It’s Championship Sunday! We made it! The world is still in the midst of a pandemic and there’s apparently some mutant strain going around, and yet, despite it all, we get to watch Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Josh Allen, and Patrick Mahomes play football today. Wow. Soak it in. We get to watch the objective GOAT face off against the subjective BOAT in the first game up in snowy Lambeau Field, and then get to see two gunslingers duel it out under the lights in Arrowhead Stadium. With such highly anticipated matchups, here are the recipes that I think will get the job done for each of the four teams today.
The Bucs’ Recipe
- First ingredient: The defense asserts their physicality. Obviously it was that physical defense that led to the Bucs’ 38-10 win over the Packers earlier in the season, and I believe that it will require that same sort of ferocity and tenacity in Green Bay today. Devin White will need to be flying all over the field, as I’m sure he’ll do, and the defensive line will need to outplay the solid offensive line of the Packers. With Vita Vea back, the hope is that not only will he himself help out, but he will help energize the line. If we see shots of Vea, Suh, JPP, Gholston, etc. hyping each other up, then Tampa Bay should be in a good spot.
- Second ingredient: Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette combine for at least two runs and/or dump off passes of 40+ yards. We know about the legend that is becoming “Playoff Lenny,” but Ronald Jones is actually the better back, which posses a scary proposition for the Packers defense. With Antonio Brown out and Mike Evans likely to be shadowed by Jaire Alexander, the Bucs offense may go through these two backs, and if they can generate a couple of explosive plays through them, it’ll help them keep pace with the high-octane offense of the Packers while also helping to set the tone for the game in general.
- Third ingredient: Good, deliberate play calls on 3rd down. Tom Brady has a chance to reach his 10th Super Bowl today, so we know that he won’t be scared or uptight for a single second. Plus, he knows that he doesn’t need to do it all for the Bucs to win. He simply has to play mistake-free and step up and make some clutch-Brady type throws. However, the margins are still smaller for the Bucs than they are for the Packers, and a big part of that will come down the play calls on 3rd down for Tampa. Throughout the season, they’ve had some frustrating 3rd down play calls where they just lob it deep down the sideline to someone who is well covered. They can’t do a bunch of that today. They need to just get the required yardage to move the chains.
The Packer’s Recipe
- First ingredient: Have at least two long, point-scoring drives in the first half. Green Bay has been very good this season of getting out to hot starts and building a lead into halftime. It was a collapse in the 2nd quarter of the meeting against the Bucs earlier this season which ultimately dictated the outcome of that game. But for today, it’ll send a message to the Bucs that “hey, we’re a different team than that first matchup” if they get out to good start. Plus, it’ll be easier to maintain the lead at Lambeau as opposed to Raymond James Stadium.
- Second ingredient: The Packers defensive line gets consistent pressure on Brady. Uh, ya think? Is what you’re thinking, because it’s so cliche, but there’s another reason beyond just “it’ll force Brady into bad decisions:” Last week, the talk was all about how amazing Aaron Donald and the Rams defense was. And then the Packers defense went out and played better. This week, the talk is all about how amazing the Bucs’ defensive line and defense in general is. And so, subsequently, if Za’Darius Smith and them boys are creating havoc in the backfield, look for the Packers defense to gain confidence and potentially take over the game.
- Third ingredient: FOX cuts to Bruce Arian’s red face on the sideline several times. I know that this ingredient is silly, but just sit back and close your eyes and imagine for a second. If they keep showing Arian’s red face, it probably means that the Bucs are in sticky and/or frustrating situations. Maybe it’s another PI call that gives Green Bay another first down, maybe it’s an offensive holding that negates a touchdown for the Bucs, maybe it’s a challenge call that doesn’t go in favor of the Bucs, in any case, Arians will be fuming on the sideline with his red face, and that’ll be a tough scene to witness for the Bucs and their fans.
The Bills’ Recipe
- First ingredient: Josh Allen throws for 350+ yards and Stefon Diggs hauls in at least 10 receptions. Given that the Chiefs will put up points and the Bills are coming off an uncharacteristic low scoring week, I expect Allen and Diggs to feast today. It’s pretty much that simple. Diggs should be able to get 15+ yards almost whenever he wants to.
- Second ingredient: Cole Beasley does a Julian Edelman impersonation. Two years ago in the AFC Championship game, Brady kept hitting Edelman on first down conversions against the Chiefs. Edelman just had a classic tough, rugged, gamer-like game, and I can see Beasley playing that role today. I know he’s a little banged up with the knee injury, but that can play into the tough-minded narrative. Look for him to pick up key 3rd down conversions.
- Third ingredient: The Bills defense holds one of Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce to under 75 yards. Obviously this is easier said then done, but it’ll be difficult for the Bills to win if both of Kansas City’s big playmakers go off.
The Chiefs’ Recipe
- First ingredient: Patrick Mahomes is and stays relatively healthy. After literally looking woozy a week ago, Mahomes will be starting today. However, besides that, he’s also dealing with a toe injury, which some think is more serious than coming off the concussion. In any case, it kind of goes without saying the Chiefs will be in a better position to win with Mahomes, so it’ll be even more critical that his offensive line protects him today.
- Second ingredient: The defense forces Josh Allen to complete under 60% of his passes. If Allen is slinging it around to his guys and finding his rythem, then that puts a lot more pressure on the Chiefs. However, if they can create pressure, tip passes at the line, or even cover decently, it’ll take away the confidence of the Bills offense and potentially their entire team.
- Third ingredient: Harrison Butker makes his kicks. Nothing gives a road underdog confidence quite like the kicker of the home team missing kicks: it breeds a sense of “we can capitalize here” while simultaneously presenting doubt for the morale of the home team. With Butker missing a couple times last week, and the Chiefs hanging on to win, they’re going to need a stronger performance out of him to feel better about their chances against the Bills, a superior team than the Browns.