What another wild weekend of playoff football. The Titans, as 10-point underdogs, went into Baltimore and not only beat the Ravens, but they dominated them. The Texans, as huge dogs themselves, open up a 24-point lead in Kansas City, only to lose 51-31. Incredible game. Meanwhile, both NFC teams won and covered.
Now, we head to Conference Championship Weekend. The Niners will host the NFC title game because they stopped the Seahawks inches short on the final play of the NFL season. The Chiefs, who expected to have the No. 3 seed, are hosting their game because the Patriots lost to the Dolphins at home in a must-win game. That goes to show how every moment in the regular season can matter when playoff time comes.
This time next week, we’ll know which teams will be in the Super Bowl. Who has the best chance to win it all? Here are my confidence rankings for the final four teams:
They look awesome right now, folks. The Vikings were completely overmatched by a fresh 49ers team. The 49ers’ offensive line played great, routinely knocking the Vikings’ outstanding defensive line back multiple yards to open up running lanes so wide that their running backs could squeeze through. They protected Jimmy Garoppolo was ease and that allowed him to pick apart the Minnesota secondary when needed, which wasn’t often.
Their concern on offense has been the same this season: their quarterback. Garoppolo has been prone to get fooled by zone coverage, which was saw again against the Vikings. However, San Francisco’s playcalling and ability to scheme up open wide receivers will continue the rest of the playoffs.
While the offense is capable of a big day, the reason the Niners are my favorite to win the Super Bowl is their pass rush. We’ve seen for seasons now, when the playoff get long, a pass rush never fails. The 49ers’ defensive line dominated on Saturday afternoon, as they have most of the season. Dee Ford was back and when he’s in the lineup, it frees up the entire line to make moves with double teams.
The only time this season the Niners’ pass rush wasn’t great was against super mobile quarterbacks such as Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray, and Lamar Jackson. Well, those QBs aren’t around in the playoffs anymore. Aaron Rodgers is mobile, but he’s not on the same level as those guys. Same with Patrick Mahomes or Ryan Tannehill.
I think the Niners are the most well-rounded team in the playoffs.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
Wow. What do you even say about this game?
At one point, the Chiefs were down 24-0. Every single thing went poorly. They dropped passes. They had a punt blocked that was easily returned for a touchdown. Tyreek Hill muffed a punt, and the Texans immediately scored. The Texans tacked on a cowardly field goal (yes, Bill O’Brien took the cowardly approach there) to make it 24-0 with 10:54 in the second quarter.
The Chiefs then proceeded to outscore the Texans 51-7 from that moment until eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. It was a slaughter. The Chiefs scored 28 points on 16 offensive plays in the second quarter! We knew the Chiefs’ offense would perform well after a bye and also because the Texans’ defense is poo. It just took them a little while to get started.
The Chiefs will have to win the rest of the playoff games with their offense. Their defense, to no surprise to me, won’t be able to “win” them games. The Texans rushed the ball well until they needed to pass only. The Chiefs allowed big plays again in the pass game and didn’t force any turnovers.
3. Tennessee Titans
How much do we believe in confidence? How much do we believe in an outdated style of playing offense continuing to work?
The Titans’ offense is rolling with Derrick Henry taking over games. But it’s still remarkable the Titans have won two playoff games with Ryan Tannehill throwing for 72 and 88 yards in those wins. They match up well with the Chiefs, too. The Titans can run the football against Kansas City’s poor rushing defense, but they will need more from the passing game.
However, on defense, the Titans have been super impressive. Their team speed against the Ravens was something I did not expect. They knew exactly where to be and played with zero hesitation at all. They will need to play even better this coming weekend in Kansas City because the Chiefs’ passing game is nothing like they’ve seen since, well, the last time the Titans played the Chiefs.
As long as No. 12 is upright, the Packers have a chance. Aaron Rodgers made some amazing throws Sunday night and their offense looked great for the first three quarters. They hadn’t looked this strong on offense since a Week 7 win against the Raiders. The Packers have long stretches where the offense does dark, as it appeared to do late against the Seahawks. But, there was Rodgers again to save the day.
The Packers have the tackles to compete with the Niners’ DEs, but I worry about their interior linemen against DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead next week. On defense, I’m not sure what to make of them after this game. Seattle was down so many guys and Russell Wilson didn’t look sharp early on. But once Wilson got going, he was hard to stop. Without a bad drop on the Seahawks’ last drive, they might have driven down for go-ahead touchdown.
In the end, I just don’t believe the Packers will beat the 49ers. They are not as complete as the other three teams remaining, and the advanced stats show that as well.