Another week and another AFC juggernaut slain by the Tennesse Titans. Officially the hottest team in the NFL, the Titans allowed Derrick Henry to carry them to the AFC Championship while the Ravens imploded. Prior to that game on Saturday night, the 49ers manhandled the Vikings to book their place in the NFC Championship.
On Sunday, the Houston Texans won the first quarter of their AFC Divisional Round matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Texans blitzed the home team and got out to a 24-0 lead. The only problem is that an NFL game is four quarters. Patrick Mahomes put on a dazzling display at the quarterback position, leading touchdown drive after touchdown drive on their way to an impressive 51-31 comeback win. The nightcap featured a duel between Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. The game favored the Packers early, but Wilson staged a heroic comeback in the second half. His efforts came up just short as the Packers escaped with 28-23 win.
Although it might not be the four teams experts picked at the beginning of the year, the four best teams in football will be playing on Championship weekend. The Chiefs will host the red hot Tennessee Titans while the 49ers will host the Packers in sunny San Francisco. With a trip to the Super Bowl just one step away, here is our NFL Championship Weekend preview.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tennesse Titans @ Arrowhead Stadium
At the beginning of the season, many fans and analysts predicted a rematch from last between the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots. Midway through the year, the popular pick was the Baltimore Ravens and any team that was unlucky enough to square off against them. However, a rusty Ravens team fell short last weekend and the Patriots never looked like a threat this season to compete for another Super Bowl. The Chiefs held up their end of the bargain and thanks to the Tennesse Titans, who erased the Patriots and the top-seeded Ravens, Kansas City now gets to host the AFC Championship Game for the second year in a row.
We could talk about the raucous Arrowhead Stadium that will give the Chiefs a noticeable home-field advantage. We could talk about reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes. He is a generational talent on the cusp of reaching the ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl.
The reality is this game comes down to one man. Derrick Henry. Will the Chiefs be able to stop the machine that Henry is. He is the first running back in the history of the NFL to have 175 rushing yards in consecutive games. In the upset against the Ravens, he even threw a touchdown pass! No one can tackle him, no one even wants to tackle him at this point in the season. The Chiefs defense has a daunting task ahead of them, and Henry will look to make their day miserable on Sunday.
Mahomes and the Chiefs will have the luxury of never being out of this game. Although Henry might be able to control the clock and have his way against the defense of the Titans, Mahomes’ ability to extend the play and find any of his offensive weapons is unmatched. He threw five touchdowns in their comeback win against the Texans after all.
This is true strength vs. strength. In one corner, the bulldozer that is Derrick Henry will look to continue his dominance. In the other, Mahomes and his rocket of an arm will want to sling touchdowns all game long. Whichever heavyweight plays to their strength the best will be headed to the Super Bowl in Miami. This one will be fun to watch, get your popcorn ready.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay Packers @ Levi’s Stadium
The second game on Sunday is filled with intrigue as well. Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers overachieved with a 13-3 record in Head Coach Matt Taylor’s first season in charge. Green Bay’s defense is a force to be reckoned with and although Rodgers hasn’t been to a Super Bowl since 2011, he is a former champion and is regarded as one of the most talented quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. This year feels different for the Packers as well. Rodgers is used to being a one-man army, but he has help from one of the best wide receivers in the league, Davante Adams and breakout star running back Aaron Jones. Jones finished the season with over 1,500 all-purpose yards and 19 total touchdowns.
A stingy Packers defense featuring Za’Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander has led to their impressive turnaround this season as well. The Niners will be keen on shutting down the top weapons for the Packers so a few different players will have to step up. Rodgers is good for some playoff magic too and he might need to pull some off if the Packers want to advance.
The Packers are facing some stiff competition as they’ll go up against the number one seed in the NFC, the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers have two crucial weapons when it comes to playoff football. The 49ers have the best pass rush and the best running game left out of all the teams in the playoffs. Let’s start with the elite defensive line. The four-headed monster lived in the backfield against the Minnesota Vikings in the last round of the playoffs. A 27-10 win for the 49ers featured six sacks, many of which came from Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, DeForest Buckner, and Arik Armstead. Armstead had 10 sacks in the regular season to lead the team, but all four of them can get to the quarterback on any given play.
Much like the defensive line, the running back position has supreme depth as well. Tevin Coleman dominated the game last week as he had 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns against the Vikings. Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert round out the running back group and wide receiver Deebo Samuel is a dangerous weapon when the Niners run an end-around. The deciding factor in this game will be Jimmy Garoppolo. The young quarterback will be playing in the biggest game of his life with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. How he handles that pressure will decide who wins. This game will be intense from kickoff to final whistle. Can Rodgers return to the Super Bowl or will the San Francisco 49ers finish off their epic season the right way?