The Saints, Rams, Patriots and Chiefs clash tomorrow with the winners earning a trip to Super Bowl 53 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on February 3 at approximately 5:30 PM CT. Gladys Knight will sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl. I wish she’d add Midnight Train to Georgia right afterwards. Maroon 5 will perform at halftime. So good acts, hopefully good commercials and great football.
But first, we have to find out which 2 teams will advance. The Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints have identical records at 14-3. They played in the regular season at the Superdome with the Saints winning, 45-35. The home field is huge in these championships as both teams feature 2 of the best 3 home fields in football along with the Seattle Seahawks. Arrowhead Stadium registers around 3.0 on the Richter Scale at times, good for a minor earthquake. The Superdome can get just a loud with fans streaming in from the Quarter to pull on their beloved Saints. The Patriots and Chiefs met in the regular season with Tom Brady just outlasting the sensational Patrick Mahomes, 43-40. So these 4 teams matchup extremely well competitively, and should provide an electric Sunday afternoon and evening.
Here’s a look at both games along with predictions for which teams will advance to Super Bowl LIII.
Last week: 2-2
Los Angeles Rams (13-4) @ New Orleans Saints (13-4)
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, 74,295
2:05 PM CT
Joe, Troy, Erin, Chris Myers
Laundry, Bill Vinovich
Saints by 3
If it wasn’t for Patrick Mahomes’ terrific season, Drew Brees would win the Most Valuable Player Award in the NFL. Brees has been phenomenal completing 364 of 489 passes, 74%, for 3,992 yards, 32 TDs against just 5 ints. At 40 years old, he just turned 40 on Tuesday, Brees is drinking from the same fountain of youth that 41 year old Tom Brady is drinking from. Both play like 25 year olds with the wisdom of 40 year olds. He’s got some serious weapons in his arsenal. Michael Thomas has 125 receptions for 1,405 yards and 9 TDs. The great Alvin Kamara has rushed for 883 yards and 14 TDs, and caught 81 passes for 709 yards and 4 TDs. Mark Ingram adds 645 yards and 6 more TDs. And there are other receivers who have developed as Tre’Quan Smith has 28 receptions for 427 yards and 5 TDs. Keith Kirkwood has come on lately with 13 receptions for 209 yards and 2 TDs. And Ted Ginn, who battled injuries this season, caught 17 passes for 209 yards and 2 TDs. Ginn is the deep threat many times. He runs like a gazelle. The Saints defense is led by linebacker Demario Davis, who has posted 110 tackles and 11 tackles for loss. The secondary is excellent led by superstar corner Marshon Lattimore, who has 4 ints on the season. Will Lutz is a tremendous kicker converting on 28 of 30 field goals this season.
For the Rams, the offense is electric as well. Quarterback Jared Goff has completed 364 of 561 passes, 65%, for 4,688 yards, 32 TDs against 12 ints. If Goff has time, he can be extremely effective. The great Todd Gurley, another candidate for the MVP, has rushed for 1,251 yards and 17 TDs. C.J. Anderson came in late this season as he was picked up off waivers and rushed for 299 yards and 2 TDs. Anderson rushed for 123 yards last week against the Cowboys along with 2 TDs in a 30-22 victory. Gurley added 115 yards and another 7. Gurley also has 59 receptions for 580 yards and 4 TDs. Robert Woods leads the Rams in receiving with 86 receptions for 1,219 yards and 6 TDs. The explosive Brandin Cooks, a former Saint, has 80 receptions for 1,204 yards and 5 TDs. On defense, another MVP candidate, defensive tackle Aaron Donald, leads the NFL with 20 1/2 sacks. He’s a sacking machine. Linebacker Corey Littleton leads the defense in tackles with 125. Strong safety John Johnson adds 119. Johnson also leads the team in interceptions with 4. Cornerback Marcus Peters has 3 ints for 107 yards and has taken one back for a house call. With Peters and Aquib Talib, the Rams feature 2 of the best corners in the NFL, though the Saints have a say in that too with Lattimore and Eli Apple. Kicker Greg Zuerlein has converted 27 of 31 field goal attempts.
Final Analysis and Decision
These 2 teams are evenly matched in explosive playmakers, so there should be a ton of electricity in the Superdome. I really like the Saints home field. I like Drew and the Saints to advance behind a passionate crowd in the Crescent City.
Saints 34, Rams 30
New England Patriots (12-5) @ Kansas City Chiefs (13-4)
Arrowhead Stadium, 76,416
5:40 PM CT
Jim, Tony, Trace, Evan Washburn, Jay Feely
Suds and Duds, Clete Blakeman
Chiefs by 3
It’s going to be brisk in KC with temperature at kickoff at 25 with the real feel 14. The wind will be 13 and 10 in the first half, but then will settle down to 8 and 6 in the second half. This is a matchup of the all time standard for quarterback play in Tom Brady versus a superstar newcomer in Patrick Mahomes.
For the Patriots, Brady is 375 of 570, 66%, for 4,355 yards, 29 TDs against 11 ints. Some people said during the season that Brady had lost a step, and he has thrown more interceptions than usual, but last week against the LA Chargers he was 34 of 44 for 343 yards, 1 TD and 0 ints in the Patriots 41-28 victory, which they led 35-7 at halftime and gave up some late TDs when it didn’t matter. He kind of put that myth to rest. Sony Michel has been terrific in his rookie season. As the last player drafted in the first round last April by the Patriots, I thought he was the best player picked in the first round and a steal for Bill Belichick. He’s rushed for 931 yards and 6 TDs and added 129 yards and 3 TDs on the ground last Sunday against the Chargers. James White is a valuable RB as well, especially in the receiving department. White has caught 87 passes for 751 yards and 7 TDs. White caught 15 passes for 97 yards last Sunday. Julian Eddleman adds 74 receptions for 850 yards and 6 TDs and grabbed 9 for 151 last Sunday. The great Rob Gronkoski has been accused of losing a step, and his numbers are down as he has 47 receptions for 682 yards and 3 TDs. But he still can be a force and could be a major weapon tomorrow. Phillip Dorsett is also an excellent receiver with 32 receptions for 290 yards and 3 TDs. Another weapon in the arsenal is Chris Hogan who corralled 35 passes for 532 yards and 3 TDs. On defense, linebacker Kyle Van Noy leads the Patriots in tackles with 92. Defensive end Trey Flowers has 7 1/2 sacks on the season. Former University of Alabama star Dont’a Hightower has 48 tackles and an int for a 27 yard house call. Duron Harmon leads the defense in ints with 4. The Patriots have amassed 18 interceptions this season. The Patriots were 4th in the league in scoring defense giving up 22.3 points per game. Stephen Gostkowski is a reliable veteran who has converted 27 of 32 field goals.
For KC, Mahomes has completed 383 of 580 passes for 5,097 yards, 50 TDs against 12 ints. He’s been spectacular and can throw on the run with accuracy better than any quarterback I’ve ever seen . Damien Williams has come on at running back after the Chiefs released Kareem Hunt who was accused of having committed an assault on a woman. Williams has been spectacular rushing for 256 yards in 4 games and 4 TDs. Against Indianapolis last Saturday, Williams rushed for 129 yards and a TD. Spencer Ware added 246 yards and a pair of 7’s. Their phenomenal tight end, Travis Kelce, posted 103 receptions on the season for 1,336 yards and 10 TDs. Kelce is a game changer at tight end. The explosive Tyreek Hill posted 87 receptions for 1,479 yards and 12 TDs. He’s a house call waiting to happen every time he touches the ball. Sammy Watkins has come into his own again this season. Watkins posted 40 receptions for 519 yards and 3 TDs. Chris Conley, the former University of Georgia great, pulled in 32 passes for 334 yards and 5 TDs.
The Chiefs defense really stepped up against the Colts in a 31-13 victory. Awesome linebacker Justin Houston had 2 sacks and 2 tackles for loss in the victory. Former Auburn great Dee Ford had a sack and 2 tackles for loss. Andrew Luck never had a chance. Linebacker Anthony Hitchens leads the team in tackles with 135. Defensive end Chris Jones leads the defense in sacks with 15 1/2. Ford has 13 and Houston has 9. KC has 15 ints on the season led by cornerback Steven Nelson, who has 4. Jones has an int he’s taken back to the house for 20 yards. KC is 24th in scoring defense allowing 26.3 per game. That’s quite a difference from the Patriots though the Patriots did give up 40 to Mahomes and the offense in the regular season at Foxborough. Kicker Harrison Butker has converted 24 of 27 kicks. Like the other 3, he’s pretty reliable, though I like Lutz of New Orleans the best.
Final Analysis and Decision
I’m going to take an upset here, though it’s hard to call Brady and the Patriots defeating anybody as an upset. The Patriots advance to Super Bowl LIII.