And then there were four.

It’s the NFL’s Final Four. The last four teams standing before Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta in two weeks. These are the survivors and at the end of the day, there will be two teams making their way toward the Big Peach, while the other two teams will be clearing out their lockers come Monday. While the other 28 teams are getting ready for the Senior Bowl, the 2019 NFL draft and OTA’s, the remaining four teams are playing a meaningful football game and these games are important.

The formula stays pretty much the same and it’s so easy, even a five-year old gets it.

You win… you get to go to Atlanta.

Lose… your next game is next year.

32 teams started the year fighting for the Lombardi Trophy, fighting heat, bugs, sweat, sleeping in dorms for the first time since college, reading playbooks that make War and Peace look like the Sunday funnies. Four pre-seaason games, 16 regular season games and the postseason. All that comes to an end in two weeks. When Super Bowl LIII comes to an end in Atlanta, someone’s going to be holding the Lombardi Trophy and yelling into a camera “I’m going to Disney World!” The losers? They’re going to be second-guessed and picked apart like a turkey at Thanksgiving the entire off-season. Second meetings are all about revenge for the losers and a chance for the winners to make a statement.

What’s at stake, you ask? Trophies and cash, for openers, as well as a chance to go to Atlanta. The AFC winner will be the American Football Conference Championship and the Lamar Hunt Trophy, while the NFC winner will be the proud owners of the George Halas Trophy. Each player will be paid $54,000 (which breaks down to $13,500 a quarter) for their participation in the championship games.


HIGH OCTANE OFFENSES: On Championship Sunday, the Super Bowl LIII participants will be decided. In the NFC, the Los Angeles Rams take on New Orleans at 3:05 p.m. on FOX, while New England travels to Arrowhead Stadium to face Kansas City at 6:40 p.m. on CBS in the AFC. The Conference Championships feature the four highest-scoring teams from the regular season for the first time in the Super Bowl era.

With victories by the Rams and Chiefs on Sunday, the Super Bowl would feature the two highest-scoring teams from the regular season for the fifth time since 1970 and the first time since 1997.

The Super Bowls featuring the two highest-scoring teams from the regular season since 1970:

1997: Denver – Green Bay (XXXII)
1996: Green Bay – New England (XXXI)
1991: Washington – Buffalo (XXVI)
1984: Miami – San Francisco (XIX)

THE PATRIOT WAY: The New England Patriots have reached the Super Bowl in each of the past two seasons. With a win against Kansas City on Sunday, the Patriots would join the Buffalo Bills (1990-93) and Miami Dolphins (1971-73) as the only teams in the Super Bowl era to appear in three consecutive Super Bowls.

The teams to appear in at least three consecutive Super Bowls in the Super Bowl era:

Buffalo (1990-93 / 4; XXV-XXVIII)
Miami (1971-73 / 3; VI-VIII)
New England (2016-17 / 2; LI-LII)*
*Active streak

HIGH SEED ADVANTAGE: With victories by top seeds Kansas City (AFC) and New Orleans (NFC) on Sunday, it would mark the 14th time since the NFL began seeding teams in 1975 that both top seeds faced off in the Super Bowl and the fifth time in the past six seasons (2013-15, 2017).

With wins on Sunday by both the Chiefs and Saints, it would mark the fifth time since 1975 that consecutive seasons have featured a Super Bowl matchup of the No. 1 seeds.

The Super Bowls featuring both No. 1 seeds in consecutive seasons since the NFL began seeding teams in 1975:

2013-15: XLVIII-50
1983-84: XVIII-XIX
1976-77: XI-XII​

With a win, the Chiefs can become the sixth consecutive number seed to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, surpassing five consecutive Super Bowls featuring the AFC’s number one seed (1987-1991) for the longest streak by the conference since 1975.

A victory by Kansas City would also mark the second time that either conference has had a streak of six consecutive seasons with a Super Bowl featuring their number one seed since 1975 (NFC – six consecutive seasons from 1981-86).

MAGICAL MAHOMES: Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes passed for 278 yards in his postseason debut last weekend and ranked second in passing yards (5,097) during the regular season.

With a Chiefs victory against New England, Mahomes would become the fourth quarterback to pass for at least 5,000 yards and reach the Super Bowl in the same season.

The quarterbacks to pass for at least 5,000 yards and reach the Super Bowl in the same season:

Peyton Manning, Denver (2013: 5,477 – XLVIII)
Tom Brady, New England (2011: 5,235 – XLVI)
Dan Marino, Miami (1984: 5,084 – XIX)^
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

EASY BREESY: New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees passed for 301 yards with two touchdowns in the Saints’ Divisional Playoffs win against Philadelphia.

With 300 passing yards on Sunday, Brees would tie Peyton Mannign (nine games) for the second-most playoff games with at least 300 passing yards.

The players with the most postseason games with at least 300 passing yards:

Tom Brady – New England (15)*
Peyton Manning – Indianapolis and Denver (9)
Drew Brees – San Diego and New Orleans (8)*
*Active in Conference Championships

GREAT GURLEY: Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown in the Rams’ Divisional round victory against Dallas.

Gurley, who has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of his first two postseason appearances, can join Arian Foster as the only players in postseason history to rush for at least 100 yards in each of their first three playoff games.

The players with at least 100 rushing yards in each of their first three postseason games:

Arian Foster, Houston (1/7/12-1/5/13)(3)
Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams (1/6/18-1/12/19)(2)*
*Active streak

CATCH & RUN: New England running back JAMES WHITE had 15 receptions in the Divisional Playoffs, tied with Darren Sproles  (January 14, 2012 with New Orleans) for the most receptions by a player in a single postseason game in the Super Bowl era.

With at least 10 receptions on Sunday at Kansas City, White would become the fourth player in the Super Bowl era to record consecutive postseason games with at least 10 catches.

The players with consecutive postseason games with at least 10 receptions in the Super Bowl era:

Tony Nathan, Miami (1/20/85-1/4/86)(2)
Jerry Rice, San Francisco (1/29/95-1/6-96)(2)^
Steve Smith, Sr., Carolina (1/8/06-1/15/06 (2)
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

Patriots running back Sony Michel rushed for 129 yards and three touchdowns in the team’s Divisional Playoffs victory. With one rushing touchdown on Sunday, Michel can tie the postseason record for the most rushing touchdowns by a rookie.

The rookies with the most rushing touchdowns in a single postseason:

Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville (2017 – 4)
Jamal Lewis, Baltimore (2000 – 4)
William Floyd, San Francisco (1994 – 4)
Tony Dorsett, Dallas (1997 – 4)^
Norm Standlee, Chicago (1941 – 4)
Sony Michel, New England (2018 – 3)*
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

As was the case for the entire playoffs and the Super Bowl, everything is going to be “DRILL WORTHY!” (For those of you that know what The Drill is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention. We don’t want any rookie mistakes here, k?) After you go to the 9:30 mass on Sunday (the 4:30 vigil mass on Saturday counts as a mass attended, people! Don’t make us send the nuns after you! If we do, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OVER!), head to your favorite store (a trip to Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart or Costco counts) and get the vittles and the beverages (soda, beer, wine, coffee, et al… if you live in a state that allows the purchase of the items in question) and invite the co-workers, the neighbors (including that really cute kindergarden teacher that knows what to do with a cover-2 defense) and your cousin Connie (remember her? She’s the one that’s been married twice that’s just turned 58 last June and dates a 43-year old ex-Marine, who’s now a football coach at the high school in your town. She’s also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?”)

We struggled in the Wild Card round, going 1-3 but bounced back in the Divisional round, going 3-1, which for the year makes us 149-111. Both games are rematches from the 2018 regular season schedule (New England and Kansas City met in Foxboro in week six, the Rams and Saints met in New Orleans in week nine), which means that there are no secrets. One seeds playing at home against two seeds. Playoff football at its finest. Hollywood couldn’t have written a better script.

Two games left in the post-season. We can’t say it enough but it bears repeating.

Win… you go to Atlanta in two weeks.

Lose… your next game is next year.

With that, here are the Sunday championship picks.

NFC – Los Angeles Rams (13-3, 2nd seed) at New Orleans (13-3, 1st seed), 3:05 p.m. on FOX. Championship Sunday gets underway in the Big Easy as the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints meet in a week nine rematch to decide who will be the NFC’s representative to Super Bowl LIII. Both teams were at home last week after their first round byes and both clubs had close wins at home.

The Rams, winners of the NFC West, held off a late Dallas rally last Saturday night in Los Angeles as they came away with the 30-22 win at the Coliseum in the NFC Divisional Game. Los Angeles erased a 7-3 deficit at the end of the first 15 minutes of play, took a 20-7 lead with them to the intermission and held off a late Cowboys rally in the second half that saw Dallas outscore the Rams 15-10 in the final 30 minutes of action. The Rams outrushed Dallas 273-50 and Rams’ running backs Todd Gurley (115 yards, TD) and C.J. Anderson (123 yards, 2 TDS) each tallied 100 yards for their team, while Jared Goff threw for 186 yards with no sacks (Dallas’ Dak Prescott threw for 266 yards with a TD to Amari Cooper with a sack; neither Goff or Presscott threw an interception). The Rams were 5 of 11 on third down (they were 2 of 2 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 36:13, while the Cowboys held on to the ball for 23:47, going 1 for 10 on third down, 3 for 4 on fourth down.

New Orleans trailed Philadelphia 14-0 early in their contest at the Mercedes Benz Superdome, then rallied to take a 20-14 win over the Eagles to advance to the championship round. The Saints proceeded to chip away at Philadelphia’s lead and trailed 14-10 at the half before scoring their final 10 points of the contest unchallenged, taking the lead for keeps with 1:40 left in the third when Drew Brees and WR Michael Thomas connected on a 2-yard TD pass, part of an 18-play, 92-yard drive that took 11:29 of playing time (17 minutes of actual time). Saints K Wil Lutz would add a 39-yard field goal early in the final 15 minutes of play to make the contest a 6-point affair. Philadelphia would later get the ball back in the final minutes of the game and got as close as the Saints’ 27-yard line when Nick Foles’ pass intended for Alshon Jeffery deflected off Jeffery’s hands and was intercepted by Marshawn Lattimore, The Saints then proceeded to run out the clock and take the win in front of the home folks. New Orleans outrushed Philadelphia 137-49, with Saints RB Alvin Kamara leading all rushers with 71 yards and Brees throwing for 301 yards with a pair of TDs to go with a pair of sacks and an interception, while Foles threw for 201 yards with a TD and two sacks. New Orleans went 8 for 15 on third down, 2 of 2 on fourth down (including a fake punt run by backup QB Taysom Hill) and kept the ball for 37:50, while the Eagles were 2 of 7 on third downs, holding on to the ball for 22:10.

In the week nine contest in the Big Easy, New Orleans broke a 35-35 fourth quarter tie in the Big Easy and took a 45-35 decision against the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday afternoon to end the Rams’ 8-game win streak. New Orleans led 35-14 going into the intermission before the Rams would pull themselves to within 11 as K Greg Zuerlein connected on a 56-yard field goal as time expired. Los Angeles then scored 10 third quarter points without a challenge, then opened the fourth quarter, tying things up at 35-35 thanks to a pair of TD passes from Jared Goff (one to RB Malcon Brown, the other to WR Cooper Kupp) and a Zuerlein field goal before New Orleans took control in the fourth quarter to take the lead back and for keeps. New Orleans outrushed the Rams 141-92 and Goff threw for 391 yards with three TDs an an interception, while Brees threw for 346 yards and four TDs, including a TD that drew the ire of the game officials when WR Michael Thomas pulled out a cell phone from underneath the goal post padding, paying homage to former Saints player Joe Horn (neither man was sacked, Goff threw the only interception in the contest). The Rams were 3 for 8 on third down conversions (they were 0 of 2 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 26:19, while the Saints ruled the clock and held on to the ball for 33:41, going 7 of 12 on third down, 2 of 2 on fourth down.

In the week nine contest in the Big Easy, the Saints were a 1-point favorite and they covered, winning by 10 and both teams took care of the 60 1/2 over/under, as both teams combined for 80 points. This time, the Saints are favored by 3 1/2 and the over/under’s 56. There’s a good chance the over/under could be reached by halftime. The Saints want to prove that the first meeting was not a fluke while the Rams are seeking revenge. Revenge wins out here. Hooray for Hollywood! Rams pull the upset in the Big Easy and covers the 3 1/2.

AFC – New England (11-5, 2nd seed) at Kansas City (12-4, 1st seed), 6:40 p.m. on CBS. Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes. They meet again, this time in central America. The Chiefs host the Patriots in a week six rematch at Arrownhead to become the AFC’s representative to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta. Both teams were winners at home in last week’s action.

New England led the Los Angeles Chargers 35-7 at the break at Foxboro and came out on top 41-28 at Gillette Stadium. New England broke a 7-7 tie early in the first quarter as rookie RB Sony Michel would give the Patriots the lead back for keeps, scoring the first of his three rushing TDs late in the period (Michel would then add a second rushing score before halftime). New England outrushed the Bolts 155-19, with Michel leading the eay with 129 yards and Brady threw for 343 yards and a TD without being sacked or picked off, while Philip Rivers threw for 331 yards and three TDs (two of the passes coming late in the contest) and was scked twice and picked off once. While New England was 50 percent on third down tries (the Pats were 7 of 14), they were perfect on fourth down tries, going 1 for 1 and held the ball for 38:20, while the Chargers kept the pigskin for 21:40, going 5 of 13 on third down, 1 for 1 on fourth down.

The Chiefs opened Divisonal Weekend in chilly snowy Kansas City and took care of Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts 31-13 at Arrowhead Saturday afternoon. Kansas City led 17-0 early in the contest before the Colts got their first score thanks to a Chiefs’ special teams blunder when Zeke Pascal recoveed a blocked punt in the end zone to put themselves on the scoreboard. Mahomes then took matters into his own feet, scoring on a four-yard romp late in the second quarter to take a 24-7 lead with them to the intermission. Luck and T.Y. Hilton would pull the Colts to within 11 late in the fourth quarter before Kansas City would seal Indianapolis’ fate when RB Damien Williams, who opened the game’s scoring, closed it out with a six-yard run to take the win. Williams accounted for 129 yards to lead all rushers as the Chiefs outrushed the Colts 180-87 and Mahomes threw for 278 yards and despite being sacked four times, did not throw an interception, while Luck threw for 203 yards with three sacks and the lone TD toss to Hilton. While Kansas City floundered on third down tries at 4 of 14, they struck oil on fourth down, going 3 of 4 and ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 39:49, while the Colts were a dismal 0 for 9 on third down (they were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 20:11.

The Patriots knocked Kansas City out of the ranks of the unbeatens in the week six Sunday night contest in Foxboro, coming away 43-40 last second winners over the Chiefs at Gillette Stadium. Brady and New England led 24-13 at the intermission before the Chiefs would rally in the second half, outscoring New England 31-19 in the final 30 minutes of action. Kansas City took a 33-30 lead with 8:38 left when Tyreek Hill and Mahomes (352 yards, four TDs, two interceptions) connected on a 1-yard TD pass. That lead would not last long as Brady took matters into his own hands and feet, scoring from 4 yards out and the Pats would add to that lead when Stephen Gostkowski booted a 52-yarder to lead 40-33. The Chiefs were not going away quietly as Hill and Mahomes hooked up again with 3:03 left to re-tie the contest. New England went into a surgeon-like mode in the final 3:03, using a 7-play, 65-yard drive that used all the available time left in regulation when Gostkowski booted a 28-yard field goal as time expired. Brady threw for 340 yards with a TD toss to Josh Edelman as New England outrushed Kansas City 173-94 (New England rookie RB Sony Michel led everyone with 106 yards on the ground with a pair of TDs). New England was 7 of 13 on third down (the Pats were 0 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 36:09 (including the final drive), while the Chiefs were 4 of 10 on third down (1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 23:51.

New England in the week six Sunday night contest was favored by 3 1/2 but won by 3. Both clubs manged to wipe the 60 over/under off the face of the Earth, combining to score 83 points in Foxboro. The boys and girls in Vegas like the Chiefs as a 3-point favorite with a 56 over/under. For the Pats, they look to go back to the Super Bowl and erase the memory of what happened to them in Minneapolis; for the Chiefs, it will be their first trip to the big game since Hank Stram wore that blazer as he and Len Dawson took Minnesota to task in New Orleans. Everything’s up to date in Kansas City and so are the Chiefs. Pats make this one close but Chiefs prevail at Arrowhead.