Last week’s slate of games was successful from a moneyline perspective (3-1) but we went 2-2 against the spread, so I hope you took those instead of the abysmal total points lines (1-3).
Regardless, the Titans just continue to confuse me every step along the way. They’re on a quest to not only shock the world and become the second team to ever win the title with less than 10 regular-season wins (2011 Giants), but they’re also on a quest to destroy the case for modern analytics in football, by winning the Super Bowl by virtue of a strong run game.
In their two playoff victories so far, the Titans have thrown for just 160 yards and won by an average of 11.5 points against the #1 and #3 seeded teams in the AFC. The Chiefs spotted the Texans 24 points before they decided to live up to their potential and outscore the Texans 51-7 the rest of the way.
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On the NFC side, it took the Seahawks two and a half quarters to remember they had Russell Wilson at quarterback. After falling behind 28-10, the Seahawks finally gave up on their worthless run game and let Russell Wilson completely takeover. When the Seahawks punted the ball on 4th and 11 with under five minutes to go, everyone in the stadium breathed a sigh of relief at just how bad of a situational coach Pete Carroll is. The Packers held on for a 28-23 victory.
In San Francisco (really in Santa Clara), the 49ers ran all over the Vikings and managed to focus in and stop the Vikings run game (I did predict this exact game plan and I want you to remember this). It wasn’t the exciting game we all hoped for, but it’s probably the game we deserved since the last few Vikings playoff games were a little too exciting.
The time has come for the Conference Championship to be decided and we have three really worthy teams this week (Packers, not so much) fighting it out for a chance to play for the title.
2019 Regular Season Record: 256-223 (53.44%)
Titans @ Chiefs -7 O/U: 53
I’m just as shocked as everyone else the Titans have been able to keep this up. That being said, both these teams have been playing great football down the stretch. The Titans have turned around a 2-4 start to go 7-3 down the stretch and their defense has magically shown up for both playoff games as well. The Titans erupted down the stretch of the season, as the move from Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill reinvigorated the offense and allowed for the passing game to flourish by means of the play action.
The blossoming of rookie receiver AJ Brown has turned the Titans into serious contenders, as the threat of the Titans passing the ball downfield has forced defenses to put themselves in even more difficult situations with the immediate threat of 240-pound Derrick Henry. The Titans success and balance on offense has energized the team’s defense, as the long, sustained drives have given the defense much-needed breaks, as well as taken pressure off the defense as a whole.
In two playoff games against top-3 AFC opponents, the Titans have dominated in the trenches on both sides of the ball and the Red Zone Defense in particular has helped the Titans limit both Baltimore and New England to an average of just 12.5 points per game.
The Chiefs began the season strong before losing Pat Mahomes for a good chunk of the middle of the season. Tyreek Hill missed around half the season with an injury as well, but by the time the two returned to the lineup, the Chiefs defense had stepped up in a huge way, eliminating the Chiefs’ must-score mentality and taking pressure off their offense. With Mahomes comfortable down the stretch, the Chiefs cruised into the playoffs and locked up a bye on their way to a fantastic comeback, blowout victory in the Divisional round.
When this game kicks off on Sunday, I am certain of two things. For one, I expect the Chiefs to be able to pass the ball all over the Titans secondary, all day. I also expect the Titans to be able to run the ball at will against the Chiefs.
Though I expect the Chiefs will commit defenders to the box to slow down Derrick Henry, I also expect the Titans to utilize much more play-action than we saw the first two playoff weeks. I think this game will be close throughout the first half, but I wouldn’t expect it to get away from either team since both teams matchup favorable on the offensive side against the opposing defense.
I think the Chiefs will put this game just out of reach late and book their ticket to the title game.
Chiefs 30 Titans 21
Packers @ 49ers -7.5 O/U: 46.5
I am much more confident about this game than the one we just covered in Kansas City. I am a firm believer the Packers will lose this game decisively. Over the course of the season, the Packers have been narrowly winning games all season — the Packers have won eight games by one score or less. They’ve beaten the Lions twice by a combined total of four points. In one of those games, the Lions were on their third-string quarterback, third-string running back, and were without Marvin Jones.
The Packers beat the Chiefs without Tyreek Hill and Pat Mahomes. The Packers were completely shut down by the Chargers. They were also ripped to shreds (37-8) the last time they played the 49ers. Last week, the Packers actually played somewhat aggressively, before nearly choking on their tongue in a game the Seahawks were simply too mediocre to pull out the victory. One really interesting fact about rematches in the playoffs comes from Rich Hribar, “Teams that beat a team by 17+ points in the regular season have won 14 in a row in postseason rematches.”
The 49ers have been the best-looking team in the NFC all season. They’ve had some close losses — Seattle, Baltimore, Atlanta — but they haven’t had one or even two games (in the case of the Packers) where they had their brakes beaten off of them. The 49ers are a very run-heavy offense who attacks the line through a variety of ways and manners. They utilize a fullback, pull linemen, bring blockers in motion, and run pretty much every running play in the book. Defensively, the 49ers have, at times this season, looked incredibly stout.
As the postseason has progressed, the 49ers have had a number of players return to the lineup off the injury sheet, which has improved their defensive performance dramatically. For a good portion of the season, this defense looked unbeatable and with a healthy roster going into Sunday, I think they’re going to give the Packers fits.
I think we’ll see more of the aggressive playcalling this week from the Packers as we saw in the Seattle game, but I don’t expect the efficiency to be anywhere near where it was a week ago. With the prospect of Richard Sherman potentially guarding Davante Adams, the Packers aren’t going to have any legitimate receiving threats outside of Aaron Jones catching balls.
I think this is a horrible matchup for the Packers overall and their predictable playcalling is going to make this game even easier for Kyle Shanahan and Robert Salah to plan for. I think the 49ers win by two touchdowns in a game filled with broken plays.
I could see the Packers getting an early score and letting their predictive playcalling get the best of them, falling behind throughout the meat of the game before getting a futile score at the end.