After a predictable divisional round, the only thing standing in the way of the New England Patriots winning an NFL-best 11th AFC Championship is a team—and quarterback—trying to win its first.
However, it will not be the first time quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs face the Patriots this season, as the two engaged in a Sunday Night Football shootout back in Week 6, which ended in a Pats' 43-40 win.
Meanwhile, in the NFC, the New Orleans Saints handed the Los Angeles Rams the first loss of their 2018 campaign in Week 9, but the Rams will look to give the Saints their last loss of the season in the NFC Championship at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
But how did we end up with these two high-powered rematches?
On Saturday afternoon in a snowy Kansas City, the visiting Indianapolis Colts failed to convert any of their nine third-down opportunities. Quarterback Andrew Luck failed to complete a pass until after the first half's two-minute warning, and the Chiefs ran away with a 31-13 win—Kansas City's first home playoff win since January 1994.
Saturday night brought much of the same in Los Angeles, with the Dallas Cowboys only rushing for 50 total yards compared to Rams running backs Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson combining for 238 yards and three touchdowns.
The other L.A. team didn't have nearly the same good fortune in New England on Sunday afternoon. Philip Rivers' Chargers lost their eighth game (0-8) to the Patriots in the Tom Brady era.
Brady picked the previously heralded Chargers' defense to the tune of 41-28—and it was not as close as the final score suggests.
Finally, our defending Super Bowl-champion Philadelphia Eagles fell in heartbreaking fashion in New Orleans.
With around two minutes remaining and down 20-14, Nick Foles magic seemed imminent—until a pass to Alshon Jeffery slipped through his hands and into Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore's at the New Orleans 19-yard line.
And now, there are four—No. 1 against No. 2 in both conferences.
Below is an early peek at odds for the conference championships as well as predictions.
(All odds are provided by OddsShark.)
AFC Championship Game
New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs (-3) | O/U 57.5
NFC Championship Game
Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints (-3.5) | O/U 57
Patriots at Chiefs
It turns out that pointing to the Patriots' collective age has one major glitch: Sony Michel is a 23-year-old rookie, and James White is a 26-year-old dual threat.
In the divisional round, Michel collected three touchdowns before halftime and finished with 129 yards rushing; his backfield counterpart tied the NFL postseason record for receptions with 15.
Despite Mahomes' usual stellar playmaking, the Chiefs' defensive unit was the hero against the Colts.
While that's certainly encouraging—as is only losing by three points this season in Foxborough, Massachusetts—the same praise was heaped unto the Chargers defense for shutting down an inferior offense (Baltimore) before playing the Patriots.
The Colts only gained a total of 87 rushing yards, but the team averaged 6.2 yards per attempt. Combine that with the previously mentioned Michel, and Kansas City could be in trouble.
All season long, the defense has been (correctly) seen as the weakest link in Kansas City, but it showed out at Arrowhead on Saturday. If the Chiefs want to win their first AFC Championship, Dee Ford and Justin Houston need to apply the same pressure they did on Luck—combined three sacks, four tackles for loss and one fumble.
Give Mahomes a chance to keep pace, which the Patriots (and everybody in the world) know he can do.
Tight ends Rob Gronkowski (Patriots) and Travis Kelce (Chiefs) will be crucial to their respective team's offense in different ways.
Kelce was the Chiefs' leading receiver against the Colts with seven catches for 108 yards. Gronkowski only had one catch for 25 yards, but he made several blocks that created big opportunities for Michel to thrive.
Prediction: Chiefs exact revenge and make history, but just barely; 43-40, KC
Rams at Saints
The Saints were on the ropes to start their divisional-round game. Drew Brees threw an interception on the first play from scrimmage, and by the end of the first quarter, the Eagles led 14-0.
The thing that turned the game around was also what ended it in the Saints' favor: a Marshon Lattimore interception.
New Orleans' defense is the best it has been in quite some time, and it is what won this game. The Eagles did not score another point after the first quarter, which allowed Brees to orchestrate an offensive comeback—and the Saints offense ran through wide receiver Michael Thomas. At one point, Thomas had more yards than the entire Eagles offense post-first quarter.
Thomas set a franchise postseason single-game record with 171 yards.
The Rams are familiar with Thomas' domination. It was a Thomas 72-yard touchdown catch that sealed a Week 9 win for the Saints over L.A. Overall, Thomas caught 12 balls for an eye-popping 211 yards and that game-winning touchdown.
The Rams also have a player who put up monster numbers in the divisional round, but he is much more unassuming than Thomas.
Running back C.J. Anderson had been released by three teams in 2018 before landing in a supportive role with the Rams, as No. 1 running back Todd Gurley missing the final two games of the season with a knee injury. Against the Cowboys, both Anderson and Gurley surpassed 100 yards on the ground.
Can the Saints defense slay that two-headed monster? If so, it seems more likely that they will be able to contain quarterback Jared Goff, who has been playing mostly underwhelming football since L.A.'s Week 12 bye.
If Jeffery didn't mishandle that Foles pass, we could be having an entirely different conversation right now about the Eagles trying to beat the Rams for a second time this season. Instead, we get to see if Rams cornerback Marcus Peters actually gets that bowl of gumbo with Saints head coach Sean Payton.
Before Peters can worry about gumbo, he has to worry about Thomas. Handling Dak Prescott is an entirely different task than Brees—as the Rams are aware.
Prediction: Who dat? The Saints roll into Super Bowl LIII by a score of 38-30