Red was 2-2 last week losing out on the Ravens and Saints. Red hedged his bet on the Ravens who he picked because he was being true to his pre-season pick of the Ravens to play for the AFC Championship. The same for the Saints who Red thought might make it to one last Superb Owl before the end of the Brees era. No such luck.
Chiefs over Bills – Once again Red stays true to his preseason pick of the Chiefs repeating as NFL Champions. But again, he does not in anyway discount the real possibility that the Bills win this game. And the Bills certainly have a chance regardless of whether Patrick Mahomes plays. Early signs seem to point PM being ready on Sunday. Mahomes has been less steady for weeks with 7 total turnovers since mid-December and he is playing behind a somewhat rickety offensive line. He still has weapons and the Andy Reid/Eric Bienemy combo to pull out the stops. Ask yourself, is there any other coach in the NFL who would have called the play that won the game against the Browns last week? Your opponent had no time outs, less than a minute on the clock and a punt would almost certainly have had the Browns needing to go 80+ yards to win the game. But with a backup quarterback and the season on the line, Andy Reid throws the ball! That’s some cajones. It’s hard not to account for the Reid factor in any close game. And this will likely be a close one. The Bills defense is very good but that unit is not going to shut down the Chiefs like it did the Ravens – even if Chad Henne is at the helm. Red’s hat is completely and thrown into the bullring in salute of what the Bills have done this season and Josh Allen and crew in particular. But Stephon Diggs is going to need a world-class performance to keep the Bills going. At the end, Red thinks that the Chiefs superior run attack wears down the Bills just enough to eke out a win. Kansas City 33 Buffalo 31.
Packers over Buccaneers – Tom Brady’s record in Conference Championship games is pretty darn impressive. Okay there was that interregnum in the Teens when he lost 3 Conference Championship games in 4 years. In the 2012 playoffs he lost to the Ravens and in 2013 and 2015 to the Broncos (there was a SB win tucked in there in 2014). Can you imagine how insanely happy most NFL fans would be with their team playing in a Conference Championship game four years in a row? Anyhow, since that less than spectacular (in the literal sense) period – TB has been not lost a CC game even though the last season at New England was disappointing. Brady’s ability to will his team over the finish line is unassailable. Can he do it with the Buccaneers? Red was surprised at how easy it looked against the Saints – but Brees is simply not the player he used to be and New Orleans’ offensive scheme looked as tired and old as Brees. Meanwhile in Wisconsin, Aaron Rodgers has put together a remarkable season. But the pressure here is Rodgers to burnish his legacy. Expectations are always high in Green Bay and a decade of playoff mediocrity does not sit well. Since winning the Superb Owl after the 2010 season, the Packers have played in three NFC Championship games and lost all three – in 2014 to the Seahawks, 2016 to the Falcons and 2019 to the 49ers. Can this year be different – if not the Rodgers will go down as a playoff choker. Red thinks this is the Packers year. He was admittedly skeptical preseason but the Packers have vanquished most comers – but not the Buccaneers who wiped the floor with them in Tampa in October. That was Rodgers’ worst game of the season with no TDs, 16 for 35 with 160yds passing and 4 sacks. That kind of performance guarantees a loss. Don’t expect a repeat on Sunday. With even an average day the Packers should be good enough to best TB and TB. But don’t expect the TBs to go down easily. This will be another Battle of the Bays nailbiter. Oh and the temperature will be in the 20s with a chance of snow. Please God, let it be a blizzard game (and a night blizzard game at that). Green Bay 24 Tampa Bay 20.