NZME's NFL Tragics of Alex Chapman, Christopher Reive, Marc Peard and Nigel Yalden make their predictions ahead of the NFL conference championships.
AFC Championship game
Kansas City Chiefs v Tennessee Titans at Kansas City - Monday 9.05am
Surely this Titans run doesn't continue right? A sixth seed making the Super Bowl would be plenty of fun though, and from a personal point of view, further soften the blow of the Patriots being knocked out early by them. If it is to happen, it will only be because Derrick Henry continues to be the impressive battering ram he is, averaging more than seven yards per carry and 96 carries in his last three games. Add to that, it's not meant to be 'fun' tackling weather. However, this is Patrick Mahomes and a Chiefs team which came back from 24 points down last week. Yes their rush defence isn't great, conceding nearly yards per carry, but the Kansas' offense is something else.
Prediction: In the words of Martin Devlin's producer Thomas Harris, don't overthink it. Chiefs by 5.
CR: As much as I would love to see Tennessee in the Super Bowl, I don't think they have enough points in them to hang with this ridiculous Kansas City team. After the Chiefs fell behind by more than 20 points in the first quarter against Houston last week, you can expect them to come out looking to make amends. Tennessee running back Derrick Henry will continue to be the only real source of reliable offence for the Titans, and while they'll get some points on the board, the Chiefs will navigate the Titans tough defence and punch their Super Bowl ticket.
Prediction: Chiefs by 13 or more; Patrick Mahomes to have at least four passing touchdowns.
MP: What do you get in the Titans when you combine the top percentage passer rating quarterback and the regular season rushing leader up against a dodgy defence in a conference finals game? A loss. Why? Did I mention that the dodgy defence of the Chiefs is coupled with an offence that scores so many touchdowns they ran out of celebration fireworks last week? I expect the Chiefs to come out firing after a slow start last week against the Texans. They will score early and often. How? Well the Titans' stellar plan which subdued the Ravens won't work quite as effectively against Patrick Mahomes and all his weapons. When the Titans are forced to chase the game, they won't be able to run the ball and the short passing game will become obsolete, forcing an unnatural gunslinger.
Prediction: Lock me in for a Chiefs win by 13.
NY: This is a match up of two teams who have zero fear right now which makes this game even more exciting. While many are seeing this as a blowout win to the Chiefs, the Titans are going to make the home side work exceedingly hard the win. Expect to see plenty more of red-hot running back Derrick Henry with ball in hand for the Titans, however you suspect that a third straight road game at the back end of the season is going to prove a bridge to far for Mike Vrabel's men - though haven't we said something very similar during their previous two playoff games?
Prediction: It'll be close through three quarters but the Patrick Mahomes/Travis Kelce combo will get the Chiefs home.
NFC Championship game
San Francisco 49ers v Green Bay Packers at San Francisco - Monday 12.40pm
While a lot of the talk has been on Jimmy Garoppolo v Aaron Rodgers, I'm intrigued to see how this Packers offense handles the 49ers defence. This is a team which hardly blitzes, allowing them to give more help in pass coverage against Rodgers and the likes of receiver Davante Adams, who will probably get a fair bit of attention from Richard Sherman this week. However, this is a veteran against a rookie. A player who doesn't give up ball to one who has a tendency to throw picks.
Prediction: It will all come down to the defence, and if they can manage it, 49ers will win. Packers to cover the 7.5 spread.
CR: The 49ers were one of the best, if not the best team in the NFL during the regular season. Their defensive unit stonewalled the competition for much of the year, while their offensive system relied on their capable quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and a host of great receiving options, as well as good production out of their running unit. That being said, I think a healthy Green Bay Packers team pip the 49ers. Aaron Rodgers knows how to win big games. The receiving corps are healthy - which was clear in Davante Adams' 160 yards last time out against Seattle. Adams will see plenty of attention from 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, so look for the likes of Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and even tight end Jimmy Graham to see extra targets. With a serviceable defence, and arguably the season's breakout star in running back Aaron Jones, the Packers are going to be a problem.
Prediction: Packers by 12 or fewer; Geronimo Allison catches at least 1 touchdown.
MP: Defence should win this game, the 49ers rank in the top of all the defensive categories that matter in this match up... but they lose. Why? I simply like the Packers to score more points than the 49ers can in this match up. I think the Packers went through as many injuries to their role players as any other team in the league and they seem to back at full speed now. I expect less production from their ground game but with Aaron Rodgers to be able to give his receivers plenty of service in the air. I still don't quite trust the offence of the 49ers, maybe it's because this is their first season with a mostly healthy cast. Playoff games tend to show cracks and any lack of big game situations and this will be the game that those cracks get exposed.
Prediction: Packers by 3.
NY: San Francisco is the most rounded team left in the playoffs. They have an elite level defence and while all the chat leading into the chat surrounds the two quarterbacks (as it usually does), it's going to be 49ers defence ends Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas and Arik Armstead battle with the Green Bay offence line that will decide this one. If Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers gets a serviceable level of protection, the visitors are a chance. If Bosa and co there mitts on him, then it's all over red rover.
Prediction: 49ers keep the Packers at arm's length throughout and win by a touchdown.
Alex Chapman (4/8):
Christopher Reive (3/8):
Marc Peard (3/8):
Nigel Yalden (5/8):