By Harvey Hoffman
After a pair of stunning upsets over the defending champs (New England) and the AFC’s No. 1 seed (Baltimore), what does Tennessee have in store next?
The Titans are underdogs again, on the road at Arrowhead Stadium against the Chiefs.
They have their work cut out for them against a vastly superior (on paper) passing attack directed by reigning league MVP Patrick Mahomes (above).
In leading Kansas City on a furious comeback from down 24-0 against the Texans, Mahomes posted a sky-high 97.9 Total QB Rating from the second quarter onward, so he may not prove as easy for Tennessee’s defense to stymie as Lamar Jackson was.
The good news for the Titans, however, is that their offensive strength — the mighty power running of Henry and Co. — ranks fourth in schedule-adjusted EPA per game this season, corresponding well to Kansas City’s weakness in defending the run (29th in rushing defense). The ingredients are there for Henry to have another big day, perhaps similar to the 188 yards he produced against K.C. in a Week 10 Tennessee victory. The only question is whether it will be enough to match the Chiefs’ own firepower again — an unlikely proposition, though not that unlikely.
Spread: Kansas City -5½
Tale of the tape: Kansas City vs. Tennessee
3:05 p.m. ET Sunday
|Patrick Mahomes||Starting QB||Ryan Tannehill|
|2nd||QB Elo rank||12th|
|4th||QB’s supporting cast||2nd|
|5th||Avg. QB Elo defense||16th|
|Pass offense||Biggest EPA strength||Run offense|
|Run defense||Biggest EPA weakness||Special teams|
|SAN FRANCISCO||CATEGORY||GREEN BAY|
|Jimmy Garoppolo||Starting QB||Aaron Rodgers|
|22nd||QB Elo rank||13th|
|1st||QB’s supporting cast||3rd|
|6th||Avg. QB Elo defense||4th|
|Pass defense||Biggest EPA strength||Run offense|
|Special teams||Biggest EPA weakness||Run defense|
The most iconic playoff battle between these two teams happened back in 1999, when San Francisco’s Steve Young hit Terrell Owens for a 25-yard, game-winning TD to defeat Brett Favre and the Packers.
The QBs in this year’s edition — SF’s Jimmy Garropolo (-18 QB Elo vs. average) and GB’s Aaron Rodgers (+12) — aren’t quite at the top of their games the way Young (+122) and Favre (+61) were back then, but they are assisted by two of the best supporting casts in the league, including a pair of strong pass defenses. In theory, that makes these teams pretty evenly matched: Even the biggest disparities on one side of the ball (such as Green Bay’s superior running game) are matched on the other side (e.g., San Francisco’s run defense is better).
One thing the 49ers can point to is their 37-8 demolition of the Packers at home in Week 12, when Garropolo outplayed Rodgers and San Francisco outgained Green Bay 339 to 198. But even in that department, there’s some evidence that the team that was blown out in the regular season gains more information for the rematch than the team that dominated.
Will that — and plain old regression to the mean — be enough to keep Green Bay more competitive this time around? Probably, though the 49ers are still clear favorites here.
Spread: San Francisco -4