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Inside the Matchup
Conference Championships

By: Andy Swanson | Jason Katz | Nick Caron | HC Green


TEN @ KC | GB @ SF

- Green highllight indicates plus matchup (top eight)
- Red highlight indicates negative matchup (bottom eight)

Titans at Chiefs - (Green)
Line: KC -7.5
Total: 53.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Incredibly, the Titans have knocked off the Patriots and Ravens on the road over the past two weeks with Ryan Tannehill completing a combined 15 passes and failing to top 100 yards in either game. Last week against Baltimore, he was 7-for-14 for 88 yards and a pair of touchdowns. And yet somehow that was enough to eliminate presumptive MVP Lamar Jackson in the weekend's biggest upset. I keep thinking the Titans will need more from Tannehill to advance, but they proved me wrong last week. He's impossible to rely on right now.

Tennessee's run-heavy approach has been especially hard on A.J. Brown, who has just two catches for 13 yards in the postseason. He was scarcely involved in the team's Week 10 win over the Chiefs, either, in what was essentially their playoff game plan where Tannehill attempted just 19 passes in a 35-32 win. Brown remains the only playable Titans receiver, though, as neither Corey Davis nor Jonnu Smith (who scored last week) see regular action. The return of Adam Humphries (ankle) could be an interesting development as he's their top short-yardage wideout.

Kansas City finished eighth in the NFL against the pass this year, allowing 221.4 yards per game. They're arguably better than that now and did a pretty good job of locking down a much more explosive Texans aerial attack last week – don't be fooled by the inflated final numbers. The only way I'd expect much from Tannehill and company is if the Titans fall behind early and need to play catch up.

KC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.19
KC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.6
KC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.31
KC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.11

Running Game Thoughts: Derrick Henry (30 carries, 195 yards) is putting together a postseason for the ages, putting the team on his back the past two weeks and proving almost impossible to stop even when the opponent knows what's coming. Henry blistered the Chiefs for 188 yards and two scores on 23 carries back on Nov. 10, and you can bet he'll be the centerpiece of the Titans' game plan this Sunday against a run defense that finished 26th (128.2 yards per game) and is unlikely to have Chris Jones (calf) available.

Value Meter:
RB1: Derrick Henry
WR3: A.J. Brown
Bench: Ryan Tannehill, Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, Jonnu Smith

Passing Game Thoughts: Down 24-0 almost immediately, Patrick Mahomes not only led the Chiefs to a comeback win but a blowout. The former MVP completed 23 of his 35 passes for 321 yards and five touchdowns without an interception. Mahomes added another 53 yards on the ground in what was a dominant performance despite several terrible dropped passes by his receivers early on. Mahomes will try to propel KC to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1970 this Sunday.

Travis Kelce shook off an early drop to record 10 catches, 134 yards and three TDs despite some lingering knee trouble that saw him play sparingly once the Chiefs got the lead and pushed out. Fellow playmaker Tyreek Hill had a brutal fumble on special teams and took a hard shot as part of a forgettable three-catch, 41-yard performance. Sammy Watkins (2-76-0) was solid while the fringe guys -- Mecole Hardman (2-19-0) and Demarcus Robinson (1-4-0 with multiple drops) -- contributed little.

Tennessee finished 24th against the pass this season and hasn't had to contend with an offense like this over the first two playoff games. Back in Week 10, the Chiefs threw for 446 yards and three TDs in what was Mahomes' first game back from injury. You can bet the Chiefs will test Tennessee's secondary again this Sunday, and their quick-strike ability should keep them in the game regardless of what Henry does.

HOU FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.3
HOU FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.8
HOU FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.13
HOU FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.9

Running Game Thoughts: Damien Williams has emerged as the clear No. 1 back for the Chiefs down the stretch, including his 47-yard, two-TD performance in the divisional round (he added a TD catch as well). LeSean McCoy, meanwhile, has been completely phased out, seeing just one snap and no touches last Sunday. Tennessee did a great job against the Ravens, regardless of the final totals, but KC couldn't be more different. Look for them to pick their spots with Williams here.

Value Meter:
QB1: Patrick Mahomes
RB2/RB3: Damien Williams
WR1: Tyreek Hill
WR3/Flex: Sammy Watkins
TE1: Travis Kelce
Bench: LeSean McCoy, Mecole Hardman

Prediction: Chiefs 27, Titans 23 ^ Top

Packers @ 49ers - (Swanson)
Line: SF -7.5
Total: 46.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers secured a place in the NFC Championship game with a controversial 28-23 win over the Seahawks last week at Lambeau Field. A disputed marking of a third down pass to Jimmy Graham gave the Packers a first down and a chance to close out the clock, giving Rodgers a chance to win his second NFC title game in four tries.

The two matchups to watch in the passing game are the 49ers secondary and how they matchup against Davante Adams, and the 49ers vaunted pass rush going against the Packers offensive line.

The Seahawks curiously did not double team Adams much, allowing two-time pro bowl receiver a chance to roam freely in the secondary. San Francisco has not doubled many receivers this season, and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh will no doubt focus on making sure Adams is a primary focus for the defense.

Richard Sherman does not travel to guard the star receiver for the opposing teams, so he will only be matched up when Adams lines up on the right side of the formation.

Only the Steelers and the Panthers averaged more sacks per game than the 49ers this season. On the other side of the line of scrimmage, the Packers finished first in pass protection according to ESPN and 10th according to Whichever team comes out ahead in this aspect of the game will have a significant upper hand.

San Francisco sacked Rodgers five times in their 37-8 lopsided victory when the two teams faced off in November, with Rodgers throwing for a mere 104 yards and one touchdown.

Not only did the 49ers shut down Rodgers and with constant pressure, but Aaron Jones was also limited to 38 rush yards on 13 carries. If the Packers are unable to run the ball and consistently leave Rodgers in long third downs, he will be a tackling dummy once again for Arik Armstead, Nick Bosa, and Fred Warner.

Injuries are another thing to watch in this game, as the 49ers continue to get healthy at a critical time in the season. Dee Ford returned to the game last week and made his presence felt with a sack of Kirk Cousins, and starting strong safety Jaquiski Tartt returned to the field as well with linebacker Kwon Alexander.

The 49ers managed four sacks of Rodgers when they played the first time in the regular season without Ford and Alexander. The front seven should be even more potent this Sunday in the Championship Game.

SF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.24
SF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.30
SF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.20
SF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.28

Running Game Thoughts: Only the New England Patriots and the Tampa Bay Bucs allowed fewer fantasy points to running backs this season the San Francisco. Only Kenyon Drake and Christian McCaffrey managed to reach 100 yards rushing, and only Todd Gurley in Week 16 was able to score double-digit touchdowns against the 49ers.

Perhaps more impressive was the lack of receiving yards given up by the defense, considering they played against some of the best pass-catching running backs in the league, including McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Aaron Jones, and Todd Gurley. No opposing running back scored a receiving touchdown, and no back topped more than 52 yards in any game.

49ers linebackers are quick and don’t miss many tackles. If you want to run the ball, outside of the tackles has been more open against this team than in the A-Gaps, and passing the ball to running backs has been an exercise in futility.

Despite this uphill battle, the only way the Packers win this game is by running the ball and winning the turnover battle. If Aaron Jones can only must 38 yards on the ground like he did the first time they met, the Pack will be in for a long afternoon.

Value Meter:
QB1: Aaron Rodgers (Low-End)
RB1: Aaron Jones (Low-End)
WR1: Davante Adams (High-End)
WR3: Allen Lazard (High-End)
TE1: Jimmy Graham (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: The 49ers steamrolled the Minnesota Vikings last week 27-10, with the vaunted San Francisco defense creating havoc for Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense and the running game for the 49ers dominated throughout the game.

The one low spot for the 49ers was the play of Jimmy Garoppolo, who completed just 11 of 19 passes for 131 yards and a score. Jimmy G threw a terrible interception to Eric Kendricks that led to a Vikings field goal in the second half. It was the second time in the game in which Garoppolo did not see Kendricks roaming the middle of the field in zone coverage.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan responded to Garoppolo’s gaff by running the ball eight straight times in the team’s next offensive possession, culminating in a Tevin Coleman rushing touchdown.

The good news for the 49ers in this matchup is the fact that should Jimmy G once again struggle to make plays in the passing game, the 49ers match up well against a Packers defense that gave up the 10th-most points to opposing running backs in the regal season and 15 rushing touchdowns.

When Jimmy G is called upon to make a play with his arm, look for him to once again lean on tight end George Kittle. Green Bay ranked 13th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends in the regular season, with Kittle himself torching the Pack for 129 yards and a score on six catches.

Mike Pettine will no doubt look for a way to make up for his team’s deficiencies in covering Kittle from their previous matchup, but on paper, the Packers do not have someone with the size and speed to keep up with the Pro Bowl tight end - not may teams do.

It would also not surprise me to see Emmanuel Sanders break out of his recent production slump and deliver a solid game against the Packers. Troy Aikman mentioned multiple times how well Sanders was playing and the routes he was running, despite not getting the ball from Garoppolo.

Shanahan will point this out to Jimmy G in their film session and look to exploit this in Sunday’s game.

GB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.27
GB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.10
GB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.23
GB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.13

Running Game Thoughts: The 49ers rushing attack that finished second to the Baltimore Ravens in yards per game is the key to victory for San Francisco on Sunday. Green Bay gave up an average of 120 rushing yards per game this season and the 10th most fantasy points to running backs.

The 49ers had their way with the Packers when the teams faced off in November, and the 49ers did not have two of their best blockers in Kyle Juszczyk and tight end George Kittle. Both players are widely considered the best run blockers at their respective positions, giving an already potent running attack and even greater advantage over the Packers.

Tevin Coleman proved to be the best running back on the day last week against the Vikings with two rushing touchdowns, with Matt Breida limited to a few unproductive runs and Raheem Mostert leaving with a calf injury.

Mostert was a full participant on Wednesday’s practice and should be good to go against the Packers, while Coleman will likely once again get the start and the first crack to be the lead back.

Value Meter:
QB2: Jimmy Garoppolo (High-End)
RB2: Tevin Coleman (Low-End)
WR3: Emmanuel Sanders (Low-End)
WR3: Deebo Samuel (High-End)
TE1: George Kittle (Elite)

Prediction: San Francisco 30, Green Bay 20 ^ Top