NFL Playoff Bracket 2019: AFC, NFC Championship Schedule, Times and Preview

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2019

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates a touchdown with running back Damien Williams (26) during the first half of an NFL divisional football playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Ed Zurga/Associated Press

We're down to four. The Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints advanced over the weekend in the NFL's divisional round, which means we'll have a pair rematches next Sunday to determine the Super Bowl LIII qualifiers.

All four home teams won, which isn't a surprise. However, not every victory came in equal fashion. The Patriots and Chiefs decimated the competition in their games. The Saints and Rams were forced to grind out wins in theirs.

All four games are in the rear view, though. Let's look ahead to Conference Championship Weekend.

   

NFC Championship Game

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 4:  Todd Gurley II #30 of the Los Angeles Rams runs the ball during a game against the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 4, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Saints defeated the Rams 45-35.  (Photo by
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Who: Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints

When: Sunday, January 20 at 3:05 p.m. ET

TV and Live Stream: Fox, Fox Sports Go and FuboTV

The Saints survived a furious battle with the Philadelphia Eagles when the ball went through Alshon Jeffery's hands and was intercepted with less than two minutes remaining. This is fitting in a way because New Orleans' defense was outstanding down the stretch.

"All of our defensive players have the same mindset," defensive end Jordan Cameron told Bleacher Report's Dan Pompei in an interview published Friday. "We'll take over the run game, make a team one-dimensional, get a couple turnovers and get the ball back to Drew [Brees] and our offense and put our team in the best position to win."

Yes, the Saints are quite capable of winning games with their offense. Drew Brees has had a historic year passing the ball—he set a new record by completing 74.4 percent of his passes in the regular season—and the backfield duo of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram II is tremendous. However, it's been the defense that has delivered close wins, like the one over Philadelphia.

New Orleans faced a 14-0 deficit in the first quarter and went on to win 20-14.

The Saints defense will be tested by the Rams and their new-look rushing attack. When Todd Gurley was out for the final two games of the season, C.J. Anderson emerged. Now, L.A. has its own dangerous backfield duo. Gurley and Anderson each rushed for over 100 yards in the win over the Dallas Cowboys.

It was the run game that put the Rams ahead of Dallas and allowed them to close the game out. Los Angeles will likely look to do the same thing next Sunday to keep Brees and Co. off the field. New Orleans will try to counter with its second-ranked run defense (80.2 yards per game allowed).

If the Saints are able to shut down the run, they'll be able to put pressure on Jared Goff while also giving their offense more opportunities.

Whichever team wins this game-within-a-game is most likely to advance to Super Bowl LIII.

               

AFC Championship Game

Steven Senne/Associated Press

Who: New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs

When: 6:40 p.m. ET

TV and Live Stream: CBS, CBS All Access and FuboTV

If the Chiefs are able to play defense like they did against the Indianapolis Colts, they're going to have an excellent chance of representing the AFC in Super Bowl LIII.

Fueled by a ferocious pass rush and some quality secondary play, the Kansas City defense held the Colts to just six offensive points and 263 net yards of offense. While the run defense wasn't superb—it allowed 6.2 yards per carry—the Chiefs were able to negate it by pulling ahead on the scoreboard and keeping the Colts in pass mode.

This will be more of a challenge against the Patriots, who with a dominant 41-28 victory Sunday reminded the world that the dynasty is alive and well.

New England leaned on the run against the Los Angeles Chargers, racking up 155 yards on the ground. That run game was supplemented by a short passing game—running back James White had 15 receptions by himself—that neutralized the pass rush.

Sony Michel and the running game, along with those underneath throws, opened up play-action and led to a big day from Tom Brady (34-of-44 for 343 yards and a touchdown). It also allowed New England to sustain lengthy drives and dominate time of possession.

The Patriots held the ball for more than 38 minutes of game clock.

"That's the kind of football we want to play. We want to drive the ball," Michel said, per Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. "We want to keep the possession. Guys just stayed focused and kept executing."

This ball-control strategy has to be the plan against the Chiefs. It's the only way to slow Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense. The Patriots won a shootout against Kansas City the last time these two met, but they should try to avoid it in Arrowhead.

The Chiefs will try to get a lead and then play aggressively on defense. The Patriots will try to play methodically and grind the game bit by bit. It may sound like common sense, but whichever team controls the tempo and the clock in this game is likely to win because that team will be able to play the brand of football it wants.

   

Where to Watch: NFL playoff games, studio shows and more are available through Fubo.TV/welcome.

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