By: Jesse Cook (Executive Sports Editor) & Jack Zinman (Sports Editor)
Once again, the unimaginable happened; top seeds fell to lower seeds and teams came back from huge deficits.
I, however, have been wrong about six out of the eight games this postseason, so I have elected to employ the George Costanza method for victory and do the exact opposite of every football instinct I have. Whatever I think will happen in a game, I am going to go with the opposite.
That said, here are the predictions for the Championship Round:
A.F.C. 6. TENNESSEE TITANS (9-7) AT 2. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (12-4):
Tennessee has a defense that reigned in a mobile quarterback in Lamar Jackson. Of course, Jackson passed for 365 yards and rushed for 143, but most of that came in desperation time. He also threw two picks. Tennessee worked off of a minimalist passing game with Ryan Tannehill only throwing for 88 yards and two touchdowns. Derrick Henry, on the other hand, rushed for 195 yards (and passed for one touchdown).
Kansas City pulled a fast one on the Texans and made them believe that they could beat them, until they spent three minutes scoring three touchdowns and beginning to demolish them. Despite their monster 51-31 victory, the K.C. defense was nothing to write home about. Yes, they started to sure things up in the latter part of the first half, but they still allowed Deshaun Watson to throw for 388 yards and two touchdowns.
This might sound like the Chiefs defense is as good as the Titans if they both allowed big yardage and still took the dub, but the Titans are a more radical, unexpected, surprising team with tricks up their sleeves.
The Chiefs spent the first quarter and a half dropping easy passes and missing tackles on defense. Against a red hot team in Tennessee, there is a good chance they will get freaked out again and fall back into this habit. Patrick Mahomes had a phenomenal game, tossing for five touchdowns and 321 yards. He will be tough to contain, as he always is, but the Titans will push him and force him to make mistakes.
Tennessee is gonna have a Festivus for the rest of us and take it 24-20 at Arrowhead.
N.F.C. 2. GREEN BAY PACKERS (13-3) AT 1. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (13-3):
There is no such thing as no country for old men. Jimmy Garoppolo might have taken it to the Vikings and moved on with ease, but Aaron Rodgers is marching forward with a Packers team that are hungry. They have simply been at this longer than Jimmy G. and the 49ers and grit wins when it comes down to it.
Davante Adams showed up and caught for 160 yards on just eight receptions, scoring two crucial touchdowns. Jimmy Graham not only caught for 49 yards on only three receptions, but he showed that Green Bay will take every last measure they need to move on by bashing and forcing through tackles to ensure they gained the last inch they needed to bury Seattle and move on. Aaron Jones also rushed for 62 yards and two touchdowns, despite facing one of the best defenses against the run that the National Football League has to offer. Rodgers also threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite being a self-described passing offense, Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert carried the Niners through the rushing game to the win. Coleman rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns and Mostert rushed for 58 yards. The passing offense was stymied with Garoppolo throwing for only 131 yards, one touchdown, and an interception. Garoppolo’s top targets in George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Emmanuel Sanders only got open a combined eight times. Rodgers top receiver in Adams got open the same number of times against a better defense.
Like Newman and Jerry, the Packers are going to be headed to Miami for the Super Bowl as they will take this game 33-27.
It’s going to be a rough week the favorites, but these picks are coming from Bizarro Jesse anyhow.
TENNESSEE TITANS @ KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (-7.0)
After being doubted yet again, the Titans advance to the AFC championship game to take on the second seeded Kansas City Chiefs.
After a surprisingly dominant performance on the road against the 14-2 Ravens, Derrick Henry led Titans are underdogs yet again.
The Chiefs overcame a 24-0 lead in the first half and answered with 41 straight points en route to a 51-31 win in the divisional round.
The keys to the game for the Chiefs are to control the game and get ahead early to prevent the Titans from the ground and pound gameplan.
Stopping Derrick Henry seems impossible at this point. With 377 rushing yards in two games, Henry will be the X-factor in this game.
If the Chiefs can make Ryan Tannehill throw the ball then they will find themselves playing in two Sundays.
As for the Titans, they need to score first and get a stop. Having the ability to control the game and run with Henry will make them pull of a third consecutive upset.
On defense, they have a lot to handle. Last week the Titans shut down the best offense in the league with a weeks rest. They now face a confident Chiefs team who just put up 51.
If the Titans pulled off the upset, they will beat the previous three MVP’s on the road.
That’s exactly what they’ll do. Titans win the A.F.C.C.G. 27-24.
GREEN BAY PACKERS @ SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (-7.5)
In a week 12 rematch in which the 49ers routed the Packers 37-8, the two teams meet again in the Bay Area in the NFC Title Game.
The 49ers remain around the same team but the Packers really turned it around and haven’t lost since.
In the previous matchup, George Kittle lit up the Packers defense with 6 catches for 129 yards and a lone touchdown.
Besides that the run game wasn’t there for San Fran and they held Garopolo in the pocket.
As for the 49ers, their defense held the Packers most dangerous weapon in Devonte Adams to 6 catches for 43 yards.
Aaron Jones only averaged 2.9 yards per carry in the matchup as well.
I don’t expect the 49ers to play a nearly perfect game but I do expect Aaron Rodgers to make it interesting.
The 49ers need to get Emmanuel Sanders going and the Packers secondary needs to step up.
I think homefield will play a role in this game as the 49ers will head back to the Super Bowl as they win 31-26.