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GAMEDAY: Breaking down Sunday's NFC and AFC title games

In Mike Evans and Chris Godwin the Tampa Bay Bucs have two premier wide receivers the Packers are going to have to focus on in today's NFC championship game..
In Mike Evans and Chris Godwin the Tampa Bay Bucs have two premier wide receivers the Packers are going to have to focus on in today's NFC championship game..

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-5) at Green Bay Packers (14-3)

Sunday: 3:05 p.m. EST, Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisc.

TV: CTV via FOX … LINE: Green Bay by 3.5.

FAST FACTS

  1. Important points: Tampa Bay ranked No. 3 in scoring offence (30.8 points per game), No. 8 in scoring defence (22.2). Green Bay, No. 1 in scoring offence (31.8), No. 13 in scoring defence (23.1).
  2. QB stats, Buccaneers: Tom Brady … In regular season, 65.7%, 4,633 yards, 40 TDs, 12 INTs, 102.2 passer rating. 6 rush yards, 3 TDs. In two playoff wins: 54.8%, 290 yards per game, 4 TDs, 0 INTs, 99.1 rating.
  3. QB stats, Packers: Aaron Rodgers … In regular season, 70.7%, 4,299 yards, 48 TDs, 5 INTs, 121.5 passer rating. 149 rush yards, 3 TDs. In one playoff win: 63.9%, 296 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 108.1 rating.
  4. Weather: Wintry. -5C, light snow, light (8 km/h) winds.

FIVE FOREBODINGS

  1. LaFleur at home: Second-year Packers head coach Matt LaFleur is 16-2 (.889) in home games, and both losses came unexpectedly against decided underdogs.
  2. Bucs on the road: They’ve won seven consecutive away from home, including both playoff wins this month.
  3. Bucs PK: Ryan Succop had NFL’s 11th best field-goal percentage (90.3). Perfect 25-for-25 from under 40 yards, including 5-for-5 in the playoffs. Attempted just two from 50+, making from 50. So range is an issue.
  4. Packers PK: Mason Crosby is still perfect on field-goal attempts, 18-for-18, including 2-for-2 last week, and he’s 4-for-4 from 50+ with a long from 57. But he missed four XPs. That’s 11 missed conversion kicks between these two.
  5. The last time: It was really two games within a game, when these teams met in mid October. Packers dominated after one quarter, leading 10-0 and outgaining the Bucs 144-22. Thereafter, it was all Bucs in a 38-10 romp. Tampa Bay’s pass rush really messed up Rodgers.

FOREMOST FACTORS

  1. Top head-to-head matchup: Aaron Jones vs. Bucs front seven. If Jones can run wild, as he did last week against an equally stout Rams front seven, the Packers will be in great shape. If not, that Tampa pass rush is for real in pin-back-the-ears mode.
  2. Most impactful injury: Starting Packers CB Kevin King (back) is questionable. That’s never good news going against Brady. King missed Friday’s practice. Josh Jackson presumably would start if King cannot.
  3. Next most impactful injury: Bucs WR Antonio Brown is out with the knee injury he suffered last week at New Orleans. Lucky for Brady he has plenty of other good WR targets, in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Scotty Miller.
  4. Overriding question: With both hall-of-fame QBs-in-waiting likely to face a heavy pass rush, in this epic Super Bowl qualifier who will perform best?

KRYK’s PICK

Buccaneers 27, Packers 26

I picked Tampa Bay before the season to reach Super Bowl LV, and can’t abandon the pick now. But, boy, this Packers team is good. And so hot. Will take a monumental effort. Bucs are talented enough — on defence, too — to do it.

Buffalo Bills (15-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (15-2)

Sunday: 6:40 p.m. EST, Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.

TV: CTV via CBS … LINE: Kansas City by 3.

FAST FACTS

  1. Important points: Buffalo, No. 2 in scoring offence (31.3), No. 16 in scoring defence (23.4). Kansas City, No. 6 in scoring offence (29.6), No. 11 in scoring defence (22.6).
  2. QB stats, Bills: Josh Allen … 69.2%, 4,544 yards, 37 TDs, 10 INTs, 107.2 passer rating. 421 rush yards, 8 TDs. In two playoff wins: 68.1%, 265 yards per game, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 103.4 rating.
  3. QB stats, Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes … 66.3%, 4,740 yards, 38 TDs, 6 INTs, 108.2 passer rating. 308 rush yards, 2 TDs. In one playoff win (2½ quarters): 70.0%, 255 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 106.9 rating
  4. Weather: Falling from 5C at sundown, 50-80% chance of rain showers. Winds 19km/h.

FIVE FOREBODINGS

  1. The first time: Bills opted to play their defence back and let the Chiefs run all they wanted, and the Chiefs obliged — 46 carries for 245 yards, compared to 26 Mahomes passes for 225. Shortened the game, kept the score low, but K.C. scored on five of eight possessions in a 26-17 win.
  2. Who’s hot now?: Chiefs defence bottled up Allen and the Bills offence last time, but no QB or offence was hotter in December than Allen and the Bills.
  3. Bills PK: Rookie Tyler Bass 82% on field goals but is 21-of-22 since Halloween including 5-of-5 in the playoffs, with the only miss from 61.
  4. Chiefs PK: Harrison Butker is 5-for-5 from 50+, with a long of 58. His only two regular-season field-goal misses were from 40-49, but doinked a 33-yarder off vs. the Browns. Has missed seven XPs, including one last week.
  5. Three-peat: Not even the early ’90s Bills played host to three championship games in a row — a feat the Chiefs are about to accomplish. K.C. lost the first in OT to New England. Blew out Houston year ago.

FOREMOST FACTORS

  1. Top head-to-head matchup: Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce vs. Bills secondary. Last time these teams met, in Week 6, Mahomes targeted and connected with his great WR, Hill, just three times for 20 yards, but with Kelce five times for two TDs.
  2. Most impactful injury: Um, that would be Mahomes. The most recent Super Bowl MVP injured his left big toe last week, then got concussed. Took most practice reps this week. Cleared to play Friday, and will start.
  3. Next most impactful injuries: Tie between the Chiefs’ rookie starting RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle, hip) and starting CB Bashaud Breeland (concussion, shoulder). Both were limited all week and are questionable.
  4. Overriding question: How well can a possibly slowed Mahomes (his toe isn’t 100%) play against a Bills defence much improved and more aggressive since October?

KRYK’s PICK

Chiefs 28, Bills 24

Experience is the only appreciable edge for the Chiefs. It matters in a Super Bowl qualifier, especially when the Bills offence has slowed in the playoffs.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021

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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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