When fourteen teams advanced to the expanded National Football League playoffs this season there were truly only six teams with a legitimate chance of meeting next Sunday in Super Bowl LV. Three from the American Football Conference and three from the National Football Conference.
The books had the most likely matchup pitting the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs against the Green Bay Packers. The other four teams my numbers indicated had the best chances to advance were the Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens from the AFC and a pair of NFC South Division squads, the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
While the Qoxhi preseason Super Bowl prediction was the Buffalo Bills, when the postseason kicked off I thought the best odds were with the Baltimore Ravens. Now, in most seasons, the team that extends an unbeaten string during the regular season to the most wins is an odds on choice to represent their conference in the Super Bowl. But this year, that team was the Pittsburgh Steelers, who finished their season not with a big finale like a fourth of July celebration, but rather like a Roman Candle left smoldering after the show is over.
Still, the Steelers had defeated the Ravens twice during the regular season. Once by virtue of Baltimore turning the ball over three times to surrender a 28-24 final score, and a second time when the Ravens were in the midst of the worst outbreak of Covid-19 any team experienced.
But, once into the playoffs, the Ravens were at full strength and their loss in Buffalo was the biggest surprise of the postseason by our numbers.
So, if the Bills were able to upset the talented Ravens, their defense limiting Baltimore to three points in a two touchdown victory, they might be the best bet to upset the odds-on favored Chiefs.
The Chiefs blew by Buffalo like a team that had the look of an eventual Super Bowl winner.
In the NFC, New Orleans was upended by Tampa Bay in a game that we later learned had the Saints directed by a more severely injured Drew Brees than we knew before the contest. The rib injury and resulting internal problems from a hit suffered against the San Francisco 49ers nine weeks earlier, affected the future Hall of Fame quarterback and he was ineffective against the Bucs defense while surrendering three interceptions in a home loss.
The NFC favored Packers passed by the Los Angeles Rams in their opening postseason game and all indicators on our charts showed that Aaron Rodgers and company would also vanquish Tom Brady and his Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game.
How it didn’t happen still has the football world seemingly auditioning for next year’s return of Budweiser advertising to the Super Bowl telecast. That is looking amazed and saying, “What?”
After the game, the Packers fired defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, apparently for his blown defensive call that allowed Brady to complete a fourth down touchdown pass from midfield late in the second quarter. Pettine was a holdover from the Mike McCarthy era in Green Bay, but if he is dismissed for that defensive call, the coach that called for a field goal on fourth-and-goal with time running out while the Packers needed a touchdown with just over two-minutes left in the game should be banished from the league and forced into hard labor in a foreign country.
But Matt LaFleur will return for his third season as the Packers head coach next season … and start the year on very thin ice.
So, what do we have here?
We’ve got the expected winner of the AFC meeting a Wild Card Buccaneers squad that beat an injured quarterback in the Divisional Round after not covering the point spread in their Wild Card game against the Washington Redskins and benefitting from brain freeze on the frozen tundra.
What’s wrong with the Chiefs … because if the Bucs are to win Brady his seventh Vince Lombardi Trophy recent history shows us something has to be.