“Shorestein Says” 2020 NFL Conference Championship Picks
Tennessee at Kansas City: These two teams are coming off two of the most bizarre wins that you will ever see in the NFL. The Titans stunned the high powered, “unstoppable” Ravens offense and punished their defense with Derrick Henry and their devastating run game. On the other hand, Kansas City may have had one of the worst starts in divisional round history, but then managed to pound home a record setting 7 straight touchdown drives…. I honestly could not believe what I was watching……
With all that said, I am leaning Kansas City in this contest. While I respect the Hell out of Vrabel and the toughness of the Titans, I just don’t think it is sustainable to continue winning games with under a hundred yards passing. The physical, tough Tennessee defense was a great match for Baltimore’s unconventional QB-centric running attack, but I don’t believe they can keep up with the Chiefs’ speed this week. In Pat Mahomes’ first game back from injury, he faced the Titans defense and nearly managed to throw for 500 yards basically on 1 healthy leg. At the time, the Chiefs offense was not at full strength as they had key injuries on the offensive line.
In the previous matchups with the Patriots and Ravens, the Titans were able to get off to strong starts and held on to first half leads. I think what you saw in those two contests is completely different to the explosive Chiefs’ passing attack. While the Ravens were able to put up huge offensive numbers this year, they had virtually no experience playing from behind. The Titans took advantage of early turnovers and used the battering ram that is Derrick Henry to wear down both defenses and control the pace of the game. This is why I think the first quarter is so important for both teams. I’d expect both teams to take the ball first if they happen to win the coin toss. The Chiefs susceptible run defense could be in trouble if the Titans run game is active early. However, if Kansas City is able to score a few quick touchdowns, you might see the Titans abandon the run game and have to rely on Tannehill who has yet to surpass 200 yards total in the playoffs.
I am most likely avoiding the spread in this game, but if I had to choose a side I would probably roll with Kansas City.
Green Bay +7.5 @ San Francisco: About halfway through the season I called the Packers one of the softest playoff bound teams that I had seen. I think this narrative has actually gone too far in that direction at this point, and I think the Packers now have some value as a TD+ underdog. It is extremely rare to see quarterbacks in the elite tier to be laying this many points. You simply just don’t see quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Pat Mahomes, and Russell Wilson as extreme underdogs regardless of the overall team build. For that reason alone, I’d lean Green Bay.
In addition, I’ve always preferred to back the team in a rematch situation that was blown out in the first game. The Packers were completely overwhelmed by the 49ers defensive line and the game plan was awful as I had predicted initially. Rodgers spent way too much time trying to move around and throw the ball deep, while he was under pressure all night. However, I think Garoppolo had one of his worst performances against the Packers defense to start the game. He felt the pressure from “the Smith Brothers” and never looked comfortable in the pocket. He threw more than a few balls up for grabs, but was fortunate to avoid costly turnovers. I think with a few adjustments, the Packers defense can at least slow down the 49ers.
I also expect a better game plan from Green Bay. Quick passes to Aaron Jones need to be a priority for the offense. In their last matchup, the typical Rodgers’ run around game stood no chance against the best front 7 in football. Because they saw how little success they had in the first matchup, it would be unconscionable to not make any adjustments. Rodgers is a tactician when it comes to exploiting matchups, I think he should be able to find a safety or off corner to pick on. Devante Adams will likely draw a lot of Richard Sherman, but I don’t think they should be shy about getting him the ball. He has the ability to win some of those matchups, and I think it would not be in their best interests to completely avoid Richard Sherman.
I like the Pack at +7.5.