The weekly preview runs into the endzone with NFL tips for two fascinating Conference Championship match-ups as Super Bowl spots go on the line.
History: Played 53: Chiefs 29 V Titans 24
Last meeting: November 10, 2019: Titans 35 d Chiefs 32 at LP Field
Final Thoughts: The Tennessee Titans are on the hunt for a third straight massive scalp to claim the unlikeliest of Super Bowl berths. After dumping the Patriots out in the Wild Card round, the 9-7 Titans stunned the Ravens – the best team of the NFL regular season – 28-12 in Baltimore.
The Titans’ defence shut down MVP favourite Lamar Jackson brilliantly, while QB Ryan Tannehill added to one of the season’s great individual success stories with another coolheaded playmaking performance. But their standout was again Derrick Henry, who rushed for more than 180 yards for the second straight week.
The Kansas City Chiefs appeared headed for an agonising exit last week at 21-0 down to the Texans. But Patrick Mahomes (321 yds, 5 TDs, 0 INT) engineered a record-breaking comeback, the Chiefs ultimately powering to a 51-31 victory. Travis Kelce cashed in with three touchdowns and 134 yards on 10 receptions.
It was Kansas City’s seventh win on the trot. Tennesse have now won five straight on the road.
The Titans are on a four-match winning streak against the Chiefs. They won three straight in Kansas City – including a 22-21 AFC Wild Card Game victory two seasons ago – and snared a 35-32 result in Nashville in Week 10 this season (despite a 446-yard, 3 TD showing from Mahomes).
This is the Titans’ first AFC Championship Game since losing to the Raiders in 2002. They reached the
Super Bowl in 1999 (a loss to the Rams) – their first season as the Titans. Meanwhile, the Chiefs are chasing their first Super Bowl appearance since lifting the trophy in 1969; they were edged in OT by the Pats in last year’s Conference Championship.
Blunting Henry and the Titans’ run game is the obvious key for the Chiefs. Shutting down Jackson so emphatically will give the Titans’ defence huge confidence ahead of this assignment on Mahomes. This has the makings of a classic and the generous start on the giant-killing Titans is too good to pass up.
History: Played 68: Packers 36 V 49ers 31 (1 Tie)
Last meeting: November 24, 2019: 49ers 37 d Packers 8 at Levi’s Stadium
Final Thoughts: It’s a throwback to the 1990s, when the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers were the NFC’s dominant forces and met four times in the post-season.
Playing their first post-season match in six years, the Niners disposed of the Vikings 27-10 last weekend. Tevin Coleman had two TDs and 105 yards on 22 carries. But it was yet another San Francisco win inspired by their defence’s relentless work on the ground. Despite steering the 49ers to this stage, QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s army of critics are still out in force.
The Packers outlasted the Seahawks 28-23 in their return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. It was a trademark Aaron Rodgers performance, passing for 243 yards and two touchdowns (with Davante Adams on the receiving end of both). Meanwhile, Aaron Jones rushed for a pair of TDs.
The 49ers have won four of their last six against the Packers, including playoffs victories in 2013 and ’14. The Niners snapped a two-game slide in their rivalry with the Packers courtesy of a 37-8 beatdown at Levi’s Stadium in Week 12. The hosts’ pass rush was unstoppable, sacking Rodgers an eye-watering five times.
Much will depend on the Packers secondary’s pass rush bustling Jimmy G. He finished with 253 yard and two TDs on 14/20 passing in the teams’ recent encounter.
An upset is certainly not beyond Green Bay. But too much seems to depend on the 49ers performing well below their best, rather than the Packers outplaying them with a complete four-quarter effort that has been all too rare this season.