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NFL Playoff Picks 2019: Conference Championships

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The road to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta is nearly complete.  Let’s take a look at the 2019 NFC and AFC Championship Games to see who will ultimately move on to Super Sunday!

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints earned a heart-racing win over Philadelphia last week, continuing the Saints’ Super Bowl hopes and putting Who Dat Nation in position to celebrate on the best weekend in sports, NFL Conference Championship weekend. Now they host the Los Angeles Rams for the right to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl!

The NFL’s final four take the stage to determine who moves on to Super Bowl LIII. The NFC title matchup features the two best teams in the conference all season, while the AFC title matchup features the highest-scoring team in the league against the two-time defending conference champions. With the Super Bowl on the line, we will see these teams give all they have!

Last week I went 3-1

I told you so: Patriots over Chargers!

What do I know: Colts over Chiefs?

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS

#2 Los Angeles Rams at #1 New Orleans Saints

Sunday, January 20th - 2:05pm CST - FOX

The Saints will represent the NFC in Super Bowl LIII on February 3rd.

Drew Brees and Sean Payton are 6-0 all-time at home in the playoffs, a record that is crucial at this point. Homefield advantage, which the Saints will take full advantage of this Sunday, is paramount in the NFC Championship. There is a clear precedent for the importance for homefield advantage in this game. Home teams have won the last five NFC title matchups. Simply look at the past three NFC Championship Games to see the impact for the home team:

2016 NFC Championship: Carolina 49 - Arizona 15

Arizona had the NFL’s top-ranked offense and ranked 2nd in the NFL in points. They mustered just 15 points in a 35 point loss on the road.

2017 NFC Championship: Atlanta 44 - Green Bay 21

Green Bay was 4th in the NFL in points and were led, as always, by Aaron Rodgers who had a career performance the week before in Dallas. Rodgers and company lost by 23 points on the road, in a game they trailed by 31 points in the 3rd quarter.

2018 NFC Championship: Philadelphia 38 - Minnesota 7

Minnesota had the NFL’s top-ranked defense and ranked 1st in the NFL in fewest points allowed. The Vikings were even granted a “miracle” the week before, but what did that get them, other than this lopsided beating. They lost by 31 points on the road in a game they gave up 38 consecutive points after scoring the first touchdown on the road.

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As these last three years have proven, when you are at home in the NFC Championship, you have a significant advantage, no matter how good the opponent, how outstanding their offense, or dominating their defense. Each of these games were predicted by experts and analysts to be close games, yet look at those results.

A two game bias is clouding the popular opinion of this game. The Rams shut down Dallas’ offense and ran all over their defense, clearly they are the dominant team this week. The Saints struggled to beat the #6 seed and failed to score 48 points like the last meeting. This is a team clearly on a steep decline. These are the prevailing “hot takes” circulating as the week of overanalyzing had dragged on. The Saints are not judged on wins, grit, or efficiency, they are judged on style points. Just because the Saints didn't score style points last week doesn't mean this team is incapable of making a definitive statement against a very good opponent.

If there was a time to be wary of Sean Payton’s Saints, it’s a situation like the Philadelphia game a week ago. When they are facing a team they dominated by 41 earlier in the year, a team they were huge favorites against, a team many suggested were lucky to even have made the playoffs. Those are the games you see the slow starts. Despite it all, the game was won, the offense ground Philly into submission, and the defense dominated for the final three quarters of the game. This is not a team “on the decline” but one that can win in more ways than about any team remaining.

If there is ever a time to ride with Sean Payton’s Saints, it’s a situation like this Sunday. When they are facing a team they have been positioned with atop the standings all season long. A team many consider the best in the league, and a team supposedly primed to win on the road. The Saints thrive in these situations, in the Superdome, and have come away so many times with not just a win, but a statement. This Sunday will be the Saints statement.

Scoff if you like, but the Saints will not be denied. No, this game will not be like their regular season matchup. There will be no Rams comeback, no rally. You know those Saints games in the Superdome we’ve all seen, those games where everything is clicking, and the opponent almost doesn't matter? This will be one of those performances. This will be a dominant home performance by the Saints, just like the past three NFC title games. Homefield means everything. This moment is why the Saints fought so hard this season to secure it. The Superdome and the fans within it will make all the difference in the world.

Pick: Saints

Final Score: 42-17

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#2 New England Patriots at #1 Kansas City Chiefs

Sunday, January 20th - 5:40pm CST - CBS

The Chiefs against arguably any other team in the AFC would be overwhelming favorites in this game, but there's something about the Patriots. New England is always here, always in this position. For eight consecutive years now, the Patriots are in the AFC Championship Game.

A huge factor in this game, much like the NFC title game, is homefield advantage. Just like the NFC, home teams have won the last five AFC title matchups. This will be the first-ever AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium, and the home crowd will be a huge factor for the Chiefs. As great as New England has been in AFC title games, most of their success in the Brady/Belichick era has taken place at home. Tom Brady is 2-3 all-time in the AFC Championship Game on the road, including 0-2 during this eight-year stretch.

Temperatures in the low 20’s won't be a major factor for either team as they are both cold-weather towns, but crowd noise working for, rather than against, the young quarterback, will be a huge factor for Kansas City. If this game were at Gillette Stadium, it would still be close, but New England would likely be the play, but it's not.

This will be a very thrilling game. The veteran, future Hall-of-Fame quarterback, Brady will not be shaken or affected by the hostile environment, but the young, inexperienced quarterback Patrick Mahomes will be lifted by it. This will come down to the very end, and Kansas City will get the late score to send them to the Super Bowl for the first time since the late, great Hank Stram matriculated down their sideline.

Pick: Chiefs

Final Score: 34-32

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Well, there you have it ladies and gentlemen, your potential conference champions! The Saints are one win away from the Super Bowl! Leave us your picks, insight, and comments below!