Daily Dr. Roto—January 18, 2019
AFC/NFC Championship Preview
New England Patriots @ Kansas City Chiefs
When New England has the ball: The Patriots offense has pivoted this season, placing a greater emphasis on running the football with rookie sensation RB Sony Michel. Michel is fast, elusive, and is always a threat to make a big play. With the brutal weather expected for Sunday, I would expect the Patriots to rely more than ever on their running game. RB James White has also carved out a big role on offense, as he is the best receiver the team has out of the backfield. If Michel is running effectively, it will set up Tom Brady for some play action passes down field. The Chiefs have no real answer for WR Julian Edelman, who should be able to make numerous plays in the slot. I don’t see Chris Hogan and/or Cordarelle Patterson having much impact in this game. The biggest question is TE Rob Gronkowski. Last week the Patriots used Gronk more as a blocker than as a receiver, but Gronk matches up very well against the Chiefs linebackers. Look for Gronk to make a few plays and perhaps even find the end zone.
When Kansas City has the ball: Bill Belichick wasn’t lying when he said that his team has no answer for Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill. Hill is a nightmare matchup for the Patriots who have no one in the secondary who can match his breakaway speed. Belichick will keep a safety deep to make sure that Hill does not beat him on any long passes. Hill might be able to get a slant and go for a TD, but he won’t catch any 60-yard bombs. For the Patriots to win, I think that they will need to shut down Travis Kelce. Look for them to hit Kelce right at the line of scrimmage and not let him get down the field without contact. As Kelce goes, the Chiefs go, so if Kelce is neutralized then the Patriots are in great shape. Because of the attention given to Hill and Kelce, Damien Williams might end up being a key to this game. Williams has looked the part of the starter over the last month and he should see 20-25 touches in this game. If Williams breaks 100 total yards from scrimmage the Chiefs have a great chance to win. As for Patrick Mahomes, I expect that he will play a great game and not get rattled by what the Patriots throw at him. Belichick will disguise defenses as much as he can, but if Mahomes can be calm in the pocket, he should be able to exploit his secondary matchups to Sammy Watkins and Chris Conley.
Prediction: Chiefs 27-24
Los Angeles Rams @ New Orleans Saints
When the Rams have the ball: Saints DC Dennis Allen is going to have to go all-in on stopping the Rams’ rushing attack. Todd Gurley and CJ Anderson are the key to the Rams offense right now, so stopping them will force a seismic shift in what Sean McVay wants to do on offense. From my vantage point, Jared Goff does not look like the same QB that I saw two months ago. Perhaps it is the loss of Cooper Kupp, or perhaps it is just a loss of confidence, but Goff looks skittish in the pocket and is not making confident throws. The Saints are going to do whatever they can to stop the run, so the Rams Super Bowl chances will likely fall right into Goff’s hands. If he can find Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods with regularity, then the Rams might pull off the upset. If Goff is throwing the ball poorly, the Rams will be in severe trouble on Sunday.
When the Saints have the ball: The last time these two teams played, Sean Payton and Drew Brees took advantage of the matchup that WR Michael Thomas had on CB Marcus Peters. That won’t happen this week, as CB Aqib Talib is healthy and playing for the Rams. If Talib can frustrate Thomas, it will force Brees to look for other options in the passing game. The Rams have been notoriously weak against the tight end position all season, so don’t be shocked to see Ben Watson and/or Josh Hill make a big play or two. Last week, it seemed like the Saints did not feed the ball enough to Alvin Kamara. Kamara needs the ball in his hands for the team to thrive. Mark Ingram is a good runner, but Kamara is great. If Kamara can see 20 touches, the Saints might end up punching their ticket to the Super Bowl. The good news for the Saints is that they are playing at home and QB Drew Brees knows how to get this team to play well in big games. Brees will play within himself and not force bad throws against the aggressive Rams defense. The key will be if Brees can show enough mobility in the pocket to elude Aaron Donald and not be forced into many difficult situations.
Prediction: Saints 31-23
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