Jeff Reinebold’s keys to reaching the Super Bowl as Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Buffalo and Kansas City meet on championship weekend
- Tom Brady goes head-to-head with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay
- Brady has six Super Bowl titles to Rodgers’s single ring
- In the AFC, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen meet in Kansas City
- The defending champions are the bookies’ favourites but face a red hot team
It’s conference championship weekend. Two greats of the game face off at Lambeau Field and two of the NFL’s young guns meet at Arrowhead.
Sky Sports analyst Jeff Reinebold breaks down where both games will be won and lost…
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Green Bay Packers, Sunday 8.05pm
I’m fascinated to watch these guys work. Fans will realise how lucky we are to see this kind of quarterback play.
Aaron Rodgers has been on a mission all year. That started on draft night when they drafted a quarterback. All the years I’ve been watching the NFL I’ve never seen a quarterback have a year like that. 48 touchdown passes, five interceptions. That’s ridiculous. And he’s in the perfect headspace. You watch that game last week and he did so many things to put them in the right place.
The Rams didn’t have any answers. The one touchdown that Davante Adams got on the goalline where he came back in motion, that was all Rodgers. He put him in motion but that was actually a running play called. He pulled the ball out of the running back’s stomach. And he threw it to Adams. I thought to myself, ‘Man this guy is so far ahead of everybody else’. Allen Lazard, it’s the same deal. He points to Lazard. He saw there was no safety in the middle of the field. Bang. Touchdown.
Aaron Rodgers, 37, is at the top of his game an is expected to be named MVP
On the other side, Brady doesn’t audible and change plays as much on the line of scrimmage but he knows exactly what you are doing before you are doing it. That first week against Washington they tried to fool him with an exotic zone exchange where the safety comes down and the corner goes up. Which is a great idea, except it’s not a great idea when the guy who’s playing quarterback against you knows what you’re doing before you do it. That’s when he hit Antonio Brown on a deep ball.
One thing for Tampa which could play out is having Vita Vea back. When he’s playing in there with Ndamukong Suh opponents average less than three yards a rush. And if they can make the Packers one-dimensional they’ve got a much better chance.
Against the Rams last week Aaron Jones played really well and their running backs as a group played really well. If they can stop that they’ve got a great chance because you’re asking Adams to do it all. Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling both had big drops and you can’t do that in a game this big. Every possession is so important. To put on on the ground is going to be the thing that can decide the game.
Tom Brady has six Super Bowl rings and is two wins away from adding to his haul
The secondary with Green Bay, that’s going to be a key. Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith are great pass rushers and their defense has been middle of the pack in terms of stats, but the one thing they can do is turn the ball over. But they’ve also had games where it’s gone wrong in the back end. Troy Aikman did a game and he said: ‘I have no idea what the Packers are doing the secondary’. So they can’t afford to give up cheap ones because they blow a coverage. They’ve got to make Tampa work like New Orleans’ secondary did – but I just don’t know if they’ve got that kind of talent back there.
Tampa will miss Antonio Brown because of the vertical aspect of the passing game, but don’t sleep on Scotty Miller. In New Orleans Tampa needed a big play. He came out ran a great route. The toughness he showed. He knows the safety’s coming, he stuck his nose out there, caught it got whacked. He’s been an unsung, underappreciated player out side this team. He’s a very, very good player and does a lot of the dirty work that Brown isn’t going to do for you.
The key one to me in this game is can Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones dominate the line of scrimmage like they did last week? The one thing about Mike Pettine is he likes to play small on defense. He likes to play with his nickel in there. They’ll play some big sets but he really likes having extra DBs on the field. If they do that, Tampa are going to have an opportunity to run it and that’s another thing that would be in Tampa’s favour.
Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday 11.40pm
I’m so glad for Patrick Mahomes. Kansas City takes a sigh of relief. You talk about a match up that the league would want. You’ve got the older guys on one side, two young guns on one side and no matter how it goes they’re going to have a great match up for the Super Bowl.
But there’s a couple of other injuries this weekend for the Chiefs that are quite interesting in their secondary – Bashaud Breeland and Rashad Fenton. If they don’t play, that’s going to be tough. Nobody in football does four wide receivers, even five wide receiver stuff than Buffalo does. They play little tight ends as anyone in the league so they need those guys to match up. I don’t know what Kansas City’s going to do but that’s not a team you want a bunch of replacements running around.
Superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes has turf toe but will play against Buffalo
The three teams that are left have all got the capability to beat the Chiefs because they can score. When you play a high-scoring team there’s an old NFL coaching belief that you run the ball, keep them off the field and limit their possession. That’s all good except these guys can score so much that you limit your own possessions if you play that way. If you don’t come down and get touchdowns, they’ll come down and put seven on you. And you’re still playing from behind.
One of things – and the Raiders showed this – you’ve got to score points and take advantage of match-ups you can get. Try and get Daniel Sorenson on one of your speed receivers, try and get Tyrann Mathieu on one of your speed receivers. That’s hard to do but if you use formations that what the Raiders did they got Henry Ruggs III on Sorenson for a big touchdown in that game. Buffalo’s going to need those kind of plays.
I’ve been trading text messages with Cole Beasley this week and they’re ready to play. For him especially, because he’s at the end of his career, he’s never been to a Super Bowl. He’s never been to a championship game. The sense of importance is not wasted on him.
Wide receiver Stefon Diggs will be crucial to the Bills hopes of reaching the Super Bowl
I don’t usually believe in such things, but if there’s a team that may be a team of destiny it might be the Bills. In two play off games they’ve had the opposing kicker hit the uprights three times. That usually doesn’t happen three times in an entire season. They’re playing with a lot of confidence now too. When they went out and closed out the deal against Indianapolis and really just dominated Baltimore, I think they’re confidence is sky high right now. They’re not going to come in and play afraid.
Follow the NFL Playoffs live with Jeff Reinebold today on Sky Sports NFL.
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