The AFC and NFC Championship games are near chalk, thus likely keeping alive many contestants in playoff survivor pools. The NFC Championship pits the #1 seed San Francisco 49ers against the #2 seed Green Bay Packers. On the AFC side, someone decided to crash the party. The Tennessee Titans became the first #6 seed since 2010 to make a conference championship game. That year, both sixth seeds (Jets and Packers) made their respective championship games, with the Packers going on to win the Super Bowl. The Titans will meet the #2 seed Kansas City Chiefs, who gave their fans a lot to worry about through one quarter last week. The Chiefs became the first team in NFL playoff history to win a game by 20+ points that they were losing at one time by 20+ points.
With just two games on the docket this week, our survivor pool advice column will run a bit differently. We will make the case for each team to win their respective games, and rank them in order of confidence. However, readers that are still alive in survivor pools should save the team that they predict to win the Super Bowl, and instead, pick who they are most confident in to win the other game just in case.
Here is a list of odds for all the favorites to win their matchups in the Conference Championships (odds courtesy of FanDuel).
|Kansas City Chiefs||-340|
|San Francisco 49ers||-310|
|Green Bay Packers||+260|
Here is the order for safest pick, all the way down to the riskiest pick:
- San Francisco 49ers
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Tennessee Titans
- Green Bay Packers
San Francisco 49ers
With all due respect to Tennessee’s performance in Baltimore, the 49ers looked like the most complete team in the Divisional Round. San Francisco is the healthiest they have been on defense in quite some time. They thwarted the Vikings on Saturday, allowing just seven first downs and 147 total yards. A sign of the team’s dominance was the fact that Jimmy Garoppolo was only asked to throw 19 times, while the team attempted 47 runs. San Francisco dismantled the Packers 37-8 in Week 12 this year. Aaron Rodgers completed 20 passes for just 104 yards in that game. The 49ers pass rush lived in the backfield, and I expect them to do that again on Sunday. If the 49ers attempt more than twice as many runs as passes this week, it likely means doom for Green Bay.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have the feel of a “team of destiny” after their dominance for three quarters of the Texans. The final score was 51-31, but the Texans were basically gifted 14 points by means of special teams. If the Chiefs did not have a punt blocked for a touchdown, or muff a punt inside their own 10-yard line, it could be argued the Chiefs defense actually held up well for the most part. Is this the team that can provide head coach Andy Reid that Super Bowl title that has eluded him to this point? Though they are bigger favorites according to Vegas, the 49ers should be picked with more confidence. Kansas City’s opponent comes in scalding-hot and can expose the weak areas of the Chiefs defense.
Though the Titans beat the Chiefs 35-32 in the regular season, that game was in Tennessee. Tennessee should find it much tougher to win in Arrowhead, although they did win in two tough environments already this postseason.
In a way, the Titans are the perfect “kryptonite” for what the Chiefs do. Tennessee’s defense does not give up the big play. They forced Lamar Jackson into underneath throws, then clamped down when the Ravens offense got into their territory. Between Logan Ryan (arguably the best slot corner in the NFL), Kevin Byard and Rashaan Evans (who in tandem will be responsible for covering Travis Kelce) and Adoree’ Jackson (who has the speed to keep up with Tyreek Hill), the Titans are built to contain the explosive Chiefs offense. They will look to make the necessary adjustments from their regular-season matchup when they allowed 530 total yards of offense to the Chiefs.
In addition, Kansas City ranked 27th against the run in the regular season. They allowed 132.1 YPG on the ground through 17 weeks. That is not exactly the best recipe to contain Derrick Henry, who is on a playoff streak unlike any we have ever seen before. Henry is the first player to rush for more than 175 yards in two games in the same postseason. His 561 rushing yards in his first four career postseason games is the most all-time. If the Titans can get a lead early, they have the roster and the formula necessary to pull another upset.
Green Bay Packers
Had the Packers played the second half like they played the first half against the Seahawks, they may be higher on this list. However, the Seahawks exposed holes in their defense late, as well as shut down the Packers offense for much of the second half. Aaron Rodgers is a sure-fire Hall of Fame quarterback. However, I am not yet sold that head coach Matt LaFleur is ready to win a game of this magnitude. Can he make enough adjustments to beat a team that beat them by 29 earlier this year? No disrespect to Rodgers, but the 49ers defense looks impenetrable at the moment.