The upcoming conference championship games have one thing in common. Both the AFC and the NFC championship matchups will feature each conferences top-2 seeds. Ironically, the old saying used to go, “defense wins championships.” Well, this year is the exact opposite. The final four teams left, the Los Angeles Rams, the New Orleans Saints, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the New England Patriots were the four top scoring offenses of the regular season. In other words, expect a ton of points to be put on the board. The Rams will be traveling to New Orleans to try and avenge the loss they suffered there earlier this season. The Rams were defeated 45-35. You can certainly bet that head coach Sean McVay has used that loss as fuel to motivate his players this second go around. Video footage released of Saints head coach Sean Payton bringing the players’ Super Bowl bonus (in cash) and the Super Bowl trophy into the locker room to use as motivation throughout this playoff run his team was about to embark on. We’re in for a heavyweight fight between the old and wise, and the young and hungry. Sean Payton and Drew Brees have seen it all, as they’ve spent 12 seasons together in New Orleans. Whereas Sean McVay and Jared Goff are only two years in their tenure together, and both one of the youngest at their respected positions. We should rename this game the battle of the Sean’s, respectively. Both of these head coaches will do whatever it takes to secure the victory for their football team, and neither is afraid to take gambles on either side of the ball. This should be one of the more exciting NFC Championship games in recent memory. Saturday cannot come quickly enough. Here’s our case for Drew Brees vs Jared Goff.
CASE FOR GOFF
At just 24 years old, the sky’s the limit for Jared Goff. Just two years removed from being labeled a bust when he was drafted number one overall and had a dismal rookie season, Goff is thriving. Goff is a perfect example of A, development, and B, being in the right system. Much of Goff’s rookie struggles were because he played in Jeff Fisher’s ancient offensive style. Fisher had zero creativity and did absolutely nothing to gameplan around his quarterbacks skill-set. Insert Sean McVay, and you can see the differences in Goff’s confidence and ability from a mile away. Last season in Goff’s first year playing under McVay he produces pro-bowl caliber numbers. His stat line for 2017 season was 3,804 yards passing, 28 touchdowns, and only seven interceptions. This year, he became even better. Goff produced 4,688 yards passing, 32 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. His turnovers were slightly higher than last season, but so was his completion percentage and also his total QBR. When you watch the Rams play, you can see the Talent that Jared possesses. He can make every throw on the football field and thrives driving the ball down the field. It’s still yet to be seen if Goff is a product of a system or a budding star. He has incredible talent around him on the offensive side of the ball, starting at running back. Rams running back Todd Gurley is arguably the best in the NFL, and he makes everyone else’s job easier. Gurley is capable of being a one-man wrecking crew. He can change the dynamic of a game all on his own. Then you look at the receivers, where McVay has given Goff Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods for his arsenal. Whether Goff is a product of the system, or just an outright star quarterback is a debate for another day. Right now, all that is matters is whether he can do enough Saturday night to go into New Orleans and slay the almighty Saints on his way to taking the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl. He certainly has the talent, and the talent around him to do so.
CASE FOR BREES
Mr. Brees had a birthday this week. The man turned 40! This weekend, for the first time ever, we will see two 40+-year-old quarterbacks take the field for a chance at the Super Bowl. That’s unheard of. The new NFL rules that have been implemented over the past couple of seasons have benefited the health of quarterbacks significantly. Drew Brees and Tom Brady are testaments to that. The shift in the dynamics of NFL offenses to being pass-heavy, and geared around three wide receiver sets benefits older quarterbacks tremendously. Both Brees and Brady get the ball out of their hands exceptionally quickly, which in return limits the number of hits they take throughout a game. Brees has only taken 17 sacks in 18 games (including their playoff victory versus the Eagles), which is less than once a game. So, he’s completely silenced all opposing pass rushers. Brees ability to stay one step ahead of the defense, and go through his read to locate the mismatches is amazing. He rarely misses an open receiver, and once he decides to let it fly, his accuracy is unmatched. Brees had a 74.4% completion percentage on the year, the best of his career. Let that sink in, the BEST of his career, in year number 18. That’s remarkable. He slung 32 touchdowns, to just five interceptions. Brees makes little to zero mistakes. If you want to beat the Saints, you’re going to have to keep up offensively. There’s just no way around it. Brees and company are going to score points, and if you can’t score at the same pace, then the final scoreboard is going to favor them every time.
This is going to be high octane, offensive dominated football game. Or so everyone thinks. I actually think it may be slightly different than how it played out the first matchup. Both of these offenses are explosive, yes, but each has a solid rushing attack. I think the further you advance in the playoffs, the more that the pressure to keep winning tends to build. Which in return, leads to a slightly more conservative style of coaching in order to try and limit turnovers as much as possible. The two-headed monsters of CJ Andersen and Todd Gurley versus Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara is tv worthy in its own right. All four of those guys will play huge roles in this championship game. However, the difference in the final scoreboard will come down to the quarterback play. Can Jared Goff and company come into New Orleans and spoil the party? I don’t count on it. While I do think Goff will be good, I think Brees will be better, mainly because of the home field advantage. New Orleans is one of the toughest places to play in the National Football League, if not the very toughest. If the game was being played in Los Angeles, I might be leaning the other direction, but with the Saints having home field advantage, along with Drew Brees, I think it will be too tough for the Rams to overcome. However, betters, don’t take the spread. This game is too tight of a matchup to give either team any points.
Rams 27-30 Saints