NFL playoffs AFC and NFC Championship game schedule, picks, odds, bold predictions and more
Damien Woody predicts the physicality of Derrick Henry and the Titans could keep Tyreek Hill and the rest of the Chiefs’ weapons on the sideline. (1:02)
The conference championships of the NFL playoffs have arrived, and we’re previewing Sunday’s pair of games: Titans-Chiefs in the AFC, and Packers-49ers in the NFC. Our NFL Nation reporters bring us the keys to every game, a bold prediction for each matchup and final score predictions.
Additionally, ESPN Stats & Information provides a stat to know for each game, and the Football Power Index (FPI) goes inside the numbers with a matchup rating (on a scale of 1 to 100) and a game projection. NFL analyst Matt Bowen identifies a key matchup to watch, ESPN Chalk’s Mackenzie Kraemer hands out helpful nuggets, and national NFL writer Kevin Seifert focuses in on each game’s officiating crew. It’s all here to help get you ready for an exciting weekend of NFL football.
Jump to: TEN-KC | GB-SF
(2) Green Bay Packers at (1) San Francisco 49ers
6:40 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating: 74.4 | Spread: SF -7.5 (46.5)
What to watch for: While Niners coach Kyle Shanahan has expressed his team’s need to forget the 49ers’ 37-8 drubbing of the Packers in November, Packers coach Matt LaFleur has talked about needing to revisit and learn from it. The Niners are healthier than they were in that first meeting, but a regular-season drubbing guarantees nothing in the playoffs. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this marks the 37th time in the Super Bowl era that two teams will meet in the playoffs after one beat the other by at least 25 points during the regular season. The team that won the first meeting is 22-14 in the ensuing matchup, but the team that best maintains focus on the task at hand will move on to the Super Bowl. — Nick Wagoner
Super Bowl LIV: Chiefs 31, 49ers 20
Everything you need to know:
• Box score | Mahomes wins MVP
• O’Connor on Reid’s legacy win
• Barnwell: How Chiefs came back
• Graziano: Mahomes to the rescue
More: Super Bowl LIV » | NFL coverage »
Bold prediction: Packers receiver Davante Adams will come close to the team playoff record of 160 yards receiving he set last week against the Seahawks. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was 0-of-8 on throws 10-plus yards downfield against the San Francisco defense in the Week 12 loss — his most such passes in a game without a single completion, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Look for that to change Sunday as he and LaFleur devise different ways to attack the 49ers. — Rob Demovsky
Stat to know: Both teams added a pair of pass-rushers this offseason. The Packers’ Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith were the only pair of teammates with 12.0 sacks each in the regular season, and they each had 2.0 in the divisional-round game. The 49ers, meanwhile, have recorded a sack on 17.3% of dropbacks with both Nick Bosa and Dee Ford on the field and just 5.7% with either or both off. The NFL average sack rate is 6.5%.
Key matchup: 49ers’ pass rush vs. the Packers’ offensive line. The 49ers are loaded on the defensive line with Bosa, Ford, Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner. That’s the best nickel front in the NFL. Look for San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to scheme pass-rush matchups with his personnel out of multiple fronts and alignments. That allows the 49ers to bump Bosa and Ford inside, or use twist stunts to open up rush lanes. The pressure here is on the Packers’ offensive line to protect Rodgers. Read more.
Betting nugget: Green Bay is the fourth team to win at least 13 games during the regular season and then be an underdog of at least seven points in its conference title game. Each of the previous three won the game outright. This is the fourth time Rodgers has been an underdog of at least seven points, and he is 0-3 outright — but 3-0 ATS — in the previous three games. Read more.