CBS NFL writer Jordan Dajani gives his picks for the NFC and AFC title games
By Jordan Dajani CBS Sports
Despite the ongoing pandemic and multiple games being rescheduled throughout the season, we have made it to Championship Sunday. The two No. 1 seeds are still alive, as is the No. 2 seed in the AFC — but the surprise team is the No. 5 seed Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then again, you can never rule out Tom Brady in the postseason no matter what seed he is. He’s the postseason all-time leader in starts (43), completions (1,065), passing yards (11,968), passing touchdowns (77) and Super Bowl titles (6). He will have his work cut out for him against the Green Bay Packers, however, who are out to avenge the 38-10 beatdown they suffered at the hands of the Buccaneers in Week 6 of the regular season.
Interestingly enough, the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs also faced off in Week 6 of the regular season, when Patrick Mahomes and Co. came out on top, 26-17. Mahomes was dealing with a concussion/head injury this past week, but he announced on Friday that he has cleared protocol, and will play in the AFC Championship Game.
Below, I will give you my picks for Championship Sunday, and also give you my picks regarding the total as well. Let’s jump in!
All NFL odds are via William Hill Sportsbook.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers
Sunday, 3:05 p.m. ET (Fox)
Latest Odds: Green Bay Packers -3.5
The most recent development when it comes to this matchup is that the Bucs will be without wide receiver Antonio Brown due to a knee injury. Brady would surely rather have Brown on the field than not have him, but Brown caught just one pass for 10 yards in the divisional round against the New Orleans Saints, and Brady has actually thrown more touchdowns and has a better passer rating when Brown is off the field this postseason. Bottom line, I wouldn’t let this development affect where you are leaning on this matchup.
As for who I’m picking, I’m going with the Packers. Green Bay has won seven straight games by seven or more points for the first time since 1997, and during that streak, Aaron Rodgers has recorded 24 total touchdowns and thrown just one interception. The Packers had no problem with the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round, defeating them 32-18. Rodgers and the offense tore apart the Rams’ top-ranked defense, as they racked up 484 yards of total offense and 28 first downs. Both of those numbers are the most allowed by the Rams in a game all season. This offense has been on an absolute roll, and last week, the Packers scored 32 points on nine drives — which averages out to 3.56 points per drive. They have now scored 3.09 points per drive this season, which is on pace to be the most in a single season since 2000.
Another reason I like the Packers is because I think Rodgers has been playing with a major chip on his shoulder. When detractors questioned if he would get along with first-year head coach Matt LaFleur, the Packers went 13-3 and made it all the way to the NFC Championship Game. Then, when detractors tabbed the Packers as a prime candidate to regress in 2020, they again went 13-3 and made it to the NFC championship. Additionally, Rodgers played what was objectively his worst game of the season against the Buccaneers, and you know that’s also fresh in his mind. As for the total, the Packers have gone Over in six straight playoff games (50-plus total points scored in each game). The Over/Under has risen this week, but I’ll still take it.
Projected score: Packers 31-24
The pick: Packers -3.5
Over/Under: Over 52.
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, 6:40 p.m. ET (CBS)
Latest Odds: Kansas City Chiefs -3
In their Week 6 matchup, the Chiefs won via the ground game. Rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire accounted for 161 of the Chiefs’ 245 rushing yards as Kansas City came out victorious. It was a weird situation, however, as the Monday matchup was rescheduled multiple times the week prior. You have to give the Bills’ defense credit for how they have been playing lately, as they held the Baltimore Ravens to just three points in the divisional round. That’s tied for the Ravens’ fewest amount of points in any game under John Harbaugh and any postseason game in franchise history. We know that the Chiefs and Bills both have explosive offenses, but Buffalo hasn’t been so explosive in the postseason. They have been out-gained by both teams they have played in the playoffs, and — out of the four remaining teams in the postseason — the Bills are last in total yards of offense per game (308.5), last in passing yards per game (244.5) and last in rushing yards per game (64). The Bills scored just 17 points against the Chiefs earlier this year, scored 17 last week against the Ravens and the Chiefs held the Cleveland Browns to just 17 points last week as well. The Bills are going to have to score a bunch of points on Sunday and get away from that 17 number, and I’m not sure that will happen.
The Chiefs have been a terrible team to bet on recently. In Mahomes’ last eight starts, the Chiefs are 8-0 with all eight wins coming by six points or fewer. Since Week 9, they are an NFL-worst 1-8 against the spread. However, this spread isn’t too big, so I think the Chiefs can cover this week. The Bills have had an incredible season and are an elite team in the AFC, but it’s just hard to go against Mahomes and the Chiefs. As for the total, everyone seems to be expecting offensive fireworks in this matchup — which makes me think we won’t get that. William Hill has the Over/Under at 54 points, which is pretty high. My lean is to the Under.
Projected score: Chiefs 28-21
The pick: Chiefs -3
Over/Under: Under 54