For the first time since my freshmen year of college (2010-11), the New England Patriots will not be playing in the AFC Championship game. Their record of 8 straight Conference Championship Games was longer than Andrew Luck's entire NFL career (one of their many victims in said AFCCGs) and snapped by the Eddie Vedder, still alive Tennessee Titans. A string of 8 straight AFCCG (5-3 overall; 3-2 in Super Bowls) will likely never be seen again. Claps for my Pats.
Before the Patriots, the record was five straight by the Oakland Raiders from 1973-1977 (1-4 overall; 1-0 in the Super Bowl). Back in the days where only four teams made the playoffs aka it was way fucking easier. S/o John Madden, one of my football heroes.
In the NFL's 100th year of existence (#NFL100) there's a beautiful #narrative still v much in the mix; we could have a rematch of the First AFL-NFL World Championship Game! Chiefs-Packers.
It wasn't until Super Bowl IV when the Super Bowl was officially recognized as the "Super Bowl". "Super Bowl" was just an unofficial nickname coined by Lamar Hunt to combat the wordy "AFL-NFL World Championship Game." Yet another example of the AFL being ahead of the times.
Both Conference Championship match ups are rematches of games from earlier in the year. Going into the season, I didn't even think the Titans or 49ers would be anywhere close to the playoffs, but that is the beauty of the NFL. With the exception of the New England Patriots dominating for anywhere between 12-14 regular season wins a year, there is not much that stays the same year-to-year in the NFL. Just look at the AFC South since 2014.
There's been at least four new playoff teams every year for, I believe, 29 years in a row. I saw a graphic this week that I should've saved. Don't worry, I just slapped myself as punishment.
Obviously, I would prefer that the Patriots were still in the fight, but I'll be honest with you. After 8 straight AFC Championship Games it's kind of nice having a year off. It's a lot less stressful, let someone else get a chance. With the exception of the Packers, none of these teams have won a championship in 25+ years (if ever).
Sometimes, I wish the Patriots success was more spread out. Don't get me wrong, I love this run and so grateful it happened when it happened, but of course, as a spoiled boi, I worry about later in life. I mean they won 3 out 4, nothing for a decade, then 3 out of 5. It's gonna fucking suck if they go like 38 years without a Super Bowl, which is really not that hard to do; the Chiefs haven't made the Super Bowl since the 1969 season (final year of the AFL). Will their 50 year absence end tomorrow?
With Tom Brady (and the Patriots) out of the mix, it means there will be a new World Champion. As I previously mentioned, all four teams that are still in the (Lamar) hunt have not won a championship in some time:
Here's the Sunday slate and my picks from year's past.
AFC Championship Game: Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs (-7)
Arrowhead Stadium Kansas City, Missouri. 3:05 PM (EST) CBS
This is a rare "I'm happy either way" match-up. I love both coaches and despite a recent run-in with KC as an AFC power, I have nothing but love for that organization. I am a HUGE AFL-history guy. I have a ton of respect for what the Chiefs mean in the story of both the AFL and NFL. I've watched the '69 Chiefs America's Game on YouTube 20+ times.
The Titans-Chiefs week 10 match up in Nashville was a turning point for both franchises.
When the Titans came back from a 29-20 fourth quarter deficit to win 35-32, to me that was the official "okay they have something with Tannehill" moment. That was a season changing win for the Titans. Going into the game TEN was 4-5; winning got them to .500. The Titans went 4-2 down the stretch to grab the 6 seed. After having one of the worst offenses in the NFL with Aloha Jesus; Mr. "idk what teams are in my division", Tractorcito and Corey Davis have totally changed the Titan offense. The Titans have scored over 30 points five times with Tannehill as their QB.
The week 10 game was also the last time the Chiefs lost. They are clearly a different (and better team) now. It was Mahomes first start after a three week absence and still was a clearly winnable game for KC; as I mentioned they were up 9 in the 4th quarter. Since then, the Chiefs have not slowed down. Coming off a roller coaster 20 point win against the Texans, you know they're not satisfied.
The Titans actually have fared quite well against the Chiefs the last few years. They've won 4 straight (three at Arrowhead) match ups; including the infamous Mariota TD pass to himself game, where the Chiefs blew a 21-3 lead in Alex Smith's final start with the team. Both teams have different starting QBS now but that game was only two years ago. These are not the same exact teams, but there's a lot of guys still around. This is not a team scared of going into Arrowhead. Especially with Mike Vrabel's dick on the line.
To beat the Chiefs again I think (along with many people paid to give their opinion) the Titans need to follow the Patriots' formula of controlling the clock in the first half with long run-heavy sustained drives in last year's AFCCG. It's no secret the Titans have been riding Tractorcito throughout the postseason. Tannehill is putting Bob Griese numbers; under 100 yards passing in both playoff games. Football wisdom would make you think the Chiefs are going to do all they can do make Tannehill beat them. We may see 10 men in the box.
The Chiefs defense is much improved from 2018 where they were 24th in points and 31st in yards allowed respectively. In 2019 they're 7th and 17th, but one thing you can still do against the Chiefs is pound the rock. KC was 26th in rushing yards against in 2019. Derrick Henry can have a field day against the defense. He ran for 188 and 2 TDs in week 10.
Kansas City showed last week they are NEVER dead. They erased a 24-0 2nd quarter deficit BY HALF TIME. This offense is as explosive as Andy Reid's diarrhea after 3 t-bones. As a narrative guy you best believe I know the Chiefs know the narratives around this game:
I am so torn on this game because I really could see it going either way. The first quarter is going to be huge for how this game plays out because the Titans are not a team that is built to come back down three scores (unlike the Chiefs).
I could soooo see a scenario similar to last year's AFCCG where TEN has maybe a 10-0, 14-0, 17-7 type lead early, they've been dominating T.O.P. but the Chiefs just wake up and go on one of their GSW- like point bukukke runs and all of a sudden they're up 7. I think for the Titans to have any chance this game has to played at their pace.
**wild Titans stat** they've made zero field goals since week 13.
Normally I like to defer, but if I'm either team I want the ball first here to try to dictate the pace early. I think it would be foolish for KC to chose to give the Titans the ball to potentially drained 7+ minutes off the clock en route to Derrick Henry carrying the ball 8+ times for a touchdown.
The smart pick is the Chiefs and while I would not be upset seeing them win (and I'm low key rooting for the Super Bowl I rematch) if I were to bet this game Titans ML +280 is just too juicy to pass up. They've beaten the Pats and Ravens on the road so far. Despite KC being "soooo hard" to play at road teams are 9-3 in the playoffs their in the last 12 games. As I say this it wouldn't blow my mind if the Chiefs find away to contain Henry and the clock somehow strikes Midnight for Tannehill at the worst possible time as he is playing for a contract and been super....a horrible AFCCG could erase all of that. Fuck it..I'm rolling with the Titans. Andy Reid is 1-5 in AFC/NFC Championship Games. These playoffs are going FULL 2011.
Derrick Henry 200+ yards as he continues to have a 2014 Madison Bumgarner type run.
NFC Championship Game: Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers (-7.5)
Levi Stadium Santa Clara, California 6:40 PM (EST) FOX
In another rematch from the regular season we have two young coaches facing off for a chance at the Lombardi. LaFleur is a rookie HC and Shanahan is only in year three.
Back in week 12 the 49ers embarrassed the Packers 38-7 in front of a Nationally Televised audience on Sunday Night Football. The Packers were 0-2 in the state of California during the 2019 regular season and outscored 63-19 in the Redwood State.
I have been one of the biggest 49er haters all season long and they've continue to prove me wrong all the way to the NFC Championship Game; the Niners first since the 2013 season.
The Packers have won ugly all year long and are returning to the NFC championship game for the 4th time in the 2010's (league years); 1-2 to this point.
Everybody and their mother is picking the 49ers to win this game.
I am not.
For one simple reason.
This season has all the makings of a Super Bowl year for the Packers.
I like Jimmy G, but do not want to see him in the Super Bowl right now. He still hasn't overly impressed me this year, but making the Super Bowl is making the Super Bowl. Debo Samuel is a monster and they have 93 running backs that can beat you. To me this game is all about George Kittle. Packers cannot let him be Jimmy G's security blanket. I don't know why, but history has me thinking the 49ers find a way to lose this game. They've lost the NFC Championship game 9 times; 1970-71, 83, 90, 92-93, 97, 2011 and 2013.
One thing that worries me about the Packers is how they don't play complete football games. Last week was a perfect example. They went up 21-3 and nearly blew that game. They progressively score less as the game goes on. Fuck man, I really want to pick the Packers, but even I am having a hard time justifying it. The 49ers are the better team and should win this game, but the 2019 NFL season has been pure chaos. After a streak of 10 straight home teams winning conference championship games I think the road warrior trend continues.