Which quarterback will chase history, cement his legacy and silence critics?
by Alexis Sara Cobb
For New Pittsburgh Courier
It’s Championship Sunday. This is where we find out who can handle the pressure of the moment. Also, let’s take a moment to acknowledge that I am 10-0 in my predictions so far in these playoffs. 10-0. That’s right, I am sitting on perfection and it could all fall apart this Sunday, Jan. 24.
I, much like these quarterbacks, have something to lose. But seriously, has quarterback play ever been this important on a Championship Sunday?
Think about it. Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen are the reasons why their teams are in contention. And, of course, a shot of “Henne.”
Chiefs backup QB Chad Henne came in to save the day after Mahomes’ injury against the Cleveland Browns on Jan. 17. With that in mind, the question becomes, which quarterback is going to rise to the occasion?
AFC Championship Game: Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs
The Bills benefited from being in their stadium in the divisional round. Josh Allen was flat. He was forcing passes and making questionable decisions. But, the Bills did just enough to win over the Baltimore Ravens. And the fans really provided the additional boost they needed, even if it was only 6,700 of them, due to COVID.
The Bills’ defense played like they understood the gravity of the moment and gave a dominating performance.
Can the Bills have a repeat performance against the defending champion Chiefs?
As of Jan. 19, we don’t know if Patrick Mahomes is going to clear concussion protocol. Assuming Mahomes clears protocol and plays, Kansas City has a definitive advantage.
Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Mahomes are too talented to write off.
I have to give the edge to the defending Super Bowl champions.
They don’t have much of a running game but to be frank, they don’t need it. Even their defense is not spectacular. But when your leader was knocked out, the team was at home, and there were fans, that’s when the Chiefs showed that they just play harder.
Buffalo is not coming into Kansas City and stealing a victory. Not when everyone is on high alert. Now if Mahomes is sidelined, my pick changes. Buffalo can pull off the upset if Mahomes is sidelined. But I’m thinking Mahomes will play. I have Kansas City winning, 34-17.
NFC Championship Game: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers is playing otherworldly at this point. Green Bay is likely the most well-rounded team left in the playoffs. I would not bet against Rodgers. Their defense has been dominant and the running game has been clicking on all cylinders. His receivers Davante Adams and Allen Lazard are catching anything in their vicinity.
Rodgers played the No. 1 ranked L.A. Rams defense on Jan. 9 and picked them apart like he was trying to get that last delicious bite of a lobster tail. It’s been fun to watch.
On the other hand, you have Tom Brady. Frankly, Brady played poorly against the New Orleans Saints on Jan. 17. He tried and failed to gift the Saints at least three interceptions. In fact, we would be talking about Brady’s poor play but Drew Brees’ performance was so mediocre, it overshadowed Brady’s shortcomings.
Tampa Bay’s running game was effective. Tampa Bay’s defense looked refreshed and they were playing like a pack of hungry dogs who had a chance of getting some fresh meat. However, Brady is his worst critic and he will course correct on Sunday, Jan. 24.
Also, to add motivation, the Super Bowl is being played in Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium this year, on Feb. 7.
Do you think those Tampa Bay players are unaware or can’t see the stadium preparation? You think they want to let Aaron Rodgers reap the benefit of going into their house for a chance to win a Super Bowl on their home field?
But here is what you need to remember. Brady uprooted his entire world for this opportunity. He imported talent to help him win. He is one win away from going to the Super Bowl without New England head coach Bill Belichick. He wanted to chase history, cement his legacy, and silence critics.
Normally, I would pick Green Bay because they have a better team. But I can’t just go by the normal rules. I have to go with Tom Brady. I have Tampa Bay winning, 38-35.
So, there you have it. I have Mahomes vs. Brady in Tampa Bay for the Super Bowl. I am 10-0 thus far. Imagine how insufferable I will be if I’m 12-0. Let’s get to work, gentlemen.