Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas is defended by Rams cornerback Marcus Peters after a catch in the third quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Nov. 4, 2018.


Keidel: 5 Reasons To Like Each Team In Conference Championships

Super Bowl LIII Field Will Be Set Sunday

Jason Keidel
January 18, 2019 - 10:50 am

Here we are, the last real Sunday of the NFL season before the pageantry and posers invade the Super Bowl. Conference championship weekend is the NFL's version of the Final Four, a Thunderdome where four teams enter and two come out. For all the talk of parity, the NFC and AFC have each sent their two best teams to the title game. The Rams and Saints are two of the three NFL teams (Chiefs are the other) to average over 30 points per game this season. 

The home team has won the last 10 conference championship games. Will the trend continue? Here are five reasons the four teams should win. 

Los Angeles Rams (14-3) at New Orleans Saints (14-3)
3:05 p.m. ET
Saints -3.5

Five reasons the Rams should win:

1) Rams cornerback Aqib Talib missed their Week 9 matchup, but is playing in this game. 

2) Saints stalwart defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins tore his Achilles tendon last weekend against the Eagles. 

3) Rams are 13-3 on the road over the last two seasons, best in the NFL.

MORE: Keidel: 2 Of NFL's Most Daunting Home Fields Will Host Conference Title Games

4) In domes or stadiums with retractable roofs, quarterback Jared Goff is 149-of-233 passing (64 percent) for 1,728 yards (247 per game), 12 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 96.3 passer rating. 

5) In his two games at the Superdome, Goff  is 48-of-72 (67 percent) for 609 yards (304.5 per game) with six touchdowns, two interceptions and a 109.1 passer rating.

Five reasons the Saints should win:

1) The Saints are 6-0 at home in the playoffs with quarterback Drew Brees and coach Sean Payton, most wins without a loss for any QB/HC duo in history. 

2) Ace wideout Michael Thomas had 125 receptions on 147 targets in the regular season, for an absurd 85 percent catch rate. 

3) The Saints are ranked No. 4 in the NFL in converting red-zone chances into touchdowns (70.42 percent). 

4) The Saints ranked third in time of possession (31:48).

5) Todd Gurley clearly isn't himself. As he recovers from a knee injury, note that Saints have weaponized running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram to the tune of 24 touchdowns combined.

The Saints won their first matchup, a heart-pounding and pyrotechnic affair, 45-35. Maybe the Rams have an edge having already lost and learned from the Saints. But there's just too much noise and mojo in the Superdome. Thomas shredded the Rams in their first game, with 12 catches for 211 yards. He also set a club playoff record with 171 receiving yards last week against the Eagles. Expect more of the same. 

Prediction: Saints, 34-31

* * * *

New England Patriots (12-5) @ Kansas City Chiefs (13-4)
6:40 p.m. ET
Chiefs -3

Five reasons the Patriots should win:

1) Patriots coach Bill Belichick is 6-2 lifetime against Chiefs coach Andy Reid 

2) Belichick is 10-0 against quarterbacks playing in their first NFL playoffs. 

3) The Patriots are 4-0 against teams in the this year's playoffs.

4) Belichick has 29 playoff wins, most in NFL history. 

5) Tom Brady has 28 playoff wins, more than any other NFL quarterback has playoff starts.

Five reasons the Chiefs should win:

1) Out of 342 total games Belichick has coached in the NFL, he's surrendered 40 points seven times. And three came against Reid's teams. 

2) The Chiefs haven't allowed 30 or more points in 34 straight home games. The second-longest streak in the league is 16 games 

3) The Patriots are 3-5 on the road this season. 

4) The Chiefs averaged 35.3 points per game, third most in NFL history

5) Belichick is 12-9 in the playoffs against teams he faced during the regular season, like the Chiefs this year. (He's 16-1 when he hasn't.)

Can Tom Brady twist the clock back for one more road game? He will have to against Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, who has turned the league into his personal version of "Madden '19." It's poignant to point out that the Patriots have practiced outdoors all week, even in the arctic air that has swept across the nation this week and is expected to be a factor Sunday. Meanwhile, the Chiefs have spent much time practicing indoors. Look for the Pats to run the rock, going 10-0 this year when rushing for at least 100 yards. 

Prediction: Patriots, 27-24 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel.