It’s NFL Championship Weekend and we’ve got some pretty big spreads for both the AFC and NFC Championship games.
Let’s take a look at them …
AFC Championship: Kansas City (-7) vs Tennessee
It’s starting to feel like it really could be Andy Reid’s year.
We saw the difference between Baltimore and Kansas City last weekend. Baltimore fell behind early and seemingly had no chance of making the comeback against Tennessee, while Kansas City overcame a 24-0 deficit in a blink. Not only did the Chiefs wipe away that humongous margin with ease, they managed to turn the game into a route.
My question for the Titans is this; what happens when they fall behind? What happens when Derrick Henry’s carries become limited due to circumstance and Ryan Tannehill is forced to beat you?
It’s funny that I mention this because the Titans beat the Chiefs earlier this season after falling behind 29-20 early in the fourth quarter. Tannehill threw the ball just 19 times that day, with six of them coming in the final 12 minutes. He was 4-of-6 for 63 yards, including the go-ahead 23-yard touchdown toss to Adam Humphries.
Despite falling behind, however, the Titans still stuck to the run. While Tannehill attempted six passes, Tennessee pounded the rock 11 times. Derrick Henry, who finished the game with 188 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, carried the ball eight times for 51 yards over the final 12 minutes. Tannehill tallied three rushes for 37 yards. It wasn’t until the final two minutes when Tannehill started forcing the pass.
That’s impressive patience and composure from head coach Mike Vrabel’s perspective considering the fact that when Baltimore fell behind 14-0 last Saturday, Lamar Jackson became pass happy. He attempted 59 passes compared to the mere 19 Tannehill had on that day against KC.
So we know that if the Titans find themselves trailing, they won’t derive from their gameplan, which means they should be able to keep the final margin within seven points, right?
I don’t think so.
This isn’t the same Chiefs team that the Titans faced on Nov. 10. They won six straight games to close the regular season, with the defense allowing a measly 11.5 points per contest. They also settled for five field goal attempts that day, with the final one from Harrison Butker being blocked at the horn.
Kansas City surrendered 23.9 points and 148.1 yards per game its first 10 weeks of the season, but have yielded just 95 yards per contest on the ground the final six weeks of the year.
This is going to be the key to the game. Will Kansas City continue to excel against the run, because if it limits King Henry on first and second down and forces Tannehill to throw and beat it on third down, it could be a long game. Tannehill did lead the NFL in passer rating, but he hasn’t been asked to win a game by himself yet. He’s got a big arm, running the ball a ton helps with the play-action and as we saw last week on that 45-yard touchdown to Kalif Raymond, he throws a pretty deep ball.
RYAN TANNEHILL GOING DEEP.
— NFL (@NFL) January 12, 2020
But when it’s third down time and time again because Henry is struggling, can Tannehill beat them? I have my doubts. I also have my doubts that Kansas City is going to limit Henry, who is an absolute terror on the zone plays outside of the tackles. Over 1,200 of his 1,917 total rushing yards (including postseason) and 10 of his 17 touchdowns have come outside the tackles.
The Chiefs might be better against the run, but Henry’s recent run has been historic.
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) January 12, 2020
Here’s what I believe happens. Henry will continue to run the ball well, but the Chiefs also don’t settle for as many field goals and Patrick Mahomes remains hot. The game will be close for three quarters, but Kansas City pulls away in the fourth.
PREDICTION: 34-23 KC
NFC Championship: San Francisco (-7.5) vs Green Bay
I’m not going to have as much information on this game because I don’t think it’ll be as closely played as the AFC Championship.
The 49ers routed Green Bay 37-8 the first time around and I honestly don’t see a lot changing from the first encounter. San Francisco just ran all over Minnesota last week and Green Bay surrenders 4.9 yards per carry. The Packers are at their worst defending the edges in the running game, which is exactly where Kyle Shannahan and his zone blocking scheme likes to attack.
I expect the trio of Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida to run wild.
Davante Adams hauled in eight receptions for 160 yards and two touchdowns last week, but I don’t expect him to replicate his performance against the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL. I knew Adams would have a big game on Sunday, in fact I even said he’d score twice on The Gambler’s Divisional Round Pregame show. It’s not going to happen this week, there’s too much talent in the 49ers secondary and the Packers don’t have any other viable options to beat them. Geronimo Allison and Marquez Valdes-Scantling aren’t cutting it.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) January 12, 2020
The returns of Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander were monumental for the 49ers last week, the defense sacked Kirk Cousins six times.
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) January 11, 2020
I like the 49ers big.
PREDICTION: 31-13 SF