Picks for 2020 AFC, NFC Championship Games

And then there were four.

The NFL divisional round saw the Tennessee Titans spring yet another upset, this time knocking off Lamar Jackson and the top-seeded Ravens. It saw the 49ers flex their muscles in a dominating win over the Vikings. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers ended Russell Wilson‘s do-it-all campaign in the cold of Lambeau Field, and Patrick Mahomes spotted the Houston Texans 24 points before blowing past them 51-31.

So, Championship Weekend is set. The No. 2-seeded Packers will travel to Levi’s Stadium to face the 49ers, while the Chiefs will host the Cinderella Titans at Arrowhead Stadium. 

The 49ers already drug the Packers up and down the Bay in Week 12, winning 37-8. Mike Vrabel’s Titans are a nice story, but running back Derrick Henry only can carry the entire team on his back for so long.

So, the title game predictions should be easy, right? Let’s see.

AFC Championship Game

This game seems like it could go one of two ways. Either the Chiefs are going to string Ryan Tannehill up by his jockstrap and roll to a blowout win, or this game is close and it’s up to a Chiefs defense that might not have defensive tackle Chris Jones to do something the New England Patriots and Ravens failed to do — tackle Henry in the cold with the game on the line.

For the sake of television ratings, Vrabel’s anatomy and my own sanity, I’ll take the former.

Mecole Hardman takes the opening kickoff back to the Titans’ 20-yard line and Mahomes finds Travis Kelce one play later for an easy score. Tannehill finally folds like a cheap chair, tossing a pick-six on the Titans’ second play from scrimmage and the flood gates open early at Arrowhead. Henry never factors into the blowout. 

Prediction: Chiefs 42, Titans 17

[RELATED: Super Bowl is 49ers’ to lose with Ravens, Lamar out of the way]

NFC Championship Game

Over/Under on how many times we’re going to hear about the 49ers not drafting Rodgers this week? 200? Seems low.

This is a different Packers team than the one that was thoroughly embarrassed two months ago. They’ve won six straight games, almost all in ugly fashion. But a win is a win.

The 49ers go 78 yards on the opening drive, with Jimmy Garoppolo capping it with a 9-yard strike to Deebo Samuel to blow to roof off Levi’s Stadium.

But this time the Packers don’t fold. Davante Adams smolders Emmanuel Moseley on a 47-yard touchdown to knot the score early. After a nice punting exhibition, Rodgers engineers a 10-play, 86-yard drive that ends with an Aaron Jones 5-yard touchdown run to take a 14-7 lead. The Niners get a field goal before the break to trail 14-10.

As they have done time and time again, the 49ers’ defense steps up to begin the second half. Nick Bosa sacks Rodgers and jars the ball loose. Kwon Alexander dives on the rock and sets Jimmy G and the offense up with a 19-yard field.

On second-and-7 Raheem Mostert blows through the line, shakes Blake Martinez and strolls into the end zone to give the 49ers the lead.

A Mason Crosby field goal makes it 17-17, but the 49ers begin to assert their will, running the ball on seven of nine plays before Garoppolo finds George Kittle from 11-yards out to re-take the lead.

It falls on Rodgers’ shoulders to save the Packers season. He digs deep and accounts for all 75 yards on a seven-play drive, rushing in from 2 yards out to tie the game at 24 with 1:11 to play.

After two incomplete passes, the 49ers take the game to OT, believing they have the edge with The Faithful roaring louder than ever.

Sure enough, the Niners win the toss and elect to receive. Garoppolo drives them into the red zone, but the drive stalls when Za’Darius Smith sacks him on third-and-6 to bring out Robbie Gould for a go-ahead 39-yard field goal. Good.

Rodgers gets the ball, hoping he has enough magic beans to pay for a trip to Miami. But not so. On fourth-and-7 from their own 42, Rodgers drops back and is forced out of the pocket. He escapes to buy time but is hit by DeForest Buckner as he’s letting the ball go and it falls harmlessly to the turf.

Prediction: 49ers 27, Packers 24

NFL playoff predictions: Picks for 2020 AFC, NFC Championship Games originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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