We are nearly at the culmination of the 2020-2021 season with only one day left of football before Super Bowl LV. As far as epic showdowns are concerned, Sunday’s games are a confluence of youth and enthusiasm as well as wisdom and grit. This past year has been a nightmare for most of us, but we can still count on football to make things just a touch better.
Take Buffalo Bills fans, for example. As I previously wrote, a few Bills fans combined philanthropy, sportsmanship, Reddit, and goodwill to do a great thing. After Ravens’ QB Lamar Jackson went down with a concussion in their game last week, the Bills fan have rallied to donate nearly $500,000 in donations to the Louisville Chapter of Blessing in a Backpack. The impact has been so enormous that they have expanded their charity work to the surrounding area.
Now that, my friends, is exactly what this world needs right now. One act of kindness, no matter how small, can change the course of many, many lives.
Buccaneers @ Packers 3:05 PM EST
I am not trying to besmirch the Bills-Chiefs game, but the Bucs-Packers game will be the one to watch on Sunday during the Conference Championship games. If anything, it will be for historic purposes. Who wouldn’t want to watch two heavy-weight, future Hall-of-Famers duke it out for a chance to go back to the Super Bowl?
This will be an epic battle and I am curious as to how both teams will approach this matchup. The Buccaneers’ defense has been stellar this year and shined in last week’s game against the Saints, forcing four turnovers, including three interceptions of Drew Brees.
Out of the two teams, the Packers have the most well-rounded squad at the skill positions, while Tampa’s strength rests with their passing and receiving. Fortuitously for Green Bay, they are weakest defending the run, but the Buccaneers have been weakest at their run game between Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette. During the first 17 weeks of play, the Packers have allowed 14 touchdowns and nearly 1,500 yards to running backs as well as 90 receptions to the positions and five receiving touchdowns.
Where Green Bay’s defense is lacking against running backs, they are rather stout against wide receivers. Whether or not they can defend against Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, and Scotty Miller (given all of them are healthy) remains to be seen. Let’s not forget about Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate who have also made an impact on offense and add to the many weapons available to Brady.
Can the Bucs Defense contain WR Davante Adams? Or deep threat Marquez Valdez-Scantling and slot master Allen Lazard? They also can’t ignore Robert Tonyan who may be the waiver wire darling of 2020 or the three-headed Cerberus rushing-monster that is Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and AJ Dillon (health dependent). Tampa will have its hands full.
There is no question that there is an abundance of talent on both sides of the ball. The game will boil down to the defenses. The team that makes the biggest stops, critical stops, and that creates points on defense may determine the victor as opposed to how many points the offense can put on the board.
While I give a slight advantage to the Packers simply because their run game is stronger, I can’t forget the last time these two teams met this season. The Packers lost in Tampa Bay 10-38, had the fewest first downs (13), fewest total yards (201), second-fewest passing yards (107), and third-fewest rushing yards (94) this season.
Bills @ Chiefs 6:40 PM EST
I am not going to sugar-coat this. The Kansas City Chiefs will need QB Patrick Mahomes starting to retain a competitive advantage in this game. After suffering a concussion in last week’s game against the Browns, Mahomes has been in concussion protocol. The good news is that he has been participating in practice with a non-contact jersey and a helmet. While this is a good sign that he is progressing well through the protocol, it is far from a guaranteed start.
Rookie RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire was spotted at practice in a limited capacity after missing several weeks due to injury while Le’Veon Bell did not practice. The run game isn’t exactly the Chiefs’ bread-and-butter.
The Bills’ defense has news for anyone who thinks that Edwards-Helaire will make an impact. They bottled up the Ravens’ run game for their worst total rushing yards in nine games with only 150.
With no significant rushing attack to speak of, will the Bills be able to shut down the Chiefs’ dynamite passing game? In fantasy, the Bills rank 14th against WRs and 15th against QBs. If Buffalo can channel the same kind of energy that shut down the Ravens’ run game into their passing defense, create turnovers, and if QB Josh Allen can outpace the Chiefs, we may have a Cinderella Story in the making.
There are a lot of “if’s” in that statement and they all center on Mahomes’ availability on Sunday.
While we have four teams dedicated to the Conference Championships, there are 28 teams busy making moves in preparation for 2021.
Perhaps the most verbose of the new head coaching hires on Thursday is Dan Campbell who had a lengthy dissertation about bodily dismemberment in his press conference. Campbell envisions the Lions biting kneecaps off (metaphorically, of course) and taking hunks out of people when they get knocked down. It’s visceral, yes. It’s graphic, yes. But it also embodies the will of Detroit. After Matt Patricia, having a coach embrace the grit and dirt that is hard work and fighting as the underdog is quite refreshing. Campbell served as New Orleans’ tight end coach for five years and assistant head coach as well as playing 10 years as a tight end.
The Eagles have hired Nick Sirianni as their new head coach after Doug Pederson’s departure. The 39-year-old was the offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts. Eagles fans should be excited about Sirianni’s close connection to Frank Reich, former offensive coordinator for the Eagles in their Super Bowl year. If Sirianni can address the multitude of issues on offense, including the tenuous relationship with QB Carson Wentz, the Eagles may be in a better position moving forward than they were this year.