AFC Championship Preview – Titans vs. Chiefs
Our Friday 5 begins at Arrowhead Stadium, where the Tennessee Titans (yes, the Tennessee Titans) are heading to take on Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship game.
The Titans have stunned the football world by beating the Patriots and the Ravens behind the legs of one Derrick Henry. In the postseason, Henry has rushed for 377 yards on 64 carries with a touchdown. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has been lights out since taking over for Marcus Mariota, has only had to attempt 29 passes with the run working so well.
But, now it’s the Chiefs, the same Chiefs who overcame a 24-point deficit to beat the Houston Texans 51-31 on 41 unanswered points on the arm of Mahomes and his five touchdown passes, 341 yards passing, and 53 yards rushing. The Titans’ defense held Lamar Jackson and the Ravens to 12 points last week, and they will need to contain tight end Travis Kelce, who had 10 receptions for 134 yards and three touchdowns against Houston.
Although Tannehill has played well, without a high-octane passing game, the Titans will not be able to beat Kansas City. Aside from his arm and his legs, Mahomes has too many weapons at the skill positions for Tennessee to overcome. Prediction: Chiefs 34 Titans 21
NFC Championship Preview – Packers vs. 49ers
Stop me if you’ve heard this one – the 49ers could have drafted Aaron Rodgers in 2005 and didn’t. Oh, you’ve heard it? Cool. Let’s move on to January 2020.
Rodgers and the Packers are traveling back to Levi’s Stadium, where they were beaten 38-7 earlier this season, to face Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship.
That elite 49ers’ defense is healthy again, and it showed in the Divisional Round, where it held the Minnesota Vikings to under 200 yards of total offense and sacked Kirk Cousins six times. But now it will be facing Rodgers, who was 16-of-27 for 243 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s win over Seattle. Look for the 49ers’ defensive front to bring pressure to Rodgers and for the secondary, namely Richard Sherman, to be all over wide receiver Davante Adams. Beyond that, the run defense that held Dalvin Cook to 18 yards on nine carries will need to do the same with Aaron Jones.
Over on defense, the Packers will continue to rely on big plays from the Smiths – Za’Darius and Preston. The linebackers are not actually brothers, but they are the family ties of the Packers’ defense. The 49ers’ O-line, which was outstanding last week, will need to protect Garoppolo and create holes in the run game for whoever the hot hand at running back may be this week. Expect tight end George Kittle, who was a blocking machine against Minnesota, to be the difference-maker for the Niners.
This is San Francisco’s game to lose, and they’re not going to lose it. The defense is too good. Kyle Shanahan is too good a play-caller. Garoppolo and Kittle just win. Prediction: 49ers 28 Packers 21
Cheating in Baseball
Major League Baseball has found that the Houston Astros cheated their way to a 2017 World Series win. The Astros positioned a camera in center field to steal signs during games. They would watch the feed on a monitor that was placed between the clubhouse and the dugout and then someone from the team would hit a garbage can to relay which pitch was coming. These practices continued into part of the 2018 season.
The Astros fired GM Jeff Luhnow and Manager A.J. Hinch, both who have been suspended one-year by the league. The team was also fined $5 million and lost first and second round draft picks for 2020 and 2021.
The Boston Red Sox are also under investigation, as their now-former manager Alex Cora was integral to the sign-stealing operation, while he was a bench coach in Houston.
From Commissioner Rob Manfred’s report: “Cora was involved in developing both the banging scheme and utilizing the replay review room to decode and transmit signs. Cora participated in both schemes, and through his active participation, implicitly condoned the players’ conduct.”
Cora and the Red Sox mutually parted ways earlier this week. Manfred said the players would not be disciplined. Former Astro Carlos Beltran, however, stepped down as the Manager of the New York Mets before managing a single game. He was the only player named by name in the report.
The National Champion LSU Tigers
Coach O and the LSU Tigers are NCAA Champions, after defeating the Clemson Tigers, 42-25.
Quarterback Joe Burrow, who is most likely on to Cincinnati, was next level Monday night, going 31-of-49 for 463 yards and five touchdown passes, as well as rushing for 58 yards and a touchdown. Burrow is only the 16th player in NCAA history to win the Heisman and the National Championship.
The Cincinnati Bengals have the #1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and all signs point to Mr. Burrow as their new QB1.
Odell Beckham, Jr.
As exciting as a win as it was for the Tigers, it was not without some post-game drama.
Former LSU and current Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. was seen handing out cash to players on the sidelines after the game. LSU’s associate athletic director said it was fake cash. Joe Burrow said it’s real cash. The athletic department released a statement earlier this week, saying it has been in contact with the NCAA and SEC regarding the “apparent cash.”
In addition, the New Orleans police department has a warrant out for Beckham’s arrest for a complaint of simple battery. The interwebs are abuzz with video of the incident, in which Beckham slapped the butt of a Superdome security guard in the LSU locker room after the game. I can’t make this stuff up.