty good secondary, but they will have to have an answer for Chiefs TE Travis Kelce, in particular. Josh Allen is going to have to play the game of his life. As for Patrick Mahomes, it is great that he is playing and will be cleared to play. I guess we will find the answer as soon as he takes the field, but my question concerning him is how effective will Mahomes be? I do expect him to play well, but a concussion is no joke. His toe injury may be a factor also.
I have picked against the Buffalo Bills each weekend and I have been wrong every time. While I think they could prevent Patrick Mahomes and the gang from going to a second consecutive Super Bowl, I don’t think they will I am pretty sure I am going to be right, this time.
Winner and AFC Champion: Kanas City Chiefs.
That is my blog. I hope you enjoyed it. Feedback is below.