Super Bowl 2021: AFC, NFC Conference Championship Predictions and Vegas Odds

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IJanuary 20, 2021

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill runs up field after catching a pass during the second half of an NFL divisional round football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Kansas City. The Chiefs won 22-17. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

The final four teams in the NFL playoffs are set, and it's not too surprising to see any of them preparing to play in a conference championship game this weekend.

Both No. 1 seeds have reached this point and will host their respective conference title matchups: the Kansas City Chiefs (AFC) and the Green Bay Packers (NFC). The Chiefs are the Super Bowl champions, while the Packers also reached the NFC Championship Game last season.

Although the Buffalo Bills haven't played in the AFC title game since the 1993 season, they're the No. 2 seed and have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, so they were expected to have a good chance to be here.

And while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the No. 5 seed in the NFC and had to win two road playoff games to get to this point (at Washington and New Orleans), they're led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, who won six Super Bowl titles during his 20-year stint with the New England Patriots. It's never a surprise to see the 43-year-old lead his team deep into January.

Here are the schedule and odds for this weekend's conference championship matchups, followed by predictions for both games.

           

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Schedule, Odds

Sunday, Jan. 24

No. 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 1 Green Bay Packers (-3.5), 3:05 p.m. ET, Fox

No. 2 Buffalo Bills at No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs (-3), 6:40 p.m. ET, CBS

Via DraftKings Sportsbook

             

Predictions

NFC Championship Game

From 2010-19, the Packers appeared in the NFC Championship Game four times. However, all four of those required Green Bay to go on the road, as the contest hasn't been held at Lambeau Field since the 2007 season.

Finally, though, the Packers are getting another opportunity to host the conference championship game. And considering there's likely to be low temperatures and a chance of snow on Sunday, it may be a difficult environment for the Buccaneers, who are making their first NFC Championship Game appearance since the 2002 season (when they won Super Bowl XXXVII).

Of course, Brady is no stranger to playing in cold weather, but some Tampa Bay players are not as used to it. Especially not like the Packers, who play at least eight games every season in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Not only will the Packers have home-field advantage, but they also have a ton of momentum. They ended the regular season with six consecutive wins. Then, after being the lone NFC team to get a first-round bye, they opened their postseason run with a 32-18 win over the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round.

Aaron Rodgers may be 37 and in his 13th season as Green Bay's starting quarterback, but he's playing some of the best football of his career. During the regular season, he passed for 4,299 yards, 48 touchdowns (an NFL high) and five interceptions. He threw for 296 yards and two touchdowns in the divisional-round victory.

Tampa Bay has a strong defense, but it will have a tough task in trying to slow Rodgers and a group of Green Bay playmakers that includes wide receiver Davante Adams and running back Aaron Jones. The Bucs also have a lot of stars on offense who could help them keep up with the Packers' high-powered attack.

It should be a competitive game that remains close into the final minutes. And while Green Bay may struggle to run the ball against Tampa Bay's tough run defense, Rodgers should generate enough offense through the air to keep the Packers in control and to help them hold on late.

After falling one win short last year, Green Bay will return to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2010 season, when it won Super Bowl XLV.

Prediction: Packers 27, Buccaneers 21

          

AFC Championship Game

One of the top storylines to monitor throughout the week will be the status of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

The Super Bowl LIV MVP is in the NFL's concussion protocol following Kansas City's divisional-round win over the Cleveland Browns, in which veteran backup Chad Henne took over the Chiefs' offense and helped them hold on after Mahomes' exit.

If the 25-year-old starter can't play, Kansas City could be in some trouble. Henne may have made some big plays late against Cleveland, but it may not go as well against a solid Buffalo defense that will know there's a possibility the backup could play this week and have an opportunity to prepare for that scenario.

But if Mahomes plays, the Chiefs' offense should continue to be one of the most difficult units in the NFL to stop. They averaged a league-high 415.8 total yards per game during the regular season, then had 438 total yards in the divisional round, with the Texas Tech product passing for 255 yards and a touchdown prior to his exit.

However, the Bills have won eight consecutive games, including playoff victories over the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens, and they have an offense capable of keeping up with the Chiefs. So, there could be plenty of yards and points in this year's AFC Championship Game.

When these two teams met during Week 6 of the regular season, Kansas City compiled 466 total yards in a 26-17 victory. And it could be poised for another big showing this time.

The Chiefs are making their third straight AFC Championship Game appearance and are seeking their second consecutive Super Bowl title, so this stage is nothing new for many of their players. Meanwhile, the Bills haven't made it this far since winning four straight AFC titles from 1990-93, and despite that run, they've never won the Lombardi Trophy.

And that drought isn't going to end for Buffalo, either. Kansas City is a dominant team that went 14-2 in the regular season (with one of those losses coming in Week 17 when it rested its starters). And its players know what it takes to win these big games, especially at Arrowhead Stadium, the site of the AFC Championship Game for the third straight year.

The prediction here is that Mahomes will play and again lead the Chiefs to a big victory. If he ends up missing the game, then perhaps that will open the window for the Bills. But otherwise, expect Kansas City to put up a lot of points and hold off a late push from Buffalo.

Prediction: Chiefs 34, Bills 26


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