Super Bowl LIV is gettting closer and closer. Take a look at our key personal match ups, injuries, and odds for the conference finals.
By Sunday night, we will know the two teams that will play in Super Bowl LIV. The Tennessee Titans will try to become the third No. 6 seed to make the playoffs but have to get past the offensive machine known as the Kansas City Chiefs. In the NFC, Green Bay will try to beat a San Francisco team that beat the Packers 37-8 earlier in the season.
Titans vs. Chiefs
It’s been 50 years since the Chiefs last played in a Super Bowl. To get there this year, there’s no question about what they must do – stop Titans RB Derrick Henry. The 250-pound Henry is the first player in the modern era to rush for at least 180 yards in three straight games. Kansas City has to slow him down or at least keep the ball away from the Titans offense.
That might be a problem as the Chiefs can put up points pretty quickly. The Chiefs offense is a big reason Kansas City is a seven-point favorite heading into Sunday. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes became the first player to throw for 300 yards, rush for 50, and throw five touchdown passes in a playoff game last week. His tight end Travis Kelce caught three of those scoring tosses.
Key Player Considerations
Kelce is listed as questionable with a sore knee, but he is expected to play. DE Chris Jones, RB LeSean McCoy, and backup QB Matt Moore are all questionable for the Chiefs. For Tennessee, OT Jack Conklin, WR Adam Humphries, and CB Adoree Jackson are all questionable.
The biggest one on the Titans list is Jackson, who is one of the reasons the Tennessee defense has limited its two playoff opponents to just 12.5 points per game. Jackson, who will play, is tasked with covering Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill. It’s the game’s key matchup.
When the two teams met earlier in the season, the Titans gave Hill a lot of room to operate. He faced off coverage most of the game. Hill ended up with 11 receptions for 157 yards. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel will have to re-think his strategy against Hill. Vrabel will likely put more pressure on Hill and it will be up to Jackson to win the battle if the Titans are to come out on top.
Win or lose, the Titans will have to figure out what they are doing at quarterback in 2020. Ryan Tannehill has been outstanding since replacing former first-round draft pick Marcus Mariota. Both Tannehill and Mariota will be free agents at the end of this season.
Packers vs. 49ers
When Green Bay and San Francisco played in the regular season, the 49ers had a field day against the Packers offensive line. The Niners won 37-8 thanks, in large part, to five sacks and immense pressure on Aaron Rodgers all day. Rodgers threw for just 104 yards. Now, the Packers do have David Bakhtiari at left tackle and Bryan Bulaga on the right side.
The problem is that Bulaga has had the flu this week and the interior of the Packers offensive line is much softer. Right guard Billy Turner has an ankle issue and the left guard, Elgton Jenkins, is a rookie. That is not good news for Green Bay. It is also not helpful for Rodgers that wide receivers Geronimo Allison and Allen Lazard are listed as questionable for Sunday.
Who to Watch
The 49ers, 7.5-point favorites, have the NFL’s best defense. They ranked No.1 against the pass and No.1 in total defense during the regular season. One of the big reasons is, of course, the 49ers pass rush. Two pieces of that pass rush – LB Kwon Alexander and DE Dee Ford – are listed as questionable but expect them to play.
Combined with Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, and Nick Bosa, the 49ers pass rush is deadly and is the key to helping San Francisco return to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2012 season. If Rodgers is continuously harassed as he was in the regular-season game, good things are likely to happen for San Francisco. It would be a remarkable turnaround as the 49ers went 4-12 a year ago.
While the pass rush is excellent, the 49ers will likely address the back end of the defense in the offseason. CB Richard Sherman is aging and Jason Verrett spent most of the season on injured reserve. The Packers have freed up some cap space as well and could be chasing down another big-play receiver or an inside linebacker.