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FOOTBALL FREAK: Two great NFL matchups Sunday

['Journal Pioneer NFL columnist John Turner.']
['Journal Pioneer NFL columnist John Turner.']

Expect close games that go right down to the wire that will determine Super Bowl finalists

If you had to pick the ideal teams for the AFC and NFC Championship games, you couldn’t have done any better than the Rams versus the Saints and the Patriots against the Chiefs.
Both games have the No. 1 seed versus No. 2 seed in each conference, and at some point, during this NFL season each one of these teams were anointed a Super Bowl contender. Also, these games feature the NFL’s top four offences, and arguably four of this season’s top five quarterbacks, who are ready to showcase their skills and lead their team to the Super Bowl in Atlanta.  
Buckle up as both of these games should be really entertaining, and come down to one or two plays to determine the two Super Bowl teams. The power better not go out with this pending Sunday storm. This would be The Freak’s worst nightmare!

Click here for last week's Football Freak column:

L.A. Rams vs. New Orleans Saints
Head to head
Week 9:
Saints 45-35
Rams (14-3, Road 6-2)
Offence

Overall: second.
Run: third.
Pass: fifth.
Defence
Overall: 19th
Run: 23rd
Pass: 14th
Saints (14-3, Home 7-2)
Offence
Overall: third.
Run: sixth.
Pass: 12th.
Defence
Overall: 14th
Run: 2nd
Pass: 29th
Stat of the week
The Rams are 0-8 with Bill Vinovich as referee.

Didn’t disappoint
The last time they played it was a Monday night before a national audience, and the two teams didn’t disappoint in one of the highest-scoring games in NFL history. Well, this time around one of these defences will have to step up and create some turnovers, and will need a few big stops on third down – and even fourth down, considering how both Sean McVay and Sean Payton are very aggressive on fourth down.  
L.A. will have corner Aqib Talib this time around, which should help in the coverage game considering Saints receiver Mike Thomas had 211 yards in their previous meeting. But will that be enough to slow down the Saints?  
Controlling the clock by running the ball with Todd Gurley and CJ Anderson will give the Saints’ offence fewer possessions. The Rams did a great job of shutting down Ezekiel Elliott last week, and will need to do this against Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara to make the Saints’ offence one dimensional so Aaron Donald and crew can attack Drew Brees in the pocket.
New Orleans is tough at home and Rams quarterback Jared Goff can have accuracy issues, which he showed down the final stretch. He will have difficulty calling the play at the line, which McVay likes to do through his headset.  
There will be a big play on fourth down in this game. This will be a topic of conversation on Monday morning because of the significance of the play, and how it changed the complexion of the game.
This is a hard one to pick, but the Saints are at home, Brees has played in these type of games and their D is better at stopping the run. Take the Saints 30-27.

Click here for The Freak's column on 'Wild-Card Weekend':

New England Patriots vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Head to head

Week 6: Patriots 43-40
Patriots (12-5, Road 3-5)
Offence

Overall: fourth.
Run: fifth.
Pass: eighth.
Defence
Overall: 21st.
Run: 11th.
Pass: 22nd.
Chiefs (13-4, Home 8-1)
Offence

Overall: first.
Run: 16th.
Pass: third.
Defence
Overall: 31st.
Run: 27th.
Pass: 31st.
Stat of the week
The Chiefs haven’t allowed 30 points or more at home in 34 straight home games.

What if?
Imagine if the Patriots didn’t put the NFL’s worst safety, Rob Gronkowski, on the field against Miami on the last play of the game in Week 13?
This AFC Championship game would be in Foxboro, and the Pats would be favoured. However, this is going to be at cold Arrowhead Stadium, which is a difficult place for any NFL team to play – even the Patriots, who aren’t a great road team this season.
In order to win, the Patriots will have to score over 30 points, which will be a very tough task even with Tom Brady and the play-calling of Josh McDaniels.
Coach Belichick will try and take wide receiver Tyreek Hill out of the game as he has roasted New England’s defence in their last two meetings. Can you scheme for the speed of Hill without the personnel?
Belichick will try for sure, but the Chiefs are not a one-trick pony as tight end Travis Kelce will eat you up in the middle of the field. This is a defensive co-ordinator’s worst nightmare – someone who can beat you deep, and someone who can beat you in the middle of the field. If you try to take one away, the other option is there, and both are equally dangerous.
Throw in a decent running game and another threat on the outside with Sammy Wadkins, and you see the Patriots’ D will have its hands full.
Can you bet against a team playing in its ninth straight AFC Championship game, which is insane in itself?  
Tom Brady is 15-2 in so-called bad-weather playoff games, so this cold weather on Sunday won’t affect him. Furthermore, the Pats have the better running game, and that will be the key for New England as the Chiefs’ front four can really rush the passer as evident in last week’s game against the Colts, who have the best O-line in football.
Although this game is hyped the Goat vs. the Kid, it will probably not all come down to their right arms, but who can run the rock the best as both are effective play-action teams. In the end, The Freak can’t overlook what Belichick and Brady have done in the post-season in these big games. Not sure if Pat Mahomes is ready for this big stage at this point of his career (18 starts), and not confident that Andy Reid can outscheme Bill Belichick.
Hope The Freak is wrong, but I have to take the Pats 34-30 in a dramatic late-game win.

John Turner is a Summerside school teacher and coaches youth football. His column appears every Saturday during the NFL season. Feel free to e-mail questions and comments to ssidespartansfootball@yahoo.ca.

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