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PFT’s conference championship picks

Mike Florio and Michael David Smith are split on their Championship Weekend bets as both games are expected to be extremely close.

It’s getting pretty good in the postseason.

My three-game gap has fallen to one, thanks to MDS going 4-0 in the divisional round by taking the four favorites in every game. (Chicken.) I foolishly trusted the Cowboys and Eagles, and now I need a New England win to clinch the playoff competition. Otherwise, it all comes down to the Super Bowl.

I fared better against the spread, going 2-1 to the 1-2 mark from MDS. This week, we disagree on both picks, when the points are applied.

Rams at Saints

MDS’s take: The Rams’ offensive line had an outstanding season, and last week’s win over the Cowboys may have been its best game yet. Andrew Whitworth, Rob Havenstein, Rodger Saffold, Austin Blythe and John Sullivan block so well that it really doesn’t matter which running back is behind them. There are going to be big holes for the Rams to run through. I expect the Rams to run the ball well against the Saints. At the same time, Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in football at recognizing the pass rush and getting rid of the ball quickly and accurately, which neutralizes the strength of the Rams’ defense. I see this as a high-scoring game, with both offenses able to do what they want. This feels like a close game that could come down to a fourth-quarter field goal. If that’s how it plays out, I think home-field advantage is the difference.

MDS’s pick: Saints 34, Rams 31.

Florio’s take: The one-two punch of Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson could create problems for the home team’s front seven, especially with Sheldon Rankins out for the year. But the Saints earned home-field advantage, they’ve already beaten the Rams in the Superdome, and the noise that will be generated by a raucous New Orleans crowd creates a real benefit. Throw in the edge in playoff experience, a lingering sense of unfinished business from last year, and a lesson learned about starting slowly from last week and the Saints should be able to ride Drew Brees, Sean Payton, and company to a berth in the Super Bowl.

Florio’s pick: Saints 38, Rams 31.

Patriots at Chiefs

MDS’s take: This has the makings of a classic. A brutally cold night in Kansas City, with the legendary Tom Brady taking on perhaps the most talented quarterback ever to play the position, Patrick Mahomes. The stars are aligning for this to be an all-time great game. Or at least the sun, earth and moon are aligning, as the game will be played under a lunar eclipse. The Patriots’ defense is a lot better this year than it was last year, which is why I give them a chance: I think they’ll force a couple of turnovers, and maybe take an early lead. But I also think this is Mahomes’ year, and in the end no one is stopping him. The NFL’s brightest young star is heading for the Super Bowl.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 42, Patriots 35.

Florio’s take: The forecast has improved throughout the week, which is good news for the home team. The opponent continues to be the Patriots, which is bad news for the home team. The home team has Patrick Mahomes, which is the best news possible. But there isn’t enough around him, yet. Losses to the Patriots, Rams, Chargers, and Seahawks resulted not from Mahomes but from the lack of high-end talent around him. The Patriots, between talent and coaching and the resiliency of Tom Brady, can do to the Chiefs what won’t be easy to do: Score at least one more point in a single-elimination setting. Look for Patriots coach Bill Belichick to confound Mahomes, contain Tyreek Hill, control the clock, and ultimately prevail in the only stat that ever matters. Points scored vs. points allowed.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 30, Chiefs 27.