The playoffs have not been kind to me whatsoever.
I went 1-3 again this week, and my only win was the Seattle-Green Bay one which was technically a push. I fell to 149-115 on the year, and now I only have three more chances to bump up my record. Obviously, we only have two games this week, but they are two fantastic ones and we’re going to cover everything heading into this Sunday. Who’s going to Miami? We’re about to find out.
So without any further ado, let’s try not to get embarrassed!
#6 TENNESSEE TITANS vs. #2 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS [-7.0]
If you would’ve told anybody this would be the AFC Championship game in October, you would’ve been ridiculed, specifically for picking Tennessee.
It has been a turnaround season for the Titans, who were 2-4 at one point and made the smart decision of benching former #2 overall pick and Heisman winner Marcus Mariota for backup Ryan Tannehill. The move was made at the time not only due to Mariota’s incompetence, but any sort of upgrade on offense was needed. It turns out they may have made the best choice of the season, regardless of the team.
Tannehill has been incredible throughout this run, and it looks like Tennessee is going to lock him up for the near future. Having the NFL’s leading rusher in Derrick Henry doesn’t help either, and he has been the leading source of their offense in the playoffs, averaging over thirty carries a game. Throw in a defense that has studs at all levels and one of the best coaches in the league in Mike Vrabel, taking the Tennessee Titans lightly is pure buffoonery at this stage.
Of course, they have their toughest opponent comping up in the Kansas City Chiefs, who have been able to overcome a midseason knee injury to Patrick Mahomes and still finished as the #2 seed in the AFC. Despite not having a running game near the same level as Tennessee’s Kansas City has arguably the best skill position group in the league that can outrun and physically takes a toll on opponents. I haven’t even mentioned their defense, which ranked #11 in the league and was thought by many to be a weakness during the preseason.
You might ask, didn’t the Titans defeat the Chiefs as currently constructed in Week 10? Yes, and the way they beat them was with the same formula that the Titans have been using in the postseason. Tannehill only threw 19 times in that game, but Derrick Henry rushed for 188 yards and two touchdowns.
Ever since that game, Kansas City has been on a seven-game win streak and the most points (outside of the Texans game where 21 of Houston’ 31 points came in that fluky first quarter) that they’ve allowed has been 21 in Week 17 to the Chargers.
While I don’t expect the Chiefs to completely botch the beginning of the game like last week, they cannot afford any mistakes against this Tennessee squad. They’re going to play smash-mouth offense and defense, pounding the rock to wear down the defense and if need be, ask Ryan Tannehill to beat them.
I just see this Kansas City offense too much of a unit, especially with Patrick Mahomes throwing to his bevy of weapons against the Titans’ corners, that while solid, as probably the weakness of the team if they had one. It has been an awesome underdog run by the Titans, and the future is as bright as the sun. I fully expect the Kansas City Chiefs and Andy Reid to be back in the Super Bowl for the first time since 1969.
THE PICK: Chiefs (-7.0)
FINAL SCORE: Chiefs def. Titans 38-17
#2 GREEN BAY PACKERS vs. #1 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (-7.5)
While the Tennessee Titans are the clear underdog in this year’s final-four, we get the cream of the crop in the NFC Championship Game.
The Green Bay Packers, as I’ve mentioned, are one of the most disrespected 13-3 teams of all-time. Now I will admit they don’t have an elite offense, Aaron Rodgers is slightly declining, and they seem to coast in every game that they play.
Yet, the Packers finally spent money in free agency this offseason and improved their defense with Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith. They’ve drafted great contributors to their secondary the last several years, such as Kevin King, Jaire Alexander, and Darnell Savage. Their head coach Matt Lafleur, who wasn’t regarded as good hire because of a poor year in Tennessee, has been exceptional this season. Aaron Jones and Davante Adams are balling out. Furthermore, despite the previously mentioned small-decline, Aaron Rodgers isn’t some bum. It would be blasphemous to lose any faith in the future Hall of Famer.
The San Francisco 49ers have been the best team in the NFC this year and looking back on the season, it hasn’t really been close. The #1 seed in the NFC, their only poor loss was at home to Atlanta, and that was after their 48-46 shootout with the Saints. I’ve fawned over the play-calling of Kyle Shanahan throughout this season, and in the Niners win against the Vikings, it was as good as it’s ever been. Jimmy Garoppolo is never going to be a star, but Shanahan’s ability to get the most out of him (and frankly, any quarterback he’s coached) somewhat narrows the perceived advantage that Rodgers has over him.
It also helps to have one of the best defenses in the league as well. Nick Bosa immediately came into the NFL and is arguably the best player on their front seven, with DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead having career years as well. Fred Warner has had a breakout year at linebacker, and Kwon Alexander in his return from injury looked fantastic last week. They have Richard Sherman at cornerback, and while the opposite side needs to be addressed, the 49ers have been able to mitigate that issue because of all the pressure they cause opposing quarterbacks.
Just like the Chiefs and Titans, these two teams have met once before this season. Unlike the Chiefs and Titans, the result wasn’t close.
The 49ers drubbed the Packers 37-8, sacking Rodgers five times and holding him to 104 yards and Aaron Jones to 38 yards on the ground. It was easily green Bay’s worst performance of the season, but similar to Kansas City, they haven’t lost since then.
Has much changed for Green Bay since then? Not really. They’ve played the same style all year, and with Sherman likely shadowing Davante Adams as he did in their previous matchup, Rodgers will need to rely on his running game for better output and his other skill-position players.
I don’t foresee a blowout like the first matchup, but San Francisco looks to have Green Bay’s number and, unless Jimmy G chokes in the grandest of fashions, I’m fairly confident the 49ers will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl for the first time since the Harbaugh-Kaepernick days.
THE PICK: 49ers (-7.5)
FINAL SCORE: 49ers def. Packers 29-20