The NFL playoffs have been fascinating, so maybe conference championship weekend will be more entertaining that oddsmakers think.
While 7.5-point spreads aren’t enormous, they’re still fairly decisive for conference championship games. And both games on Sunday have the same line.
While the home teams are favored, both underdogs are capable. You can’t get this deep into an NFL season without being pretty good.
Let’s take a look at each game, as the final four teams vie for spots in Super Bowl LIV. Odds come from BetMGM:
Titans (+7.5) over Chiefs: Let’s start with this: The Chiefs just outscored another playoff team 51-7 over the final three quarters of a divisional round game. They could do something similar to Tennessee too. The offense is that explosive.
But the Titans are clearly for real. While everyone marvels at Derrick Henry, and rightfully so, the defense has been phenomenal. Tom Brady and the Patriots might have their offensive issues, but the Titans held them to one touchdown. Baltimore was an offensive powerhouse, also got just one touchdown. The Titans aren’t going to let the Chiefs run up and down the field on them like Houston did last week.
It has been odd to hear negativity about Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the playoffs. For two straight weeks the defense and running game have been so good, he hasn’t been needed. His two touchdown passes early against the Ravens set the tone, and then the Titans decided they didn’t need to pass it anymore. Tannehill was fantastic in the regular season and there’s no reason to believe he can’t play well Sunday. And, of course, Henry can help keep the Chiefs’ offense off the field.
It’s scary to go against Mahomes and the Chiefs. They can score rapidly. And I think Kansas City wins. But Tennessee is for real and can keep it close.
49ers (-7.5) over Packers: The first time these teams met, it was ugly. The 49ers won 37-8. Aaron Rodgers had 104 passing yards on 33 attempts. Green Bay was totally outmatched.
It’s hard to see how that changes much. Green Bay will make adjustments — Packers coach Matt LaFleur is really on the spot this week to design a game plan that finds flaws in the 49ers’ defense — but the Packers’ offensive personnel might not be deep enough. Davante Adams is great. Aaron Jones is a very good running back. Who else? The 49ers aren’t going to fear Allen Lazard or Jimmy Graham.
The 49ers are coming off a game in which they destroyed the Vikings’ offense. Dalvin Cook had no room to run, which doesn’t bode well for Jones. The 49ers’ pass rush is phenomenal. Adams needs to have a remarkable game to keep the Packers in it, and it still might not be enough. Aaron Rodgers is still capable of great things, but he might not have enough help.
First meetings between teams aren’t always predictive for second meetings. Teams change, adjustments are made. The Packers are capable; they’re a 13-3 team with a Hall of Fame quarterback. But it’s hard to figure out how the Packers will overcome a significant personnel disadvantage when they’re up against the 49ers’ defense. It might be on the Packers’ defense to create some big plays to keep the team in the game, and hope Rodgers can close it out at the end. It’s hard to depend on that.
Last week: 2-2
Season to date: 125-134-5
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