Who Said Anything About the Championship Games?

Conference Championship Sunday, the day that determines which two opponents will be going to Hard Rock Stadium to face one another in Super Bowl LIV.  With San Francisco, Green Bay, Kansas City and Tennessee still standing, four teams each having conquered different paths are now only two wins away from claiming the title that is “World Champs.”  

Tennessee vs. Kansas City

The Tennessee Titans, who were just 9-7 at the duration of the regular season, have now recorded back to back upset wins in the wild-card and divisional rounds. Derick Henry, who’s accumulated over 1,500 rushing yards this season, picked up 182 yards on 34 carries against a high caliber New England defense, and followed it up with 195 yards on the ground in a 28-12 victory over Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens.

The Titans will once again step into their role as the underdogs on Sunday as they head to Arrowhead Stadium to square off against the Kansas City Chiefs, who secured the division title as well as the AFC’s number two seed; which was accompanied by a first-round bye. Reining MVP Patrick Mahomes, who threw for 321 yards and 5 touchdown passes against JJ Watt and the Houston defense, helped Kansas City overcome a twenty-four-point deficit, which has been deemed the fourth-largest comeback in NFL playoff history. The Chiefs’ red-hot offense was electrifying, having scored 41 unanswered points on its way to a 51-31 victory over the Texans. Travis Kelce had an outstanding game from the tight end position, hauling in 10 of 12 targets for 134 yards and 3 touchdowns. Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins played their part in the passing game, totaling a combined 5 receptions for 117 yards off of 6 targets.

Although Kansas City is favored in this matchup, Tennessee has a chance to continue its postseason run if the offense can establish its running game early on, and if Dean Pees and Mike Vrabel can come up with a defensive gameplan that will limit Andy Reid’s juggernaut offense. On the other hand, if Kansas City can continue to score on consecutive possessions and can hit big plays down the field, their only concern remains to be how to stop Derek Henry, as well as to limit what the Titans are able to set up off of the run.

Green Bay vs. San Francisco

The San Francisco 49ers, who claimed the number one seed in the NFC as well as a first-round bye, are set to host the Green Bay Packers, who finished at the number two spot in the conference and were awarded the second of two first-round byes. Each team finished the regular season with a record of 13-3, however, the tiebreaker went to the 49ers after defeating the Packers 37-8 at Levi’s Stadium in week 11.

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are coming off a close win against Pete Carol and the Seattle Seahawks, a game in which their offense found the endzone on four occasions at Lambo Field. Rodgers’ long time wideout, Devonte Adams, accounted for 160 of Green Bay’s 243 receiving yards, and hauled in both of Rodger’s two passing touchdowns. Aaron Jones, who’s rushed for over 1,000 yards and has recorded 16 touchdowns on the year, rushed for 62 yards and a pair of touchdowns against a tough Seattle defense led by veteran linebacker Bobby Wagner.

Heading west to San Francisco, the 49ers held the Kirk Cousins led Minnesota offense to just 10 points, none of which coming from Dalvin Cook who was held to 18 yards rushing on just 9 attempts. Nick Bosa, the rookie defensive end out of Ohio State, contributed to San Francisco’s dominant defensive performance by sacking Cousins twice throughout the contest. Veteran defensive back, Richard Sherman, recorded the 49ers only interception of the game, which came right before the mid-way point of the third quarter and led to a game altering San Francisco score. This becomes Sherman’s third interception during a playoff game, and one that helped the 49ers secure a win over a well-rounded Minnesota Vikings team.

It’s no surprise that the 49ers are the favorite in this matchup, given the lopsided score the last time these two teams met in Santa Clara, California. Green Bay is averaging 23.5 points per game, while allowing an average of 23 points per game. Although they have defeated their last five opponents, they must account for the 49ers offense that is scoring an average of 29.9 points per game and is only allowing 10 points per game to opposing offenses. In order to come out of Levi’s Stadium with a win, Aaron Rodgers needs to be able to throw to receivers not named Devonte Adams, and Matt LaFleur must continue to get Aaron Jones involved and into the endzone. On the contrary, Kyle Shanahan must put Jimmy Garoppolo in a position where he’s able to manage the game, and a big part of that will be due taking care of the football and tearing apart the Green Bay secondary with an accurate and concise aerial attack. 

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