Welcome to Championship Sunday, the NFL’s equivalent of the Final Four in which the Super Bowl participants will emerge by the end of the day.
These two games should be competitive ones, as each of the remaining teams has won at least 13 regular-season and postseason games combined this season, the first time since 2015 all four teams in the conference championship games have achieved that mark.
You want high-scoring games? Well, this weekend’s action has that potential if the four teams follow their regular-season scoring trends. Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Kansas City, and Buffalo all averaged at least 29 points per game during the regular season, making this the first time in the Super Bowl era that all four teams in the Conference Championship games averaged at least 29 points per game.
Here’s what you need to know about each game, including how it stands to shake out.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-5) at Green Bay Packers (14-3)
Sunday, January 24, 2021 // 3:05 p.m. ET
(TV: FOX-Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews, and Tom Rinaldi)
Postseason Series History: Packers lead the postseason series 1-0, defeating the Bucs 21-7 on January 4, 1998
Once a Giant: Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul led the Bucs with 9.5 sacks and was voted to his third Pro Bowl this season. Since being traded by the Giants after the 2017 season, Pierre-Paul has recorded 30.5 sacks and 76 total pressures in three seasons for the Bucs.
Bucs inside linebacker Deon Bucannon was with the Giants for nine games in 2019. Bucs cornerback Ross Cockrell spent the 2017 season with the Giants after being acquired via trade from the Steelers.
Packers defensive tackle Damon Harrison was with the Giants from 2016 to midway through the 2018 season when he was traded to the Lions. His 17 tackles for a loss during his time with the Giants represent the second-most he’s had with a team in that category.
Fun Fact: If the Bucs win, they will become the first team to play in a Super Bowl in the team’s home stadium, and it will be the fifth time that a team plays a Super Bowl hosted in their home state. The other teams who played in a Super Bowl hosted in their home state include:
- The Oakland Raiders (XXXVII-San Diego and XI, Pasadena).
- The Los Angeles Rams (XIV, Pasadena).
- The San Francisco 49ers (XIX, Stanford).
Injury Report: The Bucs list WR Antonio Brown (knee) as out and S Antoine Winfield (ankle) as questionable. The Packers list DE Kingsley Keke (concussion) as out and CB Kevin King (back) as questionable.
Stats to Know: The Bucs offense ranked third in points per game (30.8) and allowed the fourth-fewest sacks (22) in 2020. The Packers offense led the NFL in scoring (31.8) and ranked second league-wide in third-down efficiency (49.4%).
Prediction: Green Bay has too many advantages for the Bucs to try to overcome, starting with the home field advantage and continuing with a dominating offensive line that should quiet the Bucs pass rush.
This will probably be the closest scoring game of the NFC playoffs, but the Packers, who have been money this year in the red zone—they ranked first in the league with a 78.% touchdown scoring percentage inside the opponent’s 20-yard line—will prevail in the battle of the bays.
Packers 31, Bucs 28
Buffalo Bills (15-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (15-2)
Sunday, January 24, 2021 // 6:40 p.m. ET
(TV: CBS- Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson, Evan Washburn)
Postseason Series History: The Bills lead the all-time postseason series 2-1 and have won the last two games against the Chiefs. Their last postseason meetings marked a 30-13 Bills win on January 23, 1994.
Once a Giant: Chiefs cornerback Antonio Hamilton (2018-19), offensive lineman Mike Remmers (2019), practice squad offensive lineman Patrick Omameh (2018), and cornerback DeAndre Baker (injured reserve) all had stints with the Giants.
Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo won a Super Bowl with the Giants as their defensive coordinator in 2007 (XLII) and was with the team for two separate stints, including 2007-08 and 2015-17, including a four-game stint as interim head coach in 2017.
Chiefs cornerbacks coach Sam Madison played for Spagnuolo’s Super Bowl-winning Giants defense in 2007; Madison spent the 2006-08 seasons with the Giants.
Chiefs safeties coach David Merritt was also with the Giants for both of their Super Bowl runs (XLII in 2007 and XLVI in 2011). Merritt was an original member of Tom Coughlin’s staff, hired in 2004, and was retained by Ben McAdoo until leaving for a post with the Cardinals in 2018.
Bills running back Devonta Freeman (practice squad) was with the Giants this season, signed after the team lost Saquon Barkley in Week 2 to a torn ACL. Bill practice squad quarterback Davis Webb was with the Giants in 2017 after being drafted in the third round.
Bills running back coach Kelly Skipper is the son of Jim Skipper, who was once the Giants running backs coach from 1997-2000.
Fun Fact: If Bills receiver Stefon Diggs, who led the league in receiving yards (1,535) in the 2020 regular season, advances with his team to the Super Bowl, he will become just the third player to reach the Super Bowl in the same season that he led the league in receiving yards, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice of the 49ers (1989 and 1994) and Drew Pearson of the Cowboys (1977).
Injury Report: The Bills list DT Vernon Butler (quadriceps) and WR Gabriel Davis (ankle) as questionable. The Chiefs list LB Willie Gay (ankle) as out, and RB Le'Veon Bell (knee), CB Bashaud Breeland (concussion/shoulder), RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle/hip); CB Rashad Fenton (foot), and WR Sammy Watkins (calf) is questionable.
Stats to Know: The Chiefs had the best overall offense in the league, averaging 415.8 yards per game. The Bills defense was tied for third in the NFL in takeaways with 26, and their offense ranked second in the NFL with 31.3 points per game and tied for second with 396.4 yards per game.
Prediction: The Bills finished the season with 26 takeaways, good for third in the NFL. Although the Chiefs offense, as led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been a juggernaut, I’m a little leery about how rapidly Mahomes has returned from a head injury that knocked him out of last week’s game plus now comes word that he's been dealing with a turf toe.
I also think Bills corner Tre-Davious White will see Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill a great deal in coverage—White has that shutdown ability and should be able to keep Hill in check for most of the game.
Chiefs 31, Bills 27