The Journal Gazette
Saturday, January 11, 2020 1:00 am

Jaws' Playoff Picks

Well, that was quick. My preseason Super Bowl picks went belly up in the wild-card round, as New England and New Orleans lost at home. Time to regroup and anoint two other teams with the kiss of death. You're up, San Francisco and Baltimore. And as it happens, both play today.

On to the divisional round ...

Minnesota at San Francisco

When: 4:35 p.m. today (NBC)

Records: Vikings (11-6); 49ers (13-3)

The skinny: I thought for sure Minnesota was just teasing us with the early lead against New Orleans, and that the Vikings would fritter it away at the end. But the defensive line harassed Saints quarterback Drew Brees into a turnover and Vikings counterpart Kirk Cousins made the throws of his career in overtime to propel Minnesota to San Francisco. The Vikings have the two things you need to win in the playoff: Defense and a running game. The Vikings' defense has given up TDs on 43.8% of red-zone trips, second-best rate in league, while running back Dalvin Cook went for 94 yards on 28 carries against the Saints. San Francisco will be under the spotlight in its first playoff game at Levi's Stadium, none more so than quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, whose 18 turnovers this season are most of any player in postseason. His play will determine whether the Niners get to the Super Bowl. Purdue fans will follow with interest the exploits of Niners running back Raheem Mostert, a former Boilermaker who has TD runs in six straight games. Tight end George Kittle is a monster as is the defensive front.

Prediction: 49ers 26-23

Tennessee at Baltimore

When: 8:15 p.m. today (CBS)

Records: Titans (10-7); Ravens (14-2)

The skinny: Tennessee surprised a lot of people by going into Foxborough and upsetting New England. Again, the Titans have a running game (Derrick Henry ran for Titans' postseason record 182 yards against Patriots), a rugged defense and a tough-guy coach in Mike Vrabel. Now, they have the attention of the runaway train known as the Baltimore Ravens. With dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson (1,206 rushing yards, 36 TD passes, 6 INTs) at the controls, the Ravens have run over 12 straight opponents and are the top seed in the AFC. The Ravens also have a running game with Jackson and Mark Ingram (1,108 yards and scored 15 TDs), a dangerous tight end group led by Mark Andrews (10 TDs) and speed at wide receiver in Marquise Brown (46 catches, 584 yards, 7 TDs). The Ravens have too many options and an option running game that no one has shut down this season. Tennessee is relying on quarterback Ryan Tannehill to be error free again, but, really, they are one dimensional and their run ends in the Charm City.

Prediction: Ravens 24-10

Season: 150-105-1; Last week: 2-2

– Mark Jaworski, The Journal Gazette

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