Observer Roundtable: Conference Championship Edition
Welcome back to the Observer Roundtable! As promised, there were a lot of points in our Holiday Edition, with David Kramer staying in the lead, although Patrick Gallagher made a huge jump into a tie for second. For this week, we have just the conference championship games. Not a single one of us correctly predicted either matchup about a month ago. While the AFC is understandable, we did show a remarkable lack of faith in the Packers — apologies to Aaron Rodgers and the Lambeau faithful. Anyways, we’ll take a second stab at it now; we will predict the result, spread and over/under for each game, and then we will make some predictions on players and their individual statistics. Enjoy.
David — 94 points
Liam — 81 points
Patrick — 81 points
Dominic — 80 points
Nate — 76 points
Aidan — 73 points
NFC Championship (1 point for result, 1 point for spread, 1 point for O/U, 5 for exact score)
Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers (-7.5), Over/Under — 46.5
Outside of tight end George Kittle and an occasionally explosive running back Aaron Jones, neither of these two teams bring tremendous offensive weapons into the weekend; if you want a game with firepower, tune into the AFC. Surely it’s no secret that a grueling defensive matchup awaits both squads. Outside of a horrendous loss to the 49ers and an ugly win against the Chiefs, the Packers truly lack the development and trials that define the well-tested, well-seasoned San Francisco team. I expect this disparity to make the difference on Sunday. Look for a 23-17 49ers win over the Packers; the matchup neither covers nor exceeds 45.
If anyone can beat the 49ers in the playoffs, it is the Packers. Their balanced offense, in which quarterback Aaron Rodgers has taken a slightly lesser role, should be able to gain yardage even against the 49ers elite defense. In addition, their defense is one of the most underrated in the league and should slow down the Niners offense. Because of the elite defenses, neither team will score a lot of points, so I’ll take the Packers outright and pick the under.
In this battle of two top ten defenses (I will take the under), San Francisco’s balanced passing attack and consistency will propel them to their first Super Bowl since 2013. Aaron Rodgers has not been as dominant this season, so another iconic Rodgers postseason performance seems unlikely. The 49ers thoroughly handled the Packers in the regular season, and, while this matchup should be closer, San Francisco will win 24-7 and be able to cover the spread.
This NFC championship matchup will be a war on the defensive side of the ball. The 49ers defensive line is a force to be reckoned with and Aaron Rodgers is not quite as mobile as some quarterbacks, meaning the pressure he faces will be tougher to escape. The 49ers run game and the play of George Kittle will prove to be effective enough to gash the Packers and wear their defense down. 49ers win and cover.
The 49ers dominated in the previous matchup this season, and I expect Sunday’s matchup to be no different. The 49ers seemed to reap the benefits of the bye week in their game last week against the Vikings, and they looked like the team we saw at the beginning of the year. I think the defensive line will shut down Aaron Jones and get enough pressure on Rodgers to limit the 49ers scoring. On the other side of the ball, George Kittle will make enough big plays to secure the win. 49ers will win and cover, and I will take the under.
The Packers may be the worst 14-3 (counting their playoff win) team I’ve ever seen. They’ve actually been outgained by over 100 yards on the year, and their numbers reflect that of an 8- or 9-win team, rather than 13 or 14 wins. They’ve perfected the art of “winning ugly” but they didn’t even touch the 49ers during the regular season. Rodgers has played a few playoff games as a touchdown underdog, and he hasn’t won yet. It’ll be closer than the regular season, but give me the 49ers, 27-14.
AFC Championship (1 point for result, 1 point for spread, 1 point for O/U, 5 for exact score)
Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs (-7.5), Over/Under — 52.5
Ask most fans about their expectations for the AFC playoffs three weeks ago and a flash of “Ravens and Patriots” in one breath. Yet, the game of inches writes an unexpected narrative, leaving me shocked as I write about the Titans stunning America all the way to the Super Bowl. Running back Derrick Henry became a household name throughout the regular season, but his recent performance has bolstered that reputation to the bane of defense’s existence. Nothing, not even quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his receiving core, seems to compete with the Titans’ strategy. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill should hold his own Sunday. Titans sneak into Miami with a 34-30 win (no cover, over).
The Titans have been an amazing Cinderella story during this year’s playoffs, but I can’t see them advancing any further. They will score against the Chiefs defense, as Derrick Henry will have another big game, but their defense won’t be able to slow down Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense. They just have too many threats downfield for the Titans defense to be able to cover, which is the key difference between the Chiefs and the Ravens/Pats. Chiefs win and cover, and the over hits.
After shocking two traditional AFC powerhouses, Tennessee’s impressive streak will come to an end this weekend. I expect that the game will parallel the exciting regular season matchup between these two teams. A ridiculous amount of points could be scored (the over will hit), and the Super Bowl berth will be clinched in the last few minutes of the game. The chemistry between Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce gives the Chiefs the edge 38-35, but another huge performance from Derrick Henry should prevent Kansas City from covering.
Despite the surging run from the Titans and Derrick Henry, the Chiefs are heating up at the right time. Mahomes will have the offense running well enough to our score Tennessee. I think that the Titans may come out strong early on, much like the Texans, but in the end, Kansas City will respond and overcome. KC wins and covers, 31-24. (Over).
Based on how both teams matchup, the clear pick here is the Chiefs. They have proven to have one of the best offenses in the league this year and have been far more consistent than the Titans over the duration of the year. Despite this, something tells me Tennessee is going to come to play Sunday and secure a trip to the Super Bowl. The postseason over the past year has seen the underdog stories of the Blues and Nationals win titles, so why not the Titans? I expect the Titans to pull off another shocker and win outright. I will take the under.
Aidan: This one is intriguing, as the Titans were certainly not expected to have made it this far, and their strength, controlling the ball and pace of game, directly correlates with the Chiefs’ ability to score quick. I definitely believe the Titans win the clock game, and it comes down to whether they limit Patrick Mahomes. My pick: I’ll quote Coach Yoast (from “Remember the Titans”) — “You make sure they remember, forever, the night they played the Titans.” Give me head coach Mike Vrabel. Give me Derrick Henry. And give me Ryan Tannehill over Patrick Mahomes. Titans, 29-23.
BONUS PREDICTIONS: Quick Question Round
|Mahomes has 300 pass yds||Williams has 50 rush yds||Kelce has 100 rec yds||Tannehill has 100 pass yds||Henry has 180 rush yds||Any Titans receiver has 50 rec yds|
|Garropolo has 200 pass yds||Coleman has 100 rush yds||Deebo has 75 rec yds||Rodgers has 250 pass yds||Jones has 75 rush yds||Adams has 100 rec yds|