It’s Championship Week
We made it. We made it to where there’s only 3 games left in the entire football season. And now I’ve made myself sad. Thanks a lot, guys. You know how you go grocery shopping and it never fails that you grab a cart and 3 of the wheels are rolling like a dream but the 4th one looks like the face you’d make it you sneezed instead of saying “cheese” on your driver’s license photo? That’s what these playoffs matchups would look like if you told most people what they would be a month ago. Not anymore. Let’s dive in.
Tennessee Titans vs Kansas City Chiefs(-7;52)
Derek Henry is not from this planet. 60 carries just in the 2 playoff games. And if Tennessee has their wish he’ll get 35 more on Sunday. They weren’t supposed to be here but they’ve ridden him and the QB switch to the point of beating the Patriots and Ravens so psychologically they’ll have no fear coming into this game.
KC also made an improbable run. Yes, I know whatyou’re thinking: “they were a top choice before the season,” but let me finish, interrupting Irene. In week 7 Patrick Mahomes dislocated his kneecap and Chiefs Kingdom was beside itself. Just like that kneecap. Season over. Maybe career over. Maybe franchise altering. The dude was back in 2 and a half weeks. Throw in a heavy cocktail of one part luck from the Dolphins and 2 parts everyone getting healthy and here we are having the AFCCG in Kansas City. Which they say is the home of the barbecue which I thought was a really weird way to talk about Houston’s secondary last week.
So how’s this play out? It’s like a battle of new school vs old school (It really isn’t). Analytics vs the way it’s always been (incorrect). It’s like an episode of Freaks and Geeks except you’re actually going to watch this. At it’s core though the contrast of these two teams couldn’t be more obvious if it were the Rebellion’s last fight scene in Rise of Skywalker.
What Tennessee wants is no secret: Derek Henry right, left, and up the middle. Except it is kind of a secret. Because they’ve done their passing in the first half when when teams are loading up for Henry and they use their play action game to set up shots downfield. They’ve been landing those and using the second half to brutalize Derek Henry’s body and shorten his career while also using that as leverage in his upcoming contract negotiation. I’m sorry, you read that wrong. I meant to say chew up clock with the run game in the second half. Get your eyes checked.
What does KC want? They want to run, but they can’t, so they don’t. Classic Andy Reid: high percentage short throws are the running game, but with a QB with a flamethrower attached to his body slinging that thing to the receivers faster than the subject change in the Aaron Hernandez doc. You made the same face I did. Don’t lie to me, Frank the Fibber. If they can achieve anything close to equal time of possession as Tennessee it’s their game. The more chances the lower the odds of keeping them out the end zone. Which means more passes. Which means a longer game.
In layman’s terms, if the game is the length of The Irishman then KC has it in the bag, barring overtime. While Tennessee wants the game to feel as short as the McGregor fight actually was. Which, by the way, officially already makes the Cowboys 0-1 going into next season. I’m counting it and you’re not the boss of me.
In their previous matchup KC did everything they could to stop Henry with everyone in the stadium knowing he was getting it and they still couldn’t contain him. And they were healthy. Which they might not be if Chris Jones doesn’t play this week. Tennessee is definitely live in this one as it seems like the perfect mismatch to deliver the upset on the road.
I just don’t see how everything that went KC’s way this year isn’t the perfect storm to catapult them to the Super Bowl.
Green Bay Packers vs San Francisco 49ers(-7.5;46.5)
I have a confession to make: I’m a 49ers fan. I know, gasp, quit clutching your pearls, Susan, I’m talking. The Packers spent the 2nd half of the 90s crushing my soul for 3 consecutive years by taking US out of the playoffs each of those years and tuning US up to an 0-5 record against them during that span until that chocolate angel and future POTUS Terrell Owens made the greatest play in American sports history and finally beat them. I said what I said.
I have a confession to make: I’m an Aaron Rodgers fan. That man has kept so many mediocre coaches and GMs employed in just over a decade by putting an entire franchise on his shoulders and erasing more mistakes than, umm, an eraser? Best I got. The most talented guy I’ve ever seen at the position until the curly faux hawk dude in Kansas City came around. He’s the first guy I root for the second the 49ers are eliminated… Annually, it seems.
So when I tell you that it’s wise to not look too deep into the first matchup these 2 teams played earlier this season, that’s me saying I expect to see Optimus Prime Rodgers. AR12. Throwing and running. Off schedule plays. Making something out of nothing. Pin point passes where you ask yourself “how’d he even get that in there?” The wrist flick. And you can bet whatever you have left over from putting money on Donald Cerrone that there will be wrinkles in the gameplan that weren’t present in week 12. They have 2 choices with this: they can try to establish the run. Problem with that is if that doesn’t work they’ll find themselves in the same 3rd and longs no team wants to face especially against this team. Option 2: jump into the sharks mouth and throw early. Keep the defense off balance and be unpredictable while that front four doesn’t have it’s ears pinned back. Put it in the hands of your hall of famer.
For the 49ers it’s just like head coach Kyle Shanahan said: “don’t be that stupid.” That was his response when asked how his team can avoid a let down after beating GB so handily earlier in the season. In football terms, however, it’s about achieving balance. 49ers had the most rushing yards of every team in the world that didn’t have Lamar Jackson on it, and that’s where it all starts for them. Shiny new toy Jimmy Garroppollo compliments that with precision middle of the field passes where the linebackers would be if they weren’t so concerned with the run. Therein lies the rub with winning a first meeting so handily, what adjustments are even there to make on a perfect gameplan? If they can’t establish the run they have their own menaces to worry about on the Packers D with Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith pacing the Pack with 13.5 and 12.0 sacks, respectively. Also, and don’t say I never taught you anything, the last 3 teams that went on the road for a conference title game with 13 wins in the regular season have all won and advanced to the Super Bowl(1998 Falcons. 1997 Packers. 1990 New York Giants).
I’m not done. It gets better. This one’s on the house(tip your bartender). ALL 3 OF THOSE TEAMS BEAT THE 49ERS IN THE PLAYOFFS.
That’s “The Astros always seem to know when the fastball is coming” level coincidence.
All of that with Aaron Rodgers out for blood and looking to to be peak Rodgers. It won’t matter. It won’t be enough. This 49er defense is operating at a levelthat’s just a bad matchup for a lot of teams but especially this Packers team. I also didn’t mention in my soliloquy that the Packers are awful against the run. Awful. That’s doom against a Kyle Shanahan coached team.
San Francisco 49ers 34-20
Raise your glasses to no injuries and not controversies. Cheers.