The NFL season is down to its final four, which means we have just three games remaining in the season. Let’s take a closer look at the games on Championship Sunday and see what are the best picks against the spread:
Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs
Line: Kansas City -7.5
For the longest time, fans of the National Football League openly wondered what a playoff picture without the New England Patriots would look like and how it would unfold. While the Patriots technically did make the playoffs, their designation as the No. 3 seed and quick postseason exit at the hands of the Titans sent shockwaves throughout the league. To prove that they were more than just a capable underdog that earned a fluke upset win in the Wild Card round, Tennessee took down the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Round to book its spot in the AFC Championship game. Now, the Titans head to Kansas City just four quarters away from booking their spot in the Super Bowl. Can Tennessee finish the job? Derrick Henry’s powerful running style should be on display from start to finish as the Titans look to win at the line of scrimmage, dominate time of possession and move the ball methodically up and down the field against a vulnerable Chiefs defense. Ryan Tannehill has been efficient though unspectacular. Still, if that’s all that Tennessee needed from him to beat both New England and Baltimore on the road then that trend could continue on Sunday. Nobody is going to overlook Kansas City after they stormed back from a 24-0 deficit in less than one full quarter on their way to beating the Houston Texans 51-31 in the Divisional Round.
However, the fact that the Chiefs were down big in the first place should be more than a little concerning for the home fans heading in to this matchup. Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees designed the perfect defense to slow down Lamar Jackson and the Ravens high-octane offense. Now he gets the opportunity to design a game plan to slow down Patrick Mahomes and an offense that just put up 51 on the Texans. If Pees and his players can figure out a way to slow down the Chiefs offense, they could win this game outright. Now four quarters away from a Super Bowl, it might not take much to plant the seed of doubt in the minds of some key players on the Kansas City offense. Mahomes is bound to make at least a couple of mistakes. If Tennessee can capitalize, they will take a ton of pressure off of the offense and allow them to move the football at an efficient, controlled pace.
Meanwhile, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid isn’t exactly known for his game management skills. That adds another level of intrigue to this matchup as he and Mike Vrabel go head-to-head. Considering the very real possibility that the Titans win this game outright, it certainly makes sense to take the points. The smart money is on Tennessee to cover the 7.5-point spread, with a very real chance that the Titans win this game outright and go on to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
Pick: Tennessee +7.5
Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers
Line: San Francisco -7.5
While 7.5 points seemed like far too many points to be giving Tennessee versus Kansas City, it doesn’t necessarily feel the same when it comes to Green Bay getting 7.5 against San Francisco. The Packers suffered their worst loss of the year when they visited the 49ers back in Week 11. Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times and held to 104 passing yards in a 37-8 loss. On the other side of the football, Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 253 YARDS and two touchdowns, while running backs Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert both found the end zone for rushing scores. The most intriguing aspect of San Francisco’s success this season is the way in which they managed to win games in a variety of different ways. Whether it was with a dominant defensive attack early in the year, on the shoulders of a explosive ground game or on the shoulders of Garoppolo, the 49ers proved they could overcome an extremely difficult schedule and a plethora of key injuries to get to 13 wins. After a bye week and a 27-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings in the Divisional Round, San Francisco is rested and getting some key bodies back to full strength or something close to it for this contest. That will only add to the adversity that Green Bay will be forced to deal with in this showdown.
While it might not be as lopsided o an affair as their first meeting, it’s hard to imagine the Packers being able to correct all of the issues that cost them in that lopsided loss. Rodgers spent most of that game running for his life with Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead and others in hot pursuit. Meanwhile, Green Bay couldn’t get anything going on the ground with running back Aaron Jones. While the Packers defense has shown some positive signs throughout the year including a strong performance in last week’s 28-23 win over Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks, they aren’t built to carry this team to a victory over a quality opponent. Rodgers grew up in Northern California and would like nothing more than to stick it to the team that he grew up watching on his way to another Super Bowl appearance. However, even if he performs at a very high level he might not have the protection and weapons around him to consistently put up big numbers against one of the best defenses in the NFL.
The more likely scenario is that the 49ers suffocate Rodgers and company and capitalize on their mistakes, setting up the offense to do what it has done all season. Whether it’s on the ground or through the air, San Francisco’s offense is peaking heading in to this contest. Garoppolo and head coach Kyle Shanahan should be able to build off the game plan they had in place for their first win over Green Bay in this contest. While they might not win by 29 points, the 49ers should be able to win and cover the number in order to advance to the Super Bowl as NFC champions.