NFL predictions: NFL blueboods meet, and so AFL bluebloods
The NFL’s conference championship games are quite a contrast.
The NFC game pits two of the National Football League’s greatest franchises, the Packers vs. the 49ers.
The AFC game pits two of the American Football League’s greatest franchises, the Chiefs vs. the Titans.
Green Bay has the most NFL titles in history, 13. Nine of those were won in the pre-Super Bowl era, but still. The Packers’ four Super Bowl wins are tied for fifth-most ever, with the New York Giants.
San Francisco has five Super Bowl titles, tied with Dallas for third on the list, behind the Patriots and Steelers, each with six.
The Packers and 49ers have combined for 11 of the 53 NFC championships.
But the AFC game Sunday does not sport such historic splendor. The Chiefs made Super Bowl 4 – and haven’t been back. The 1999 Titans made Super Bowl 34 – and haven’t been back, and they weren’t there before, even when they were the Houston Oilers.
In fact, the Chief and Titan franchises achieved some of their greatest successes in the old AFL, which staged six seasons before the Super Bowl era began. The Oilers, who moved to Tennessee in 1997, won the first two AFL titles, 1960 and 1961. The Dallas Texans, who moved to Kansas City in 1963, won the 1962 AFL title.
So since 1962, the Chief and Titan franchises have combined to win one Super Bowl and make three (two of them as AFL teams). And now, either the Titans or Chiefs will be in Miami for Super Bowl 54, against one of the Super Bowl regulars.
The NFL is not as parity-driven as sometimes we think. Twelve of the 32 franchises have not won a Super Bowl, which began with the 1966 season. Four of the 32 franchises have not so much as reached a Super Bowl – the Browns, Jaguars, Texans and Lions. The first three were expansion teams, all from 1995 (Jacksonville) to 2001 (Houston).
That leaves Detroit, which has been in business since 1930, as the NFL’s most beleaguered franchise. The Lions won NFL titles in 1935, 1952, 1953 and 1957. Their playoff record since 1957 – 1-12.
Kansas City’s playoff travails hardly can compare. Since beating the Vikings in Super Bowl 4, the Chiefs are 5-17 in playoff games. Last January, KC hosted its first conference championship game ever. Now the Chiefs host again, with a chance to make the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years.
Let’s get to the predictions:
Titans at Chiefs: Kansas City 30-17. KC lost 35-32 at Tennessee on November 10. That’s when the Chief defense was struggling. In recent weeks, it’s played much better. Titan tailback Derrick Henry rushed for 188 yards against KC, and in two playoff games this post-season, Henry has rushed for 195 yards (against the Ravens) and 182 yards (against the Patriots). In NFL playoff history, only 14 times before this season had a player rushed for more than 181 yards in a game. Now Henry has done it in back-to-back games. But can the Titans keep up with Patrick Mahomes?
Packers at 49ers: San Francisco 27-12. On November 24, the Packers went to Santa Clara and lost 37-8. What makes anyone think it will be different this time? The Green Bay offense isn’t playing great – the Packers are a defensive team – and the only knock on the 49ers is a lack of playoff experience for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Here’s saying Jimmy G. does just fine.
Last week: 3-1. Playoff record: 6-2.