With The Grey Cup decided for another year, Canadian football fans’ attention now diverts to south of the border as the race for the Super Bowl hots up with the beginning of the NFL playoffs.
Here are our four key takeaways from the season so far:
The AFC West is where it’s at
The Kansas City Chiefs have hogged the headlines in the AFC this season, andfor good reason. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense has been a weekly highlight reel ofattacking excellence.
But they haven’t had it all their own way in the AFC West. The Los Angeles Chargers have quietly kept pace with the Chiefs and drew level with Kansas City with a thrilling win in Week 15.
The Chiefs and Chargers look best equipped to challenge in the playoffs, and it would be no surprise to see them meet one more time in the AFC Championship game.
The Patriots’ reign of dominance could be about to end
The New England Patriots look as vulnerable now as they’ve looked in many a year. That was perfectly illustrated by their last-play defeat to the Miami Dolphins in Week 14, when they conceded the sort of touchdown you never see a Belichick team allow.
That loss was followed by another, to the Pittsburgh Steelers, as the Patriots’ chances of securing home-field advantage in the playoffs took a hit.
And without the huge advantage that comes with playing at their Gillette Stadium home, expect the Pats to get outgunned on the road as they fall short in the playoffs.
The Rams are the “Galacticos” of the NFL
At the start of the season, it looked as if the Los Angeles Rams were a dead cert to be in the Super Bowl, but after defeat by the Saints and a wobble against the Chicago Bears, the aura around Sean McVay’s talent-packed lineup has started to fade a little.
They have plenty of ability on both sides of the ball, but recent losses to the Bears and the Eagles, as well as their defeat at the hands of the Saints, have shown that the Rams are talented, but beatable.
In many ways, they’re the NFL equivalent of the star-studded “Galactico” Real Madrid sides of the mid-2000’s. But it’s worth remembering that for all the talent crammed into their team, Real’s “Galacticos” didn’t always win.
New Orleans might just have the best team of all
If the Rams were the pre-season favorites to win the Super Bowl, the New Orleans Saints have been the strong contenders who have broken from the pack to challenge at the sharp end.
Under coach Sean Payton, the Saints have been powerful, unpredictable, and consistent – a dangerous combination for their rivals to deal with. Just ask the Rams. The Saints put them away 45-35 in a thrilling Week 9 clash and promptly moved to the top of the NFL betting for Super Bowl LIII.
A rematch of that clash would make for a stunning NFC Championship Game, but the big question on everyone’s lips is which of the two powerhouse teams will be representing the National Football Conference on Super Bowl Sunday?