HONOLULU,: For casual fans, the Super Bowl is the only game that matters. It has been turned into an entertainment spectacle featuring pointless halftime shows. Parties feature annoying individuals who demand silence during the commercials and refuse to shut up during the game. The Conference Title Games are for Leatherheads.
The Super Bowl is almost anti-climactic. The Conference Title Games are intense football. Everything is on the line. Win and go to the Super Bowl.
The 1990 season culminated in what may have been the greatest NFC Title Game of all time.
It was certainly the most brutal. The New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers beat the daylights out of each other. Leonard Marshall blasted Joe Montana on a blindside hit that knocked Montana out of the game. And out of the NFL for two years, and out of San Francisco permanently. The 49ers were the two-time defending champions looking for a three-peat.
Leading 13-12 and only needing to wind down the clock, Roger Craig got leveled by Lawrence Taylor and fumbled the ball.
The Giants recovered to give them one more chance. Despite not reaching the end zone, five field goals from Matt Bahr including the game-winner on the final play allowed the Giants to shock the heavily favored 49ers 15-13.
that was the game that turned Bill Parcells from a great coach into a legend.
The 2006 season brought the greatest AFC Title Game of all time.
For years Peyton Manning and Tom Brady dueled, and Brady usually won. An interception of Manning had the Patriots cruising 21-3. Manning brought the Colts back in a game that was tied 21-21, 28-28 and 31-31. Down 34-31, Manning brought the Colts down the field with time winding down.
Yet with everyone in the world expecting Manning to keep throwing, it was the running game that was wearing down Bill Belichick’s exhausted defense.
On third down and goal and the Patriots smelling pass, Manning handed the ball to Joseph Addai for the go-ahead score. One minute still remained. Brady had his chance, but a game of offensive fireworks was decided by the defense when Brady was intercepted. The Colts won 38-34 as Manning and Tony Dungy got the respective monkeys off of their backs on their way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
With that, it is time to make new football history.
Here is the NFL 2018-2019 Conference Title Games, with point spreads provided by Oddsshark through Bleacher Report and all times Eastern.
Both games are played on Sunday, January 20, 2019.
NFC Title Game: Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints (-3.5) at 3:00 p.m. on FOX.
These teams played a thriller in November. The Saints jumped to a 35-14 lead late in the half, only to see the Rams mount a spirited comeback to tie the game 35-35 with 10 minutes left in regulation. The Saints took the lead on a 54-yard field goal with 6 1/2 minutes to play and closed the game out with a 72-yard touchdown bomb from Drew Brees to Michael Thomas.
Both of these teams can score at will, but they both have defenses that are underrated. The Saints relied on their defense to overcome a 14-0 deficit at Philadelphia last week to survive 20-14. The Rams dispatched Dallas to set up this rematch of offensive wizards Sean McVay and Sean Payton.
The Rams have Jared Goff and Todd Gurley clicking on all cylinders, but Brees is the all-time NFL pinball wizard.
Brees has the most balanced offensive attack he has ever had, with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara allowing Brees to rest his arm from time to time. Both coaches love trick plays, and Sean Payton is willing to take the biggest risks in the biggest games. The Rams are a great team. Put this game in Los Angeles, and it is a different game. In the Superdome, go with the most prolific passer of all time.
The home field does matter for this game, and so does experience.
The Saints have the experience. The Rams have a very bright future, but for the Saints, the time is now. For the second time in franchise history, they will be hoisting the George Halas NFC Championship Trophy. Saints win but fail to cover.
AFC Title Game: New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs (-3) at 6:30 p.m. on CBS.
These teams played an instant classic on October 14. The Patriots stormed to a 24-9 halftime lead but only led 27-26 after three quarters. In the fourth quarter, Patrick Mahomes tied the game 40-40 with three minutes left in regulation. That was enough time for Tom Brady to work his magic at home.
With three seconds left, Stephen Gostkowski came in for a 28-yard field goal try to win it. The kick was good and the Patriots had the 43-40 victory. However, another even crazier finish affects this game. In December, a holiday miracle saw the Miami Dolphins stun the Patriots 34-33 on some wild laterals that included everything but the Stanford Marching Band.
That Patriots loss is why the rematch with the Chiefs is being played in Kansas City, not New England. Once again, offensive guru Andy Reid grapples with defensive mastermind Bill Belichick.
The Patriots are in their mind-boggling eighth straight AFC Title Game.
Brady has a much better running game to assist him than in years past. Josh McDaniels schemes the offense and Belichick does the defense, and they are the best at what they do. Brady is also better at inventing fictional enemies who disrespect him better than anyone except Michael Jordan.
As for the Chiefs, this is not your father’s Chiefs team. Gone is the sinking and dunking and the West Coast Offense game management with 30 completions for 120 yards. Patrick Mahomes is a freak of nature. He passed for 50 touchdown passes and over 5,000 yards. Tyreek Hill is a scary playmaker.
The Lamar Hunt AFC Championship Trophy is named after the late Chiefs founder. It seems like destiny, but it will not be. For all those who hate the Patriots, prepare to hate them some more. Belichick has devised game plans to take down two of the greatest offenses of all time, the 1990 Buffalo Bills with Jim Kelly and the 2001 Greatest Show on Turf St. Louis Rams led by Kurt Warner.
He also repeatedly outfoxed Peyton Manning. If anyone can reduce Mahomes to merely human, Belichick can. Go with his and Brady’s experience. Upset special, Patriots win outright.