The Journal Gazette
Sunday, January 19, 2020 1:00 am

Jaws' championship picks

I've busted on my first two AFC Super Bowl picks (New England and Baltimore), so the nod now goes to Kansas City, which only means Tennessee will grind down the league's most prolific offense. I can see the Titans winning, but I feel stronger that it's the Chiefs' time to end their 50-year Super Bowl drought. I've been waiting for 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to implode, but he's held steady down the stretch and I think San Francisco's defense will be the difference.

On to championship Sunday. ...

Tennessee at Kansas City

When: 3:05 p.m. today (CBS)

Records: Titans 11-7; Chiefs 13-4

The skinny: It's Derrick Henry vs. the World. The Titans running back has run roughshod over New England and Baltimore en route to the AFC  title game. The Alabama product has 377 yards rushing this postseason, including 195 against the Ravens. He'll need to approximate those numbers today to give the Titans a chance on the road against the explosive Chiefs offense. The Titans are smartly coached by Mike Vrabel, and offensive coordinator Arthur Smith has incorporated some timely unconventional plays (Henry throwing a TD last week). Don't be surprised if Tennessee decides to use the old Pittsburgh philosophy of throwing early to get the lead and then running to win. It worked for the Steelers against the high-octane Peyton Manning-led Colts in the playoffs and it could be a nice twist as the Chiefs will be bulking up to stop the run. Titans QB Ryan Tannehill has yet to throw for 100 yards this postseason, but the opportunistic Titans led the NFL by scoring TDs on 75.6% of drives inside the opponents' 20. Of course, the Titans could adopt the Colts' game plan from earlier this season and play ball control, but they way Kansas City seemed to shake off the yoke of postseason failure last week en route to steamrolling Houston, it will be a monumental chore for the Tennessee defense to hold down Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Damien Williams, Tyreek Hill, and Sammy Watkins. The Chiefs don't need much time to score so even a ball-control strategy by the Titans may not work.

Prediction: Chiefs 24-17

Green Bay at San Francisco

Time: 6:40 p.m. today (Fox)

Records: Packers 14-3; 49ers 14-3

The skinny: These long-time playoff foes are meeting for the eighth time in the past 25 postseasons and this one shapes up as a classic. The Niners won the regular-season meeting by 29 points, and teams that beat an opponent by at least 28 in the regular season are 14-9 in playoff rematches in the Super Bowl era. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers had the least efficient game of his career in the first meeting, throwing for 104 yards. His main weapons are receiver Devante Adams and running back Aaron Jones. Adams set franchise playoff record with 160 yards receiving last week to go along with two touchdowns. Jones became seventh player in Packers history with at least two TD runs in playoff game last week. San Francisco will counter with its stout defense, which is ranked No. 2 overall and No. 1 against the pass. San Francisco is the first team ever to have five first-round picks (DeForest Buckner, Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Dee Ford, Solomon Thomas) get sacks in a game. Cornerback Richard Sherman will probably draw the assignment to cover Adams. San Francisco likes to run the ball – they ran it a team playoff record 47 times last week – behind IU product Tevin Coleman and Purdue product Raheem Mostert. The big worry is Garoppolo. His 18 turnovers in the regular season were the most for any player who made the playoffs and he threw an interception last week. He needs to find tight end George Kittle early and often.

Prediction: 49ers 27-21

Last week: 3-1; Playoffs 5-3

– Mark Jaworski, The Journal Gazette

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