Home SportsNFL 2021 NFL playoff picks, schedule: Aaron Rodgers outduels Tom Brady in NFC title game, Bills stun Chiefs in AFC

2021 NFL playoff picks, schedule: Aaron Rodgers outduels Tom Brady in NFC title game, Bills stun Chiefs in AFC

by Ryan

Wondering who’s going to be playing in Super Bowl LV? You’ve come to the right place to find out

By John Breech   CBS Sports

First, I’d like to start things off here by congratulating Browns fans for not burning down the city of Cleveland on Sunday. I’m not even a Browns fan and I almost set something on fire after that missed helmet-to-helmet call at the goal line.

Now, I could sit here and complain about that some more, but no one is here for my divisional round complaints, you’re here for my conference title picks, so let’s get to those.

The crazy thing about the title games this year is that they’re both rematches of regular season games that happened in Week 6. Not only did the Buccaneers and Packers play each other in Week 6, but so did the Bills and Chiefs. I would say that no one at the time thought they were watching an AFC or NFC Championship game preview, but apparently some people on Twitter actually did.

As for my title game picks. I’ve spent the past 17 hours sitting in a dark room trying to figure out who I’m going to pick and I’m still not sure. I made my original picks, but then I flipped from those, then flopped back, then reverse flopped, and now, I’m not even sure where I am.

On one hand, the Bills and Packers should have the edge this week because teams that played on Saturday in the divisional round have gone 6-2 in the championship round over the past four years. That’s not a recent trend, either: Saturday teams have also gone 16-6 in the championship round over the past 11 years. Apparently, one extra day of rest can go a long way in the NFL. To add to that, at least one team that played on Saturday in the divisional round has won one of the conference title games in 14 of the past 15 years, which means it’s highly unlikely the Buccaneers and Chiefs both win.

With both title games being rematches, now is probably a good time to point out that a total of nine AFC or NFC championship games over the past seven years have been rematches from the regular season. In those nine games, the team that won during the regular season has gone 7-2 in the title game rematch (Advantage: Tampa Bay and Kansas City).

Also, in six of the past seven years, the home team has won the NFC Championship, which is kind of weird, because the home team has also won six of the past seven in the AFC Championship game (Advantage: Chiefs and Packers). Of course, that might not actually be an advantage for the Chiefs since they were the only AFC team to lose in that span.

The Buccaneers are also trying to become the first team in NFL history to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium and that will happen if they beat the Packers. In the 54 years that the Super Bowl has existed, eight teams have made the playoffs in a year where their city has hosted the Super Bowl and all eight have failed to reach the game.

All of those stats I just gave you were actually a diversion so I’d have more time to sit in my dark room and come up with my picks and I think I finally have them, so l let’s get this thing started.

Conference title game picks

(5) Tampa Bay (13-5) at (1) Green Bay (14-3)

3:05 p.m. ET (Fox)

Latest Odds: Green Bay Packers -3.5

Last week, I thought we were getting the greatest playoff showdown of all-time, but then Drew Brees ruined everything by throwing three interceptions, so let’s try this again: Guys, I think we’re getting the greatest playoff showdown of all-time that doesn’t involve Peyton Manning.

For the first time ever, we’re getting Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady in the postseason. We almost got it in Super Bowl LI, but the Packers lost to the Falcons in the NFC title game that year and to be honest, I’m not going to complain that we didn’t get Rodgers-Brady, because instead, we got the Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead and I’m not sure the internet would have survived the past four years if we didn’t have the Falcons to make fun of.

We also almost got Rodgers-Brady in Super Bowl XLIX, but the Packers blew a 19-7 lead to the Seahawks with three minutes left in the NFC title game that year and to be honest again, I’m not going to complain, because instead of Rodgers-Brady, we got the Seahawks not giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch at the 1 and I’m not sure the internet would have survived the past six years if we didn’t have the Seahawks to make fun of.

Finally though, it’s happening. Although Brady and Rodgers have never met in the playoffs, they have met in the regular season and their most recent meeting came back in Week 6, a game that the Buccaneers won 38-10 (Brady leads the all-time series 2-1).

Of course, most Packers fans probably don’t remember that game and I’m guessing that’s because 90% of them immediately hired a psychiatrist after the loss to help them repress all their memories of the game, and I don’t blame them. It was ugly. Although the Buccaneers won that game handily, I’m not going to put a ton of stock into it for two reasons: First, it was in Tampa Bay and second, there was a four-play sequence that basically won the game for the Buccaneers and that four-play sequence will not be happening this week.

During the second quarter of that loss, Rodgers threw a pick-six and then when Green Bay got the ball back, he threw another interception three plays later. The man threw five interceptions all season and two of them came in a span of four plays during the first half in Tampa. That’s like having five car accidents over a 30-year span, but then having two of them happen eight minutes apart.

The big difference for the Packers this time around is that Davante Adams is going to be fully healthy. Back in Week 6, Adams had missed three weeks with a hamstring injury going into the game, which means the Buccaneers got to face the best receiver in the NFL when he wasn’t at his best. Adams did get his touches in the game (six catches for 61 yards), but he wasn’t always on the same page as Rodgers, who threw one of this interceptions while targeting Adams.

Basically, I don’t think there’s any way the Buccaneers will be holding the Packers to 10 points again or even under 20 points for that matter. The Packers were the highest-scoring team in the NFL in 2020 and they just scored 32 on the defense that gave up the fewest points in the league this year (Rams).

I have a feeling that Rodgers and Matt LaFleur are going to be ready for whatever Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles can cook up this time around. On the other hand, if the Packers defense can force a few turnovers, that’s been the key to beating the Bucs this year. Turnovers are always important, but they’re especially important against the Buccaneers, who went 1-4 in games where they turned the ball over two or more times and 12-1 in games where they turned it over one or fewer times.

I would also like to note that the projected kickoff temperature for the game right now is estimated to be 29 degrees, which is notable, because the only thing everyone in Florida has in common is that they all hate cold weather. All of them. If you know someone in Florida, call them right now and ask them if they like cold weather and there’s a 1000% chance they’ll say no. There’s a reason old people retire to Florida and not to Green Bay. I mean, Tom Brady spent 20 years in New England and he’d rather be dead than living in cold weather again.

This game is going to feel like it’s being played on the North Pole of the North Pole.

Unless the Buccaneers move their practice to a giant freezer this week, they won’t be able to replicate the temperature they’re going to face in Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers is 29-5 since 2009 in home games played in December or January. The Buccaneers are 1-17 all-time in freezing weather (32 degrees or below). Also, a five-seed has never beaten a one-seed (0-5) in the NFL playoffs. I’m going with the Packers.

The pick: Packers 31-24

Record picking Buccaneers games this season: 14-4
Record picking Packers games this season: 10-7

(2) Buffalo (15-3) at (1) Kansas City (15-2)

6:40 p.m. ET (CBS)

Latest Odds: Kansas City Chiefs -3

If I would have listened to my mom and gone to medical school before becoming a sportswriter, I would feel a lot more comfortable about picking this game. The biggest question heading into the AFC Championship revolves around the health of Patrick Mahomes and whether or not he’s going to play. OK, let’s be honest, he’s going to play, so the biggest question is whether he’s going to be 100%.

Don’t forget, Mahomes isn’t just dealing with a concussion, he also injured his toe against the Browns and although a toe injury doesn’t sound like much, if you saw Mahomes run, you know he was in pain. He basically looked like Darren Rovell trying to run a 40-yard dash.

If you don’t know who Rovell is, that may or may not be for the best.

Like the NFC title game, the AFC Championship is also a rematch. Back in Week 6, the Chiefs beat the Bills 26-17, but I’m not really sure what we learned from that game. For one, the Bills had no idea when it was going to be played. It was originally scheduled for a Thursday, but then got moved to Sunday, before eventually being played on a Monday. Also, the Chiefs had two more days of rest then Buffalo did going into the game because the Bills had to play the Titans on a Tuesday in Week 5, which means a Chiefs team with two more days of rest and preparation wasn’t even able to beat the Bills by double-digits.

I think the easiest way to look at Buffalo’s schedule is like this: Including the playoffs, the Bills are 15-1 this year in games that didn’t get rescheduled and their only loss came on a Hail Mary. Their other two losses came against the Chiefs and Titans.

One notable thing about that first game is that it was played in Buffalo, while this one will be in Kansas City. That’s a good thing for the Chiefs because the home team in the AFC Championship has won 12 of the past 14 games. However, one of those two losses was by the Chiefs and it came in shootout, and I’m expecting both of those things to happen again on Sunday.

For me this pick is pretty simple: If you think Mahomes is going to be 100%, then you pick the Chiefs. If you don’t think Mahomes is going to be 100% or if you think he’s not going to play, then you pick the Bills (Unless you’re Chad Henne’s parents. I could understand if they still pick the Chiefs if Mahomes is out). Josh Allen has been playing at an MVP-level all year and I think he can outduel a banged-up Mahomes.

I’m picking the Bills here and if they win, there’s a 50% chance I’ll jump through a flaming folding table in my backyard to celebrate their first Super Bowl appearance since 1993. My neighbors will probably call the police, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

The Chiefs were my preseason pick to make the Super Bowl out of the AFC and by picking against Mahomes, I’m kind of starting to feel like the guy who drank out of the wrong grail in the third “Indiana Jones” movie, which didn’t seem to work out so well for him.

And to answer that guy’s question, yes, I do think Elsa knew that she gave Walter the wrong grail. She was sneaky like that. If I’ve learned anything from that movie and the “Frozen” series, it’s that you can never trust anyone named Elsa.

Anyway, I’ve gone 16-1 picking Chiefs games this year, so I think that’s good news for Bills fans that I’m picking Buffalo but who can be sure? The last time the Bills made it to the Super Bowl, they did it by beating the Chiefs in the AFC title game, so I’m riding with history here.

The pick: Bills 27-24 over Chiefs

Record picking Bills games this season: 12-6
Record picking Chiefs games this season: 16-1 (My best record picking any team)

Last Week

Best pick: Last week I predicted that the Bills would advance to their first AFC title game in 27 years by beating the Ravens and guess what happened? The Bills advanced to their first AFC title game in 27 years by beating the Ravens. Now did I know that Justin Tucker was going to miss two field goals from inside 50 yards for the first time his career and that Lamar Jackson as going to throw the longest pick-six in NFL playoff history? Of course I did.

If you’ve watched any Bills playoff game over the past 30 years, you know it’s going to be bonkers and both of those things qualify as bonkers. I mean, this is a team that blew a 16-0 third quarter lead to the Texans last year. This is the team that lost on the Music City Miracle and this is the team that once won a playoff game after trailing 35-3 to the Oilers. The only normal thing about a Bills playoff game is that they’re never normal. Basically, don’t be surprised if this week’s game ends on a fake field goal flea-flicker touchdown pass thrown by the kicker. Literally anything is possible when the Bills are in the playoffs.

Worst pick: Every week I seem to make at least one pick that I regret immediately, and last week, that was picking the Saints over the Buccaneers. Tom Brady is a 43-year-old man in a 29-year-old’s body and for some reason, I still picked him to lose to Drew Brees, which was dumb, because Brees is a 42-year-old-man in a 49-year-old’s body. It’s simple math. Brady doesn’t eat carbs or gluten or anything that’s not organic and Brees is the opposite. Why would I pick a team to win when they’re quarterbacked by a guy who eats CARBS?

The moral of the story here is that not only do I need to get on the TB12 diet, but I also need to start doing the TB12 method of picking games which is to never pick against Tom Brady in the playoffs.

Picks record

Straight up in divisional round: 3-1
SU overall in playoffs: 5-5
Against the spread in divisional round: 3-1
ATS overall in playoffs: 3-6-1

Final 2020 regular season record
Straight up:
 170-84-1 (Ranked second overall at CBSSports.com)
Against the spread: 117-130-8 (Did not rank second overall)

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