NFL Playoff Bracket 2019: Conference Championship Game Times, Matchups Schedule

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 15, 2019

FOXBOROUGH, MA - OCTOBER 14:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots calls out a play during a game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium on October 14, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

What was once a 12-team field in the NFL playoffs has now been whittled down to the final four.

Each semifinalist sits just two victories shy of a championship. One more win for the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Los Angeles Rams or New Orleans Saints would secure their spot in Super Bowl LIII.

Let's not skip ahead too quickly, though, as we have a conference championship round to break down below.

                      

Playoff Bracket

                 

Remaining Postseason Schedule

Sunday, Jan. 20

Conference Championships

Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints, 3:05 p.m. ET, Fox

New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs, 6:40 p.m. ET, CBS

              

Sunday, Feb. 3

Super Bowl LIII

NFC champion vs. AFC champion, 6:30 p.m. ET, CBS

     

In addition to the broadcast networks, all playoff games can be viewed on FuboTV.

                 

Patriots vs. Chiefs

Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

The AFC's top-two seeds looked the part in the divisional round.

The Chiefs handed the Colts just their second loss since mid-October and did so in convincing fashion. Kansas City not only compiled a 31-13 advantage on the scoreboard, it amassed a giant 433-266 advantage in total offense.

The Patriots essentially followed the same script Sunday, dispatching a Chargers team that entered the cost on a 12-2 sprint. New England's 41-28 victory was even more comfortable than it sounds. It had a 35-7 lead at halftime and a 41-14 advantage into the fourth quarter.

In other words, it's hard to look at this matchup and not think it features the conference's two most talented teams.

So, how do you separate the two? A coin flip might be the best bet. While the Chiefs are 3-point favorites, per OddsShark, that's basically the customary bump from having home-field advantage.

That said, the fact this will be played at Arrowhead Stadium could be huge. As ESPN's Dan Graziano observed, the rare moments of playoff vulnerabilities for the Brady/Bill Belichick-led Patriots have nearly all occurred away from home:

"During the Brady/Belichick era, the Patriots are 20-3 in postseason home games, but just 3-4 in playoff games as the visiting team. They haven't won a road playoff game and the Super Bowl in the same season since 2004. The past two times they played an AFC Championship Game on the road, they lost -- in Denver three and five years ago. This season, the Patriots are 9-0 at home and 3-5 on the road, including double-digit losses at Jacksonville, Detroit and Tennessee."

The counter for New England, though, is an enormous advantage in experience. Patrick Mahomes made his playoff debut Saturday. Brady played his 38th postseason contest the following day.

As for football keys to watch, the Chiefs need pass-rushers Chris Jones, Dee Ford and Justin Houston to keep Brady uncomfortable. The Patriots need rookie running back Sony Michel to keep rolling (138 scrimmage yards, three scores Sunday), both to relieve pressure on Brady and keep Mahomes off the field.

               

Rams vs. Saints

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 4:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints runs the ball during a game against the Los Angeles Rams at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 4, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Saints defeated the Rams 45-35.  (Photo by Wesle
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

While the NFC's divisional-round winners couldn't match the margins of their AFC counterparts, the victories were equally impressive.

Los Angeles not only handed Dallas just its second defeat in 10 games, it dominated the ground game against the team employing the NFL's rushing leader. While Ezekiel Elliott struggled to find any space (20 carries for 47 yards), both Todd Gurley (16 for 115 and a touchdown) and C.J. Anderson (23 for 123 and two scores) ran wild against what was a top-five rushing defense this season.

New Orleans, meanwhile, rallied to solve the puzzle that is Playoff Nick Foles. But that game was much more about Saints quarterback Drew Brees and his connection with wide receiver Michael Thomas. The two connected 12 different times for 171 yards and what proved to be the game-winning score late in the third quarter.

"I want to be that safety blanket for Drew," Thomas said afterward. "I want to be that supporting cast for him. I want him to be able to be back there and play his game and be calm and know he has a guy he can trust in."

Thomas has basically been that all season, but never more so than in the Saints' Week 9 win over these same Rams. The third-year wideout caught 12 of his 15 targets for 211 yards and a touchdown during the 45-35 victory.

New Orleans might need similar production this weekend against an L.A. offense suddenly featuring a two-headed monster in the backfield. And if corralling both Gurley and Anderson wasn't daunting enough, the Saints must try to do so without breakout defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, who suffered a torn Achilles on Sunday, per NOLA.com's Luke Johnson.

While there are a few more potential difference-makers in the matchup, this feels like it's coming down which duo fares the best: Brees and Thomas or Gurley and Anderson.

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