And then there were four… Only the best left, and one more battle to determine who represents in the Battle Royale two weeks from Sunday. It’s like watching cell mitosis in reverse, as 32 become 12, and then 12 become 8, and 8 fold into 4, and then 2 and finally… One. Speaking of numbers, after an abysmal 0-4 on Wild Card Weekend, I went 3-1 last weekend. Huzzah.
The Titans have been absolutely Titanic, with Derrick ‘Historic’ Henry tearing off immense hunks of yardage, battering linesmen and linebackers alike, and then outrunning fleet d-backs as he accelerates into the open field. His running style reminds me of those cannonballs fired in the battle scene from Mel Gibson’s The Patriot, where they go bouncing along the ground kicking up great gouts of dirt, and when they hit the lines of soldiers, they simply tear through the ranks and continue on their way, an irresistible force. This man has been both exhilarating and terrifying to watch at once. Kansas City has that all-important year of deep playoff experience to harden them this season, and the sour taste of narrow defeat is a powerful motivator. In the blink of an eye, they ERASED a 3-touchdown deficit last week on their way to blowing out a talented and determined Texans team. As long as there are ticks on the game clock, this team is immensely dangerous. We saw that the 49ers are clearly the most balanced team in the entire league, getting off the snap on both offense AND defense faster than their opponents, and their gas tank seems bottomless. They tackled, crackled and shackled an excellent, seasoned Vikings team last week, in what turned into a lopsided victory. Zimmer’s team lost their shimmer, as Minnesota didn’t dominate in ANY aspect of that game… but that’s what San Fran has done all season. Dominate.
Green Bay and crusty old Aaron Rodgers found new life in Davante Adams and Aaron Jones, and Seattle just didn’t have an answer for them. Russell the Hustle Wilson almost singlehandedly willed his team to victory, but he only plays offense, and that wasn’t ultimately where they fell down.
Here’s the picks.
Titans at Chiefs – If you don’t love what Mike Vrabel has done with Tennessee this season, you ain’t a football fan. The titans were mired in mediocrity once again when Ryan Tannehill was handed the starter’s job. He went on to lead the league in several QB categories and ripped off a nice string of victories to help them to a playoff berth. In fairness, what Tannehill did was stabilize their offense, which was already talented but underperforming with Mariota. His game management helped the passing game set up the league’s best running game, and that in turn allowed the defense to spend less time on the field, improving their performance as well. That is what a good quarterback can mean to the entire team. Vrabel is a smart coach, too, and he schemes his opponents well. Their defensive improvement has been terrific, knocking off the league’s best offense last week, which few thought possible. They will give Andy Reid’s squad all they can handle this week. I don’t see the Chiefs (or anyone else, for that matter) stopping Henry, but their ability to strike quickly and repeatedly on offense essentially nullifies a ground game victory by the Titans. It takes too long to score running touchdowns, and to beat KC you have to contain their scoring, AND match the pace of it. For 60 looong minutes. That is highly unlikely to happen. If the Chiefs put enough points up early, they force Tannehill to play from behind and to throw more. That won’t be good for Tennessee. These two teams have proven how good they are, and they deserve to be here. The Titans can win this game, but I don’t believe they will. Patrick MaHOMES-IN on the Lombardi Trophy.
Packers at Niners – Mr. Rodgers’ neighborhood caught new life this season, both on offense AND defense. Their defense features the Smith Brothers’ QB-crusher attack, and a stiff and resilient red zone lockdown. They have made teams work three times harder for the final 20 yards than they did for the prior 80. On offense, Davante Adams and Aaron Jones have sharpened their air and ground attacks into premier weapons. And there’s no ‘make-believe’ in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood… he IS that good still. Smart, mobile, resourceful, and a pinpoint passer.
The Packers square off again with the 49ers team that made creamed cheese out of them 37-8 earlier this year, and in all honesty, I see the same kind of result again. The Niners have the second-best run attack in the league, with their Triple Threat backfield. They also have a fine young quarterback in Garoppolo, who hasn’t lit up the league in stats, but all the guy does is win. And then there’s George. Kittle rips the seams out of opposing defenses, and creates matchup problems of a rather large nature. He also run- and pass blocks like he enjoys it. And then there’s the defense. Yikes. This D is fast, quick, relentless and a little nasty. They were second in total defense this year, and we all know the mantra about what wins championships. I don’t care for Nick Bosa’s showboating, but he backs it up with dominating and disruptive play. And Richard ‘Sherman Tank’ looks totally rejuvenated since donning Red & Gold. I would not be surprised if the Niners didn’t lose another game this season. I sure don’t see them losing this one.
Enjoy the games!