The second to last weekend of football is upon us.
January is the most wonderful time of the year if you're a football fan. The month is filled with playoff games and intriguing matchups that determine which teams will be going to the Super Bowl. Of course, the Super Bowl is in February but the bulk of the games are in January which ultimately makes it a special month. The first two weekends in January were particularly entertaining this year as we were graced with some incredible Wild-Card and Divisional round performances. Last weekend provided us with some especially juicy drama as the best team in the league, the Baltimore Ravens, were bested by a seemingly inferior Tennessee Titans squad. Meanwhile, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes shocked football fans with a 51-point outing against the Houston Texans. Oh, and did we mention the Chiefs were down 24-0 in that game?
Heading into championship weekend, four teams remain. These squads are the Titans, Chiefs, Green Bay Packers, and San Francisco 49ers. What makes this season so incredible, is that we truly have no idea who the frontrunner is. The playoffs are as wide open as they've ever been and it's made for one of the most entertaining postseasons we've had in years. Two weekends from now, two of the four aforementioned teams will be vying for the Super Bowl. In this preview, we will be trying to predict who those teams will be.
Disclaimer: We are 6-2 with our picks so far and two of those losses were unforeseen upsets. Needless to say, we're pretty good.
AFC Championship: Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs
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Earlier this season, the Kansas City Chiefs were struggling to get any momentum going with their defense. Patrick Mahomes was coming off of a dislocated kneecap and what was thought to be an up and coming team, was looking like pretenders. In the tenth game of the season, the Chiefs lost to a surging Tennessee Titans team by a score of 35-32. Following that game, the Chiefs went on a six-game winning streak and now, they find themselves a win away from a Super Bowl. The only team in their way is, as fate would have it, the Titans.
The Titans have been quite the story themselves. They were down and out at the beginning of the season but once they benched Marcus Mariota, things started to turn around. Ryan Tannehill magically turned into an MVP-caliber quarterback while running back Derrick Henry turned into a bonafide star. After squeaking into the playoffs, the Titans made the most of their opportunity. They knocked off the greatest dynasty of our time, the New England Patriots, while also defeating the league-best Baltimore Ravens.
Both teams have had an interesting path to this moment and it will certainly make for an interesting matchup. Now the real question is: who is going to win? Well, the Titans won the first game so you can't write them off just yet. However, it's pretty clear that one team is much better than the other, at least on paper. Of course, we're talking about the Chiefs. Simply put, the Chiefs have all of the offensive weapons in the world. Ever since his knee injury, Mahomes has been the MVP quarterback we know him to be. He scored five touchdowns against the Texans last weekend and he'll be looking to have yet another big game. Players like Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Travis Kelce are poised for big games and their speed will prove to be too much for the Titans secondary. Even running back Damien Williams has been active which means the Titans defense needs to watch out.
As for the Titans, their offense has been dominated by Henry. In the last two games, Tannehill has thrown for less than 100 yards as the team relies on Henry's ability to run out the clock. While the strategy seems to be working, it only makes sense when you're winning. If the Titans find themselves in a hole early, Henry alone won't help this team win. What helps the Titans is the Chiefs' weak rushing defense. Had the Texans run the ball more last weekend, they probably wouldn't have given up their big lead so soon. Henry is more than capable of eating up time and taking a chunk out of the Chiefs defense. Having said that, it's a strategy that won't be effective enough to counter Mahomes who can score whenever he feels like it.
Thanks to Henry and Tannehill's ability to go deep every once and a while, the Titans will keep it close. Despite this, the Chiefs are just too much to overcome and after the AFC Championship game last year, the Chiefs will be ready to come through and punch their ticket to the big game.
Winner: Chiefs (31-24)
NFC Championship: Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers
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Coming into this season, the Green Bay Packers were considered to be down and out. Aaron Rodgers has started his decline and after last season, he appeared, dare I say it, uncoachable. Head coach Matt LaFleur wasn't given much of a chance to succeed and the team as a whole was thought to be among the weakest in the NFC North. Rodgers and company went on to exceed all expectations and finished atop their division with a record of 13-3. After a convincing win in the Divisional Round, the Packers have proved themselves as a real contender.
After a disastrous 2018 campaign, the San Francisco 49ers have come back with a vengeance thanks to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and a plethora of talented running backs. Not to mention, the 49ers defense has been lights out and is virtually impossible to get going against, unless you're the New Orleans Saints. The 49ers dominated their division and ended up finishing the season with a 13-3 record. Last weekend, the 49ers beat the Minnesota Vikings 27-10 in the Divisional round and they are looking like one of the most likely teams to go out and win the Lombardi trophy.
Earlier in the season, these two played and it wasn't even close. The 49ers won by a score of 37-8 and Rodgers looked downright anemic. This time around, the game will certainly be closer as the Packers will be looking to prove themselves against the clear favorite. Heading into this one, the 49ers are 7.5 point favorites and not many fans are giving the Packers a chance. In terms of the matchup, it's fairly obvious the 49ers have the advantage. Sure, Rodgers is a better QB than Garoppolo but its the pieces around the QB's that makes all the difference. Running backs like Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, and Matt Preida have helped turn the 49ers offense into a powerhouse. Add the playcalling of head coach Kyle Shanahan into the mix and you have yourself an unstoppable force. The Packers struggled to stop them the first time out and the second time will prove to be difficult, as well.
The Packers certainly have significant weapons as well. Devante Adams has been a dynamic route runner for the Packers while Jimmy Graham can provide some clutch plays when it matters. Running back Aaron Jones has also been an x-factor for the team and if the Packers get an early lead, look for them to utilize Jones for the majority of the game. While these pieces are significant, they will be in for a tough time against defensive juggernauts like Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, and Richard Sherman. The 49ers proved to be the hardest team the Packers played against this year and Sunday is going to be even harder since so much will be on the line.
Unlike the previous matchup, this game will be somewhat close but expect the 49ers to come out on top. Rodgers certainly has the ability to prove us wrong but at this point in the season, it's hard to deny everything the Niners have been able to accomplish.
Winner: 49ers (28-20)
Who do you think is going to win this weekend? Let us know in the comments below.