• Brian L. Barefield

Revenge Weekend- 2020 NFL Championship Playoffs

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,” excerpt from a Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

That quote by Dickens can easily describe the 2020 NFL Championship Weekend. On Sunday, there will be a lot of fans of other teams still wondering what went wrong during the regular season. How has the season come down to one team that by all accounts shouldn’t be playing (Titans)? Another team that just popped up on the radar out of nowhere (49ers). A team that badly needs this trip to the Super Bowl to solidify its Hall of Fame quarterback (Packers) and one team that has been picked to win it all since pre-season (Chiefs).

Today’s winners will make the trip to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on February 2, 2020 to participate in Super Bowl LIV (54). For the aforementioned teams that honor is also bragging rights since the NFL is celebrating its centennial year (100) of being in existence.

Let’s take a look at the matchups today.

AFC Championship Game

Tennessee Titans (11-7) vs Kansas City Chiefs (13-4)

This game is a rematch of a Week 10 victory by the Titans. Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw a late touchdown pass to Adam Humphries and ran in a successful two-point conversion to give the Titans a three-point lead over Kansas City. The Chiefs tried to respond as Patrick Mahomes led them into field goal range, but the Titans blocked the attempt and left with the victory.

For the Titans to be successful again. They will have to rely heavily on the NFL’s leading rusher Derrick Henry who has been on a one-man mission to lead the Titans to Miami. Henry’s 188.5 yards per game average in the playoffs has already defeated two perennial favorites in back to back weeks (Patriots, Ravens). He is the first player to rush for at least 180 yards in three consecutive games (Texans last game of the regular season) and also the first to ever have back-to-back playoff performances of at least 175 rushing yards.

“I think two things happen,” said Alabama head coach Nick Saban who coached Henry in college told the hosts of the Morning Drive on WPRT-FM in Nashville. "I think he gets stronger and stronger. But I think there’s another factor in that that people don’t realize is the guys on the other side. When I coached with the Houston Oilers, we had Mike Rozier, and he was kind of a big, physical, strong guy. And even in practice, the DBs get tired of tackling a guy like that. The linebackers get tired of tackling a guy like that, all right. So, two things are happening: He’s getting stronger because he’s a big, physical, strong guy, but the other team’s also getting a little weary of trying to tackle the guy on a consistent basis, and that’s very frustrating.

Tennessee will need Henry to carry the load as things have not been so great for the rest of the offense. Tannehill has had less than stellar numbers in the playoff victories averaging less than 100-yards passing in each game. If Kansas City puts at least eight defensive players near the line of scrimmage, it will be a long day for Tannehill.

A lot has changed for the Chiefs since that loss to the Titans. They are on a seven-game winning streak. Mahomes has gotten a lot stronger since the injury he sustained earlier in the season. The defense has come alive by only giving up an average of 14.2 points per game during that streak. But the two biggest factor that Kansas City has coming into this game is anger and confidence.

The anger factor kicks in from the Week 10 loss, but also from the fact that Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is 1-8 all time against the Titans.

"I have players who have won more games than I have against (the Titans)," Reid said this week during a press conference. "I'm just going to bank on them."

The confidence factor kicks in with the divisional round playoff win over the Houston Texans last week 51-31. After trailing 24-0 in the second quarter. Kansas City scored on seven straight possessions to take the lead and never look back. They erased the deficit in less than 10 minutes.

That high-powered offense will definitely be on display today and wide receiver Tyreke Hill has confidence in knowing that the receiving group that Mahomes has at his disposal is very lethal.