Bing Predicts: NFL Conference Championships
Bing Predicts: NFL Conference Championships
In an NFL season that showcased staggering, record-shattering offensive numbers, it's only fitting that the top four scoring offenses are the four teams remaining as fans enter championship weekend of the playoffs. Who says defense wins championships?
Everything went to chalk in the divisional round: The Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, and Los Angeles Rams all advanced off of their bye weeks. It's only the second time since 2005 that the two top-seeded teams in each conference have moved on to the final four. Each championship game features a rematch from earlier this season.
NFC Championship: Despite finishing the season with identical records, the Saints secured the top seed in the NFC over the Rams because of their 45-35 head-to-head victory at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome back in Week 9. New Orleans will try to keep its pristine 6-0 home playoff record under Drew Brees and Sean Payton unblemished, but will L.A. fall for a second time?
AFC Championship: Playing for a Super Bowl appearance is familiar territory for the Patriots, who are entering their eighth-consecutive conference championship game. They'll hit the road to battle the league's #1 offense and top-seeded squad in the AFC. New England bested Kansas City Week 6 in a 43-40 fireworks display, but that game was played in Foxborough.
Guiding you through every game is Bing Predicts, which leverages search, social, and historical statistics to forecast the week's winners and losers. Read on for championship round predictions.
ALSO: See how Bing predicted the entire season here.
Los Angeles Rams (13-3) @ New Orleans Saints (13-3)
Game time: Sunday, Jan. 20 3:05 PM EST
Historical matchup: Los Angeles Rams lead series 41-34-0
The New Orleans Saints confirmed there will be no repeat Super Bowl champion by taking down the Philadelphia Eagles 20-14 in the only game of the weekend that came down to the wire. Driving in the final minutes of the game, a routine pass from Eagles' quarterback Nick Foles went right through the hands of receiver Alshon Jeffery, resulting in a game-sealing interception for the Saints.
While the Rams, Cowboys was a one-score game, things weren't as close as the 30-22 final score suggests. Los Angeles ran all over Dallas, rushing for a franchise playoff-record 273 yards. New Orleans trailed only the Chicago Bears in yards-per-game surrendered (80.2); however, the Rams and their potent running attack mustered only 92 yards on the ground when these two matched up in Week 9.
Los Angeles trailed by 21 points in the first half of their Nov. 4 meeting but battled back to tie the game at 35 in the fourth quarter before eventually falling 45-35. The Saints' stars shined that evening: Drew Brees had 346 yards passing and four touchdowns while Michael Thomas had 211 yards receiving and a touchdown, and Alvin Kamara added three scores of his own.
If the Rams want retribution in New Orleans, they'll need to establish the run early. Their 139.5 yards-per-game during the regular season was #3 in the league. On the defensive side of the ball, Aaron Donald needs to disrupt Brees. Donald led the NFL in sacks with 20.5, but during the first meeting, no one on the Rams could bring down Brees, who has only been sacked 17 times this season.
Bing Predicts: New Orleans Saints
Bing Predicts Winner: New Orleans Saints (55% chance)
See more on the New Orleans Saints
New England Patriots (11-5) @ Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
Game time: Sunday, Jan. 20 6:40 PM EST
Historical matchup: Kansas City Chiefs lead series 18-15-3
Two AFC divisional round games and two blowouts, the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs made light work of the red-hot Indianapolis Colts 31-13, while the #2 seed New England Patriots took down the Los Angeles Chargers 41-28.
Patrick Mahomes II, who led the NFL this season with 50 touchdown passes, didn't throw one in the victory and didn't need to. He, along with wide receiver Tyreek Hill and running backs Damien Williams and Darrel Williams, all rushed for one touchdown apiece.
The Patriots dominated wire-to-wire in their victory over a Chargers' team that finished tied with the Chiefs for the best regular season record. If not for two meaningless touchdowns by the Chargers late in the fourth quarter, it would have been an absolute massacre.
While the conference championship game is nothing new to the Pats, this is only the second time since the NFL merger that the Chiefs are competing for a chance to reach the Super Bowl. Despite losing the Week 6 matchup 43-40 in New England, Kansas City is slightly favored this time around at home. The Patriots were able to escape the shootout with a victory earlier this season, but they don't want to find themselves in a similar scenario this time around. Controlling the clock, running the ball, and keeping Mahomes off the field will be the key for New England earning its third Super Bowl berth in as many years.