Nik’s Picks: NFL Championship Sunday 2020

It’s NFL playoffs time. With no Canadian football to watch in 2020 my eyeballs crossed over the border to the American game, which had its most unique regular season in history. Of course, I laid down a couple loonies and toonies and at the end of the day I profited 3.47 units in the regular season and after an awful Divisional Round Sunday I’m down 2.36 units in the playoffs. Onto Sunday’s games!

Tampa Bay @ Green Bay (-3.5)

Tom Brady versus Aaron Rodgers is the matchup us fans deserve, while Lambeau Field is the location Rodgers deserves. It’s Rodgers’ first NFC Championship game at home, and Brady’s 14th appearance in a conference championship game. It’s also these teams’ second meeting this season, with the Bucs dominating Green Bay 38-10 back in Week 6. Both quarterbacks combined 326 passing yards with the Packers recording a season-low 201 total yards.

The loss was easily Green Bay’s worst performance this season, which begs the question: with his range of blitz calls did Todd Bowles figure out how to stop Rodgers? Or will Rodgers and the Pack learn from their mistakes and knock out the GOAT for a bid in the Super Bowl?

Why Tampa Bay:

Brady’s gunning for his 33rd playoff victory, which would put him behind only four franchises in career Super Bowl era playoff wins. Aside from the Brady effect, the Bucs are playing solid ball of late. Tampa’s turned the ball over once in two playoff games and are allowing 21.5 points against per game in comparison to scoring 30.5 on offence. Green Bay also has a legitimate problem with their pass-catchers dropping balls, which may leave points on the board. At the end of the day, in order to win Sunday Tom Brady will have to find the holes in the Packers’ two-high looks.

Why Green Bay:

The Packers excel in a ton of areas where Tampa Bay does not. The Packers were the best team in the regular season in early down success rate, first-half point differential, time of possession, and total QBR. The Bucs ranked no better than ninth in any of those categories, including ranking 17th in early down success rate and 24th in time of possession. All signs point to that Week 6 thumping being an anomaly. Green Bay’s 14-point win last Saturday didn’t reflect their dominance — they held the ball for 36 minutes and averaged 6.7 yards per play.

Tampa Bay 13 Green Bay 28

Buffalo @ Kansas City (-3)

The health of Patrick Mahomes doesn’t mean everything. Let’s rewind to when these teams met in Week 6. Kansas City rushed for 245 yards and took easy underneath passes all night as Buffalo dropped back to avoid getting beat deep at all costs. Now the Bills are much improved, and healthier too with Matt Milano and Levi Wallace back on defence. Josh Allen and Buffalo had an off night in the rain, but the Chiefs also executed much better. And on the topic of execution, have the Bills played up to their standards these playoffs?

With unideal weather looming in Kansas City, Mahomes likely suiting up hurt, and Buffalo’s inability to run the ball — this total is set way too high for my liking. This will go under 50 again.

Why Buffalo:

The Bills are actually a better first-half team than the Chiefs, and are much better at holding the football. Then again, no team scores in bunches like Kansas City. With the NFL’s second-highest scoring offence this season, Buffalo is a rare opponent who can go tit for tat with Kansas City. Allen was one spot behind Mahomes in total QBR, and he could see a lot of man coverage Sunday. It’s well-documented how strong the Bills perform against man looks. Almost as much as Kansas City’s 32nd ranked red zone defence, something Buffalo needs to capitalize on.

Why Kansas City:

The NFL’s defending champs have covered in just one of their last nine games, yet are 8-1 straight up. Kansas City knows how to win and are as balanced as NFL teams come. The outlier in their play is their red zone defence, but the Chiefs are a top 10 team in categories like yards per pass attempt, early down success rate, and rushing attempts plus passes completed. They’ve dropped 460 yards already against Buffalo this season, and if the Bills try and creep up to stop the Chiefs’ running attack then its Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill who can go run wild. Pick your poison.

Buffalo 21 Kansas City 25

Note: statistics per Team Rankings & Sports Info Solutions.

Bet of the day
BUF-KC under 54.5

Personal plays
GB -7 +137 1.5u
Tampa Bay team total under 24.5 -118 1.25u
Mike Evans under 4.5 receptions +120 1u
Leonard Fournette over 23.5 receiving yards -120 1u
BUF-KC under 54.5 -107 2u
Travis Kelce over 7.5 receptions -120 1u
Dawson Knox over 22.5 receiving yards -120 1u

Playoffs: 12-18 -2.36u
Year to date: +1.11u

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