This coming weekend, the four remaining teams in the NFL will compete in the Divisional Championship games to decide which is the best team in each of the NFC and AFC Conferences. The divisional champions will not only claim that title, but will then go on to Miami in a fortnight to contest the Superbowl and a chance to join the NFL greats.
Each of the four teams had to come through a hard fought and bruising Divisional Playoff weekend last time out, which was packed with excitement and incident and which produced three results as the bookmakers odds had suggested, and one massive surprise with an underdog knocking out the team that had previously been the bookmakers clear favourite to win the Superbowl in February.
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Divisional Weekend Results and Review
- Minnesota Vikings 10-27 San Francisco 49ers
- Tennessee Titans 28-12 Baltimore Ravens
- Houston Texans 31-51 Kansas City Chiefs
- Seattle Seahawks 23-28 Green Bay Packers
Three of the top four seeds in the AFC and NFC made it through the divisional rounds with San Francisco solid winners over the Vikings, the Chiefs coming out on top of a slugfest against the Houston Texans in one of the most dramatic playoff ties in years, while Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to a solid win over the Seahawks.
The one big shock however was the Superbowl favourites, the Baltimore Ravens, being beaten by the Tennessee Titans (a shock I predicted last week) with the Titans running back Derrick Henry rushing for almost 200 yards as the foundation for another shock win for the Titans, who also beat the current Superbowl holders, the New England Patriots on the road last week.
AFC Championship Game
Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs (Arrowhead Stadium)
Kick off – 8.05pm Sunday (GMT)
These two teams were certainly involved in the drama last weekend. The home side Chiefs came back from a 24-0 first quarter deficit to lead 28-24 at the break against the Houston Texans and once they gained the upper hand, they never looked likely to relinquish it as the Texans could not find a way to stop Patrick Mahomes and his offence, leading to the Chiefs running out 51-31 winners in a dramatic game.
Such a win means the Chiefs start this game as the much fancied favourites but they face a Titans team that have already beaten New England and Baltimore en-route to this game. The Titans also bested the Chiefs this season, beating them 35-32 in Nashville in November.
Historically, the Titans have been a real nemesis for the Chiefs, since the franchise switched from the Oilers to the Titans, Tennessee has faced Kansas City ten times, winning seven, losing three including winning all of the last four games against the Chiefs. That includes a dramatic wildcard win in 2018, when the Titans came back from 21-3 down to win 22-21 in Arrowhead.
With the Chiefs rush defence so suspect (Derrick Henry rushed for 185 yards against them in Nashville in November) and Henry on fire, the Titans will feel that even if Mahomes can get the Chiefs offense firing, they will still stand a chance to control the game, run the clock and keep the Chiefs offense on the sidelines. In six homefield games, the Chiefs have beaten the Titans just once at Arrowhead.
Tips for the AFC Conference Championship
The bookmakers have the Chiefs as the massive favourites here but that won’t be a problem for the Titans who have been the underdog in both their previous games. The Titans have a great record against the Chiefs and Andy Reid and even though the bookies think a Chiefs win is a formality, they are going to struggle to stop Derrick Henry in his tracks and that is the Titans chance. I am taking the Titans to pull off another big win on the Money Line at 11/4 with bet365.
NFC Championship Game
Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers (Levi’s Stadium)
Kick off – 11.40pm Sunday (GMT)
Green Bay finished top of the NFC North with a 13-3 seasonal record to finish as the second seed in the NFC, just pipping the New Orleans Saints into that third spot. The Packers have won all of their last six games, including last weekend’s Divisional Round game against the Seahawks.
The three teams that defeated them during the regular season were the Philadelphia Eagles, the Los Angeles Chargers and, perhaps most tellingly, their opponents in this game, the San Francisco 49ers who inflicted their last defeat on them in November by an emphatic 37-8 scoreline when the teams met in California.
The 49ers finished as the top seed in the NFC by virtue of their head to head record over the Packers and they have been many people’s favourites to win the NFC this season for a good while now. The 49ers started the season superbly well, going 8-0 before tasting defeat to their divisional rivals the Seattle Seahawks on Week 9. They were then beaten a few weeks later by the Baltimore Ravens, in a game many people felt would be a Superbowl preview, and then a fortnight later by an improving Atlanta Falcons.
Aaron Rodgers is the star man for the Packers and the veteran quarterback is perhaps the X-factor for Green Bay. Rodgers has the ability to beat any team on his own and he is a former Superbowl Champion and that experience could well be key.
The 49ers don’t have that calibre of experience but they do have an in form Jimmy Garoppolo and a very talented defense, as well as a balanced and dangerous offense. Also, they have the mental edge having already beaten the Packers comfortably during the season by a 37-8 scoreline.
Tips for the NFC Conference Championship
Bet365 have the 49ers as the clear favourites here and it is hard to back against them for the money line bet (2/7). However with the Packers having a +7.5 point handicap on the Spread bet, I feel at 10/11, that is a better option bet as I can see Rodgers doing enough on offense to keep the Packers competitive in this game right to the death.
Even so, I am expecting the 49ers to go on to the Superbowl in Miami.