There’s a bit of a false claim that circles professional sport – that nobody ever remembers the losers from a final.
That’s not true, nor is losing a final the cruelest fate in any sport.
The AFC and NFC title games are this weekend, and I can assure you there’s nothing worse than losing out here and never even getting the chance to hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy.
Yes, watching your opposition win it all at your expense is a tough pill to swallow but to not take part in the biggest sporting showcase in the world is tougher to come to terms with than wondering what went wrong on the day.
Two teams are going to feel that pain this week – but who?
Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs (-7.5): +103
AFC Championship, 19th January, 3:05PM
You see, the only way to beat Patrick Mahomes is actually by confusing him.
Man coverage was a bold step from the Houston Texans, and look where it got them. It’s a very simple formula that people like to complicate.
The Chiefs’ wide receivers are phenomenal athletes, first and foremost. They’re all quick. Every single one of them. If, pre-snap, Patrick Mahomes sees that you’re in man coverage, which he does by putting someone in motion before the snap, then fires where his biggest mismatch it.
And on the off chance that you manage to contain the receivers, Travis Kelce is underneath against a linebacker or a safety. That’s almost automatic.
So what can the Titans actually do? They can avoid bringing edge pressure that’s been so popular for the last five years and focus on their strength – pressure up the middle.
This will make Mahomes throw from a tougher angle and it’s only then, against zone coverage, that his completion percentage will go down.
Tennessee, to counter, will have to throw the ball more because Steve Spagnuolo will try to set the edge to avoid Derrick Henry running through them.
Eventually, Ryan Tannehill will have to make a throw against zone coverage and he’ll struggle. His limited success to this point has been when teams bring pressure and he throws into single-man coverage. He won’t be afforded these chances in Kansas City and the Titans won’t be within two touchdowns coming into the final quarter.
Back Kansas with CanPlay.
Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers (-7.5): -107
NFC Championship, 19th January, 6:40PM
For Green Bay, this comes down to whether or not Richard Sherman can keep up with Davante Adams. If he can, this one’s a total mismatch.
Matt LaFleur has been great for Aaron Rodgers. His touchdown to interception ratio is fantastic, his completions looks designed rather than his irrational improvisation from broken plays as used to be the case.
But the problem with this is – LaFleur’s offence seems to really struggle against Cover 3, and none of his play designs suit that defence. Bryan Bulaga’s health is also a major concern as Nick Bosa aims to cement his legacy as the dominant rookie pass rusher in recent times.
There are just very few ways in which you can see Green Bay not being embarrassed. A rookie head coach going up against the league’s best team in a pressure environment, on the road?
Take the hosts.
You can bet on the AFC & NFC Conference Championship Games with CanPlay.