NFL Championship weekend preview

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By  Kunchaka Fonseka and Zachary Fisher, Sports Editor and Staff Writter

This weekend, two NFL championship game matchups will determine who duels it out for the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta. The final four teams who will play are the Chiefs, Patriots, Saints and the Rams.

The first two teams to square off for a place in Super Bowl 53 are the first-place Kansas City Chiefs and the second-place New England Patriots in the AFC championship game. In what meteorologists are calling an “arctic blast,” temperatures for this game in Arrowhead Stadium in Missouri could range from 10 degrees to 20 below zero, which would make it the coldest game ever at this open stadium. Usually, road teams entering both this brutal weather and deafening fans in Kansas City face slim odds against the likely MVP in Patrick Mahomes and all the firepower the number one ranked offense in the league has. However, the visiting team is the Patriots, led by arguably the greatest quarterback and coach of all time: Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, respectively. In spite of this duo’s greatness, this is only the seventh time the Patriots are going into a playoff game as underdogs. This is likely because the Patriots held their worst road record at 3-5 since the 2009 season during which Tom Brady had just returned from a torn ACL. But remember: the Chiefs are known for choking in the playoffs and were 1-4 under Andy Reid leading into this postseason. The last time these teams played, in week six, the Patriots won on a last-second field goal with a score of 43-40. Expect a similarly high scoring and competitive game.

On the other hand, in the NFC Championship game, the stage is set for a barn-burner as the first-place Saints are hosting the second-seeded Rams. This game will feature the league’s second and third highest scoring offenses. These high-powered offenses were highlighted in the Saints’ week nine victory over the Rams when the two teams combined for 80 points. The Saints won by a score of 45-35 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, their home stadium, where they have been nothing short of spectacular, winning 7 of their 9 home appearances this season. Meanwhile, the Rams’ starting quarterback Jared Goff has struggled to play on the road throughout his young career. This season in particular, Goff’s passer rating dropped from a 116.7 at home to an abysmal 82.7 on the road. Additionally, the Rams have been without their star slot receiver Cooper Kupp since week 11 due to an ACL sprain. Kupp is a key cog in the Rams’ offensive unit and is one of Goff’s favorite targets. Once again, we see a dip in Goff’s passer rating (107.9 in games Kupp plays and 94.9 in games Kupp misses). Despite this, the Rams have arguably the greatest amount of talent and big-time personnel of the remaining four teams. From Ndamukong Suh to Aaron Donald to Brandin Cooks, the Rams will pose a threat to the Saints, who have been sliding in terms of production in the past few weeks.

Both these games feature too many home-run hitters to miss and may very well come down to a few plays.  The last time that the number 1 and number 2 seeds have made it to the conference championship in both conferences was 2004, so expect to see the best four teams in the NFL duke it out. Catch America’s game on CBS on Sunday in a doubleheader starting at 1:00 PM.

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