NFL Championship Week Picks & Individual Season Award Predictions
Cover Photo Credit: bleacherfan.com
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AFC & NFC Championship Picks/Spreads
By Brandon Caputo & Miklos McMaster
@Caputz13 & @Miklos_McMaster
Check out this week's Podcast episode by clicking the image below 👇
The Divisional Round of the Playoffs has now come & gone, we are now down to the Final 4 Survivors of what has been an extreme battle during the 2020 Pandemic Season of the NFL.
An exciting week of football which saw the 4 best quarterbacks this season end up being the final 4 standing. The Bills, Chiefs, Packers, & Buccaneers now have a 1/4 chance of making the Super Bowl,
which might be the same odds that the Houston Texans have at possibly finding someone who actually wants to coach their team next season, as the last Head Coaching vacancy remaining of the 2021 Coaching Spree.
Photo Credit: WDIV
As for the hosts last week, their Spreads went quite well as Miklos is coming on strong like Tom Brady to end this season with a 4-0 result, while Brandon also went a solid 3-1 with both of their Gold Picks coming through.
Unfortunately for the Over/Under's, lets just say they both looked like they had some "kneecaps bitten off" as new Detroit Lions head coach
Dan Campbell insisted his team do in his Introductory Press Conference, going 1-3 & 2-2 respectively.
Divisional Playoff Week Spreads
Divisional Playoff Week Over/Under's
Most confident picks of the week
Gold Pick: Green Bay over LA Rams ✔️
Gold Pick: Tampa Bay over New Orleans ✔️
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Green Bay Packers (3.5) Over/Under 51.5
Miklos: GB Over 51.0
Photo Credit: Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY NETWORK
Yet another match up of GOAT’s. not only that but they match up in one of the holiest grounds of football: Lambeau Field. This game is pitting the likely MVP candidate and man on a mission
Aaron Rodgers against the ageless an almost unstoppable Tom Brady.
Despite these two men being the headliners for this game, I think this is really going to be a battle of the defenses. As we saw in their first match up in the regular season, the Tampa Bay defense dominated.
Aaron Rodgers resulting in an easy win for the Buccaneers. Like in that game the defense that can get their team the most stops/turnovers will likely determine the winner.
Can Devin White, Lavonte David and Co. stop Devante Adams and Aaron Jones like they did before?
Can the Smith's get to Tom Brady and slow down this potent Buccaneers offense?
These are the questions that will determine the winner of this game. Despite his unbelievable run, I think the road for TB-12 ends in Lambeau while Aaron Rodgers and the Packers advance to the Super Bowl from the NFC.
Brandon: TB Under 51.0
Tom Brady & the Buccaneers exiled their demons last week vs their division rival Saints who beat them twice during the regular season, proving the motto that "3rd time is a charm" when it comes to TB12 getting a 3rd opportunity against the same team in the same season.
In Tom Brady's words "the team has been letting it rip & hitting their stride with confidence since the last 3 games of the regular season" and it shows. The Bucs are currently riding a 6 game winning streak that has allowed them to run the table as one of the Wild Card teams all the way to the NFC Championship game.
Although without Antonio Brown for this game, the Bucs are loaded on the offensive side of the ball with plenty of options for Brady to get the ball to, as one of the best cold weather quarterbacks in NFL History.
Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
I understand that Lambeau Field cold is different than the cold he has played during his time in Foxborough, but this will be an all-time great playoff matchup that we are lucky to see before 1 or both of these Hall of Fame QB's hang up the cleats.
It has always been a great debate on "who's better? Brady or Rodgers" and the argument that always comes up is that Rodgers had the better talent with less around him while Brady is the most clutch & accomplished QB,
thanks to his teams success with the Patriots Dynasty.
Both of these guys have a lot to play for at this point in their careers to show that they can both still play & lead their teams to another Super Bowl Championship.
I have said from the beginning of the playoffs, I believe it is destiny for Tampa to be the 1st team in NFL History to play in a home Super Bowl as the host city, while doing it in Tom Brady's first season without Bill Bellichick in New England. I have ridden that prediction up till this point and I will not alter from that in an objective way, even though it hurts me as someone who cheers for a bitter division rival in Atlanta.
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Buffalo Bills vs Kansas City Chiefs (3.0) Over/Under 54.0
Miklos: BUF over 54.0
Photo Credit: Adrian Kraus, Associated Press
What an unbelievable matchup we have in the AFC championship. The real question in this game is what condition Patrick Mahomes will be in?
We know that it was not a concussion but a nerve injury that he experienced in the game against the Browns and cost him the end of that game. Chad Henne had a heroic performance at the end of that game, but it is a completely different story to play an entire game as opposed to closing out a game.
The Bills seem to be getting better every single week and Josh Allen is a man on a mission.
I'm looking for an UPSET ALERT here and saying Josh Allen leads the Bills back to the promise land of a Super Bowl appearance through Arrowhead.
Brandon: KC over 54.0
The Chiefs barely survived vs the Browns last week after franchise QB Patrick Mahomes left the game and into concussion protocol, narrowly escaping when the momentum was trending towards the Browns pulling that game out in the end. Backup QB Chad Henne making the 4th down throw with Coach Andy Reid making that call to trust his backup in that spot to seal the game, as the game could have finished off disastrous by not completing that pass and giving the Browns excellent field position to score & to outright win the game.
Photo Credit: The Kansas City Star
Despite that scare, they are still the defending Champions for a reason, the #1 seed in the AFC, with the right to host the AFC Championship game in front of their tough home crowd for opposing teams at Arrowhead.
I live by the motto of the great Ric Flair:
"To Be The Man, You Gotta Beat The Man!"
Until I see someone actually knock the Chiefs off of their Championship pedestal, it is extremely hard for me to pick against them.
I must say though, this Bills team has been a well oiled machine all season on offense, despite their defense going through trials and tribulations throughout the year.
The Bills have the quarterback & the weapons to compete with Kansas City, who's defense has shown to be vulnerable when things aren;t firing on all cylinders for their all-world offense.
To me, this is going to be one for the ages; a shootout between 2 of the very best young quarterbacks in football, with arguably the 2 best arms in the NFL, with 2 of the best coached teams in the league.
You could not ask for a better matchup as far as watchability for any football on the AFC side with this quarterback matchup, while both have something to prove in their own unique ways.
Even in a loss as much as it would hurt, this is still a great step for the Bills as they continue their trajectory as one of the teams to fear & compete year-in-year-out for many years to come in the AFC.
Bills Mafia & the team they cheer for is as exciting as ever and they have a lot to be proud of for getting to this opportunity so early in Josh Allen's career, considering how low the franchise was just a few years back before the Brandon Beane & Sean McDermott regime took over. Buffalo are no longer a laughing stock for the rest of the league, this team is for real & they are here to stay. Thats the Bills, not the Sabres of course...
Most confident picks of the week
Gold Pick: Green Bay over Tampa Bay
*Well, this is going to be interesting....
Gold Pick: Tampa Bay over Green Bay
Divisional Round Takeaways
By Miklos McMaster
Photo Credit: Butch Dill, Associated Press
1. The Battle of the "GOATS"
This past weekend we were blessed with a dual of two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever strap on pads in the NFL and we were not disappointed. The matchup between Tom Brady and Drew Brees was a back-and-forth battle that saw both sides in situations where we thought they might be able to run away with it but the other battled back. In the end it was Tom Brady who prevailed. Both players are the epitome of what a quarterback should be in professional football and it's a shame that only one could move on to battle for the Lombardi trophy.
The character of these two gentlemen was epitomized in a short video clip caught at the end of the game where Drew Brees is enjoying possibly his last time ever in the Superdome with his family. Tom Brady comes along and congratulated him and the two men just enjoy the time with the children. Tom Brady throws beautiful touchdown pass to one of Drew's sons and Drew helps his daughter with a handstand. If you haven't seen this video I highly recommend it as it shows how deep the Brotherhood of quarterbacks goes and at the end of the day regardless what happens on the field what is really important in life for these men. This may have been the last time that we see Drew Brees throw a football and he leaves the game as one of the best quarterbacks ever. He is number one or two in every possible statistical category that could measured including the unbreakable record of 5 seasons of over 5000 yards passing. It is quite a career for the former second round pick out of Purdue.
It is unbelievable to think that at one point in time he was written off first because of his height and then again for a shoulder injury that cost him his job in San Diego. A little know coach (at the time) named Sean Payton took a waiver on this short injured QB and the rest is history. Not only that but he opened the door to other shorter quarterbacks like Russel Wilson, Baker Mayfield, and Kyler Murray. The NFL is far better because of you Drew Brees and if this is the end we all will miss you deeply. On the other side of the ball we have Tom terrific. At 43 years old TB-12 is not slowing down. He may have started off this season slowly, his first with a new team, but he has been coming on strong with each and every week in the games that matter.
Love him or hate him we are truly witnessing the greatest quarterback to ever play the game of football.
All of these playoff games are historic events as everything he does from here on out is a first. As each week goes by it looks like that he still has a lot left in the tank and we may see more years of Mr. Thomas Brady.
2. The Bills & Browns
While the NFC is the battle of the old guard The AFC has been showing the changing of the guard. I'll start first with the Browns. Despite the outcome the Browns were a 14 yard scramble by a backup quarterback away from possibly upsetting the defending Super Bowl championship Chiefs in their own house.
What the Browns have done this year has been remarkable. They hammered their rivals in Pittsburgh in their first playoff win in decades. They followed it up with a gritty performance that saw them down almost 20 points to the Chiefs and battled back to just come up short. The Browns of the past would have folded like a cheap tent and lost by 40 in similar circumstances. What Kevin Stefanski has done in Cleveland has been incredible and will likely win him the coach of the year award. The future is bright in Cleveland and do not be surprised if they are back next year for a little dose of revenge.
Speaking of bright futures, the Bills are currently living theirs. Josh Allen has been masterful, and the Bills just keep getting better. They clearly cleaned up their issues stopping the run game as they shut down the Ravens dominant running attack and held last year’s MVP to just three points. On the offensive side of the ball the Bills can score at will and despite the lack of a running attack they drive up and down the field against anybody. Get comfortable Bills Mafia because the sight of the Bills in the AFC championship game is about to get a lot more common. They are matched up with the Super Bowl champions in what will likely be an unbelievable battle between the two best quarterbacks in the AFC for the foreseeable future.
In the words of Terrell Owens: “Get Yo Popcorn Ready!”
Photo Credit: Associated Press
3. End of an Era
I spoke earlier about the likely retirement of Drew Brees and what he meant to football. This week we saw the announcement of the retirement of the man who replaced him in San Diego. After 17 seasons on two different teams Philip rivers has decided to end his career in the NFL. While he never won a Super Bowl, Philip Rivers was truly one of the great quarterbacks to play the game of football. He had several ups and downs in San Diego and then Los Angeles and finally finished up his career with an excellent season on the Indianapolis Colts.
He will be remembered for his unique sidearm throwing style and his fiery trash talk during games. He managed the painful transition of the franchise from San Diego to Los Angeles with absolute class as well as his transition from the Chargers to the Colts. Despite the lack of awards and rings he truly was one of the greats and we wish him well and retirement. You will be missed Philip and hopefully we see you on an NFL sideline as a coach in the near future.
Also, in this section I would like to mention that we are likely to have seen the last game by Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben has been a mainstay in Pittsburgh for a long time and despite his recent flirtations with retirement I think this year might be the year. There was an air a finality around that last game against Cleveland. The way he spoke with Pouncey at the end of the game it seemed like this was it. Having these three greats retire in one season will truly be an end of an era in the NFL. The three of them have been such dominant figures across the NFL, it will be quite a hole to be filled by the new young guns looking to make a name for themselves in this great game.
Individual Season Award Predictions
by Brandon Caputo & Miklos McMaster
Photo Credit: NFL.com & National Football League
We have both surprisingly come to consensus with most of these award predictions.
Some of the awards this year might be obvious to most who watch the NFL on a weekly basis, but still good to give our winners based on our observations throughout the 2020 season & to compare what our listeners think.
Again, these are our opinions & do not reflect the opinions on the eventual winners chosen by the award committees themselves.
*For the sake of keeping today's full article as concise as possible, we will only be giving our condensed thoughts on the winners we chose for each award
Photo Credit: Packers Wire - USA Today
Most Valuable Player
Winner: Aaron Rodgers
Green Bay Packers
Honourable Mention: Josh Allen
The 2011 & 2014 Winner of this award & likely to add a 3rd to that in 2020, Aaron Rodgers season for the Green Bay Packers has been nothing short of sensational.
After the team drafted QB Jordan Love in the 1st Round of the 2020 NFL Draft, there were many doubts on
A-Rod's future as a Packer. Rodgers silenced those doubts by going out and having a 4299 Passing Yard season, 48 TD to 5 INT ratio, & led Green Bay to an NFC best 13-3 record.
The man revered my many to have the most talent in the modern era at thw Quarterback position & getting the most out of less talented players around him throughout his career, the Packers are in the NFC Championship trying to make a 2nd Super Bowl during the Aaaron Rodgers Era. He wins the MVP Award hands down in our opinion, although another gunslinging QB in Buffalo made it a lot closer than most had ever expected.
Photo Credit: NFL.com via National Football League
Offensive Player of the Year
Winner: Derrick Henry
Honourable Mention: Tyreek Hill
Kansas City Chiefs
The best pure running back in all of the NFL & the bell cow heartbeat for the Tennessee Titans success on offense; King Henry's 2020 campaign was nothing short of spectacular from a running back position which has gone away from his type of style throughout the past few years in the NFL.
Henry "only" had 2027 Rushing Yards, 17 TD's, on 378 rushers in the 2020 season while helping catapult the Titans to an AFC South Title. His legendary stiff arm on Bills Josh Norman was a perfect snapshot of what he did to all opposing defensive players & fellow running backs in those categories this season.
Photo Credit: Justin Berl/Getty Images
Defensive Player of the Year
Winner: T.J Watt
Honourable Mention: Jalen Ramsay Los Angeles Rams
The Watt Family are about to add another Defensive Player of the Year Award to their families trophy case as the steelers exciting young outside linebacker once again proved why he is helping to restore the Legendary Iron Curtain Defense in Pittsburgh. 15 Sacks in 15 games, 43 Solo tackles, & 2 Forced Fumbles helping Pittsburgh to another AFC North Division Title.
The future is bright for the young Steelers on defense with #90 leading the charge. Who would have thought that J.J Watt might not end up with the most individual trophies in that family, which was once seen as an almost impossible feat.
Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
AFC Rookie of the Year
Winner: Justin Herbert
Los Angeles Chargers
Honourable Mention: Julian Blackmon Indianapolis Colts
The 6th Overall Pick & 3rd Quarterback taken in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Oregon Duck product helped restore excitement in a Chargers organization that had been stuck in the same pocket passer mentality with longtime QB Philip Rivers for the better part of 2 decades.
As a rookie, Herbert managed an impressive 4336 Passing Yards, 31-10 TD-INT Ratio, & ended up having the most notable season from the rookie Quarterbacks after 1st overall pick Joe Burrow & 5th overall pick Tua Tagovailoa both battled injuries this season. The future is finally bright for the always underwhelming Chargers and the 22 year old will make sure that they are in good hands for many years to come as he continues his trajectory up the QB ranks in a stacked AFC of other young elite Quarterbacks.
Photo Credit: Alexander Jonesi/NFL
NFC Rookie of the Year
Winner: Chase Young
Washington Football Team
Honourable Mention: Justin Jefferson
The 2nd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft who was revered by many as the best pure talent valuable in the draft last year definitely didn't disappoint or crumble from the hype/expectations.
The 21 Year Old Young went out and established himself as one of the most feared Pass Rushers in the NFL already, which is scary to think given his age & inexperience with 7.5 Sacks, 4 Forced Fumbles,
& 32 Solo Tackles. The sky is the limit for Chase in Washington, for what is the heartbeat of the team from their all-world Defensive Line spot that is one of (if not the best) fronts in all of the NFL.
Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Comeback Player of the Year
Winner: Alex Smith
Washington Football Team
Honourable Mention: Ben Roethlisberger
To think that Alex Smith almost had his leg amputated, & even worse almost became a fatality to his horrific leg injury a few years back is incredible all on its own. After double digit surgeries to make sure he could even walk again, the moment Alex smith stepped back on a football field for Washington this season, it was one of the more inspirational moments in recent NFL memory & he could have been awarded this award on the spot in all honesty.
Almost as incredible, Smith managed to go 5-1 as the young inexperienced Football Team's starter, while having 1582 Passing Yards & throwing 6 TD passes. The 36 year old continues his incredible NFL journey that hopefully will continue with more success in the 2021 season. The poster child for a "medical miracle" and a feel good story that couldn't have been scripted any better as an emotional motion picture film in Hollywood.
Photo Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Coach of the Year
Winner: Kevin Stefanski
Honourable Mention: Ron Rivera
Washington Football Team
In this 1st season as Browns Head Coach coming over from the Vikings as their Offensive Co-Ordinator, Stefanski could not have exceeded expectations any more than what he did with this Browns franchise, which year that has been that laughing stock year in & year out for decades.
A team in desiree last year after the Freddie Kitchens experiment went horribly wrong & players regressing in all aspects, he was able to turn around a sinking ship into an 11-5 team that was a touchdown away from dethroning the Super Bowl Champion: Kansas City Chiefs & advancing to the AFC Championship Game.
Through his play calling & leadership, players like QB Baker Mayfield, RB Nick Chubb, RB Kareem Hunt, & others flourished in his offensive scheme that has Browns fans excited for whats next as this team continues their way back up to relevancy & legitimacy among the NFL ranks. The Dog Pound has much to be proud of this season and Stefanski's stability within this organization has been a huge factor as to why.
Photo Credit: by Norm Hall/Getty Images
Executive of the Year
Winner: Steve Keim
Honourable Mention: Jason Licht
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
We & many people around the NFL have been singing the Cardinals praise going back to the start of the 2020 Off-season where they made a plethora of major additions to their team through trades, signings, & draftees. Steve Keim & his team have to be proud of where they have come with this franchise just 2 years removed from having the worst record in the NFL with not much to be proud of, picking #1 overall.
Fast forward to January 2021, the Cardinals just had one of the most encouraging seasons in the NFL for teams that are trying to climb back to relevancy. Given playing in the toughest division in football this season in the NFC West, the Cardinals managed a respectable 8-8 record with a chance to make the playoffs going into the final week of the season.
An extremely fun young team to watch with so many playmakers, which Keim & Co. have incredibly assembled over the last 2 off-seasons while making it feel almost "Madden video game GM Mode like" for how fast things have been turned around down in Arizona.
Given his outside trials & tribulations that he has had to overcome as distractions over the past few years, (including a DUI Arrest in 2018) Keim should not only be commended for helping turn around an NFL franchise, but also helping turn his own life around in a positive way as a recovering human being.