2020 NFL Conference Championship Games

Staff Writers Lucas Fahnoe and Matt Nunez share their predictions on the outcome of the NFL conference championship games.

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(6) Tennessee Titans at (2) Kansas City Chiefs

The AFC is going haywire, as top seeds left and right have fallen to the most unlikely competitor – the Tennessee Titans. This team, led by backup Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, a 6-year member of the Miami Dolphins, has sprung up out of nowhere and barely snuck into the playoffs just to casually take down the (3) New England Patriots and (1) Baltimore Ravens. Although I said this team was “led” by Tannehill, their true power comes from starting Running Back Derrick Henry. Leading the league with 1,540 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns, this absolute monster of a player has torn up nearly every defense he’s come across and has to be one of the most entertaining to watch. Last but not least on the offensive front, rookie Wide Receiver A.J. Brown has stunned fans due to his explosive performance throughout the 2019 season. Brown leads the Titans in yards with 1,051 receiving yards but is ranked 61st in the league for receptions, showing just how fantastic he’s been with a low load to carry. The reason for his low receptions/targets is because of how much they utilize the run game (a.k.a. Derrick Henry) and underuse Tannehill.

On the flipside, the Chiefs are no opponents to scoff at. This is their second straight AFC Championship appearance, and second straight year starting Patrick Mahomes for (almost) every single game. Mahomes didn’t see much playing time in his 2017 rookie year, but since then he’s been their definite starter and has easily been a top 3 player in the quarterback position. He brought the Chiefs to another 12-4 record and yet another AFC Championship, sporting weapons such as Wide Receiver Tyreek Hill and number one Tight End Travis Kelce, who had over 130 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns in their Divisional game against the Texans. Speaking of that game, the Chiefs came back from being down 24-0 near the start of the second quarter to being up 28-24 at the end of the first half. Their momentum didn’t stop, as they finished the game with 51 points to Houston’s 31, being absolutely dominant after their rough start. With that momentum hopefully continuing into this week’s matchup, the Chiefs look to lower Special Teams mistake and start off quicker and faster as they usually do.

The reason why neither of these teams defenses have been mentioned thus far is because that isn’t their strong suit. The Titans rely on Derrick Henry, and the Chiefs rely on their offense as a whole to get by. For reference, Tennessee’s defense is ranked 21st in YPG and gave up around 20 points per game (12th), while Kansas City’s defense let up just about 350 YPG (17th) and is ranked 7th in points per game. None of those rankings are anything to scoff at, but their offenses are known much better. In the end, I believe it’ll come down to Tennessee’s passing defense versus Kansas City’s rushing defense – in that matchup, the Titans win. The Chiefs run defense lets up around 130 rushing yards per game (26th), but Derrick Henry has had no issue running all over teams this year, averaging 103 yards per game. Since both of their defenses are fairly average, it’ll all come to the offense, and the Titans have proved that they don’t need Tannehill to play well to win games. I’m going for the Tennessee upset in this matchup, but I think it’ll be close either way.

TEN 31, KC 28

(2) Green Bay Packers at (1) San Francisco 49ers

The two top seeds will battle it out on Sunday Night in which should be a great game that will determine who will represent the NFC in Super Bowl 54. In the past 5 years, only one NFC team got to lift the Lombardi Trophy. Is this the year that an NFC team will be crowned champions of the NFL? That prediction will come at a later date, but for now I want to talk about the Green Bay Packers playing the San Francisco 49er’s.

The 49er’s have surprised the league this season, posting an impressive 13-3 record and beating tough teams like the VIkings, Packers and Saints. In their first matchup in week 11 of the regular season, the 49ers dismantled the cheeseheads, scoring 37 points and holding the Packers to just 8 points, while also shutting down Aaron Rodgers who only threw for 108 yards. Jimmy Garoppolo on the other hand threw 2 touchdowns and threw for 253 yards and 129 of those yards went to TE George Kittle. But it was the 49er’s defense who has been a force to be reckoned with. Lead by defensive coordinator Robert Selah, the 49er’s were 1st in passing YPG and 2nd in total YPG. Defensive stars like Richard Sherman and the manimal Nick Bosa have been huge for their defense. They’ve proved that they can impact any game and they will have to do that Sunday Night if they are going to move on to the superbowl.

The Green Bay Packers have two fantastic players named Aaron, and the best one may be different than you think, or at least it’s close. Rodgers has been one of the most talented quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen, and he is still a great player. However Aaron Jones, has been tremendous this year for the Packers, and he is going to be the key to win Sunday’s game. Rodgers and Davante Adams will have to get a connection going early to stop the 49er’s defense from getting momentum. Jones needs to have a solid game to take pressure off Rodgers and allow the Packers offense to mix it up and have both a run and pass game. The Packers offense hasn’t been as explosive as recent years, but they are still can do damage.

Overall, I think It will be another great game like we are used to seeing in this years playoffs. I think the 49ers’ are gonna have the edge based off of how good their defense is and the fact that they are at home.

Sources:

NFL Team Defense Overall Stats