Times, TV channels, streaming for conference title games | News Coverage from USA

Times, TV channels, streaming for conference title games

Here’s everything you need to know for Sunday’s NFC and AFC Championship Games:

Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints

Kickoff time: 3:05 p.m. ET
Channel: Fox
Streaming: Fox Sports Go
Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans
Line: Saints by 3

Injury report: With no players listed on the injury report, the Rams enter the game essentially at full strength. New Orleans, however, will be without wide receiver Keith Kirkwood, who is out with a calf injury. Saints tight end Benjamin Watson is listed as questionable, but an ESPN report said he was suffering from appendicitis and is expected to miss the game.

1. “Nice little bowl of gumbo”: Just as in the AFC title game, the NFC Championship features two teams that met earlier in the regular season. In Week 9, the Rams went down to New Orleans and the Saints prevailed, 45-35. New Orleans raced out to a lead in the second quarter, but the Rams eventually knotted the game up with 21 unanswered points. Still, the Saints took the victory with a 10-point fourth quarter. Adding a little juice to the matchup with his remarks after that game, Rams cornerback Marcus Peters called out Saints coach Sean Payton for trash-talking him on the field and said, “We going to see him soon … and then we going to have a nice little bowl of gumbo together.” Peters gets his wish, but will any added motivation make a difference?

2. Turning defensive: New Orleans became known for its powerful offense in the first half of the season, but over the stretch run, it has been a smothering defense that has taken over. Since Week 7, the Saints have allowed opposing offenses to score just 16.9 points a game and have sacked opposing passers 28 times – and that’s without notching one against Nick Foles and the Eagles in the divisional round. In particular, the secondary has improved its play and shut down opposing passing attacks. Los Angeles’ offense, though, is the highest-scoring outfit the Saints will face since starting this run, so the challenge the Rams present – behind a healthy Todd Gurley – is significant.

3. Matchup nightmare: One of the NFL’s toughest covers, Saints receiver Michael Thomas, decimated the Rams when both teams played in Week 9, catching 12 of 15 targets for 211 yards and one score – a 72-yard catch-and-run that finished Los Angeles off late in the fourth quarter. Not only that, but Thomas is fresh off of a dominant performance in the divisional round, hanging 12 catches on 16 targets for 171 yards and one touchdown against the Eagles. How the Rams defend Thomas, who grew up in Southern California, might be one of the biggest factors in determining whether or not they move on to their first Super Bowl while representing the city of Los Angeles since the 1979 season.

New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs

Kickoff time: 6:40 p.m. ET
Channel: CBS
Streaming: CBS All Access
Location: Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City
Line: Chiefs by 3

Injury report: The Patriots have a clean bill of health, as defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. was the only player listed on the team’s injury report this week. The Chiefs are set to get a big boost with the expected return of safety Eric Berry, who has been sidelined with a heel injury. Linebacker Dorian O’Daniel has been ruled out with a knee ailment.

Three keys to the game (by Lorenzo Reyes)

1. Rematch: Anyone who tuned in for Week 6’s thrilling battle between these two teams – an eventual 43-40 Patriots victory – should be glad there’s another iteration of the matchup. It was a back-and-forth matchup with two ties and four lead changes. After the Chiefs tied the game with just more than three minutes to play on a 75-yard bomb to Tyreek Hill, the Pats fought back and kicked the 28-yard, game-winning field goal as time expired. That game earlier in the year was in Foxborough. This time it will be at Arrowhead, so the Chiefs may get a little boost from the home-field crowd in the first AFC title game hosted in Kansas City. One other interesting nugget: the last time the Pats played in Kansas City, it was the 2014 game – a 41-14 New England loss in Week 4 – after which many questioned whether Brady’s run as a dominant passer had come to an end.

2. Prolific passers: The duel between Brady and Patrick Mahomes is the marquee attraction of the AFC Championship Game. Mahomes is the favorite for the league MVP and boasts one of the strongest arms in the NFL. He uses creative arm angles and can slip out of the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield to find targets who may have raced past coverage. Brady, on the other hand, is masterful in the pocket and – despite many claiming that his demise was coming soon – was clinical in a divisional-round thumping of the Chargers. They have different styles, but this matchup – in some ways – is a representation of what happened this year throughout the NFL: Several young passers flourished, but they still need to get past experienced mainstays to reach the next level in the league.

3. (In)experience: This will be New England’s eighth consecutive trip to the AFC Championship Game and 13th in Brady’s 17 seasons as the team’s full-time starter – not counting the 2008 campaign in which he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the season opener. The Patriots will be trying to reach their ninth Super Bowl in the Brady-Bill Belichick era. Kansas City, meanwhile, has a quarterback who’s in his first season as a starter. Its roster doesn’t come even close to the postseason experience that New England’s enjoys. While Kansas City coach Andy Reid has plenty of experience in big games, he may need to work on not having the stage become too big for his squad.


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