The NFL’s conference championship weekend has set up exactly to script, with the top two seeds in each conference squaring off for the right to head to Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII. Both games are also, coincidentally, rematches of contests that we saw during the regular season. In the first go-round, it was the Saints and Patriots that came out victorious leaving fans of the Rams and Chiefs questioning how they can make things different in Round 2.
Well, we posed that exact question to Inside The NFL analyst and Pro Football Hall of Famer Ray Lewis. Unsurprisingly, Ray sees the biggest key for each team coming on the defensive side of the ball, as they go up against two of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. You can catch Ray along with fellow analysts Boomer Esiason and Phil Simms alongside host James Brown every Tuesday night on Inside The NFL on Showtime.
CBS Local Sports: On the field this weekend we have a pair of rematches in the conference title games. First, in the NFC, what do the Rams need to do differently from their first meeting against the Saints in order to earn the win this time?
Ray Lewis: Drew Brees was really able to predict what the right play was the last time these teams met. I think they’re going to have to get to him by disguising what they are doing on defense. The Rams are so dominant from a talent perspective on defense but, as a team concept, they’re not.
They have to give him different looks. If you don’t give him different looks, then you are just telling your talent to beat the next talent. And I think at home, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas are going to find their spots. When a veteran quarterback like Drew knows the game the way that he does, he is going to find his spots. That is why I think the Rams have to give him different looks. If they don’t, the results are going to be the same.
CBS Local Sports: In Kansas City, the Chiefs defense, which has struggled most of the year, smothered the Colts last week. Now, they face another big test with the Patriots. Do you think they can play at the same level this week? Why or why not?
Ray Lewis: It’s a different ask this week, a tall order. That is what I’m wrestling with in this game. Because, all of the weaknesses that the Chiefs have, that is what Brady and Belichick are studying. That is where they (the Patriots) are going to attack them, in the places that the Chiefs aren’t strong.
I think they, similar to the Rams with Brees, have to give Brady something different to look at. If they don’t give him any different looks, it is going to look like what he did to the Chargers last week. When you look at it, it wasn’t what Brady did in the passing game as much as it was the running game killing the Chargers before getting passes wide open with play action.
Now, does weather help them? The weather does help in the sense that the ball probably isn’t going to get down the field as far. But, to me, when the Patriots start to run the football, that is when they go win championships.
Kansas City has to change something up. For Andy Reid, this is the first time he is going to have to change a lot of things up.
CBS Local Sports: Finally, we’ll put you on the spot. Out of these four teams left, which two do you think we’ll be seeing in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII?
Ray Lewis: I picked the Saints before the year and I’m sticking with it. It’s tough on the other side, because I think Brady can have a lot of success against that defense. But, I think it’s the Saints and the Chiefs.