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NFL playoff picks, predictions against spread: 49ers slam Packers, Chiefs edge Titans to reach Super Bowl 54

Sporting News — (Vinnie Iyer)

NFL conference champonship weekend is here for the 2020 playoffs. The AFC and NFC title games serve as the penultimate games before Super Bowl 54.

So far, we have picked 264 games this season with rather pleasing results. That only increases the pressure to deliver in the three biggest matchups of the NFL's 100th season.

This week, there are clear home favorites playing on Sunday afternoon and evening. Without further ado, here's our latest fearless forecast for upcoming NFL results. All odds are courtesy of SportsInsider.com.

MORE: Get the latest NFL odds & betting trends from Sports Insider

NFL playoff picks, predictions against spread for AFC, NFC championship games

  • AFC championship game: Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs (-7 1/2)

Sunday, 3:05 p.m. ET, CBS

The Titans rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the Chiefs 35-32 in the teams' wild Week 10 game in Nashville, the last time Kansas City has lost a game. Derrick Henry dominated as usual in the November meeting, with his rushing performance alllowing Tennessee to have every answer for Patrick Mahomes' big passing day in his first game back from his knee injury.

The Chiefs get the rematch at home, and they know it won't be easy after the Titans fearlessly knocked off the Patriots in New England and the Ravens in Baltimore. The Chiefs also have the No. 26-ranked run defense from the regular season, allowing on average 4.9 yards per carry. They know what's coming and can't expect to stop it, because no one can.

Rather, the Chiefs should focus on the Titans having the No. 24 pass defense. Mahomes is fully healthy and red-hot, operating at a high level in a more explosive and well-rounded passing game than what was around Tom Brady and Lamar Jackson. So there are no breaks for the Titans in that aspect of the game, and their matchups are bad against both tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill.

Coach Mike Vrabel will push for the Titans to keep it close, and his counterpart, Andy Reid, will oblige by playing it conservative at times. But Kansas City will be able to go into overdrive in the second half to keep the game just out of reach for Henry and Ryan Tannehill.

With a second straight shot at winning the AFC championsip in Arrowhead stadium, the Chiefs will aim, fire and not miss with Mahomes.

Pick: Chiefs win 34-27 but fail to cover the spread

  • NFC championship game: Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers (-7)

Sunday, 6:40 p.m. ET, Fox

The Packers got blasted by the 49ers 37-8 during the Sunday night Week 12 meeting in San Francisco. In that game, Aaron Rodgers threw for only 104 yards on 33 attempts and was sacked five times. Green Bay didn't have much of a running game to support him and fell into a big hole, 23-0 by halftime.

Green Bay has no choice but to play better offensively this time, with the "triplets" of Rodgers, wide receiver Davante Adams and running back Aaron Jones coming off an effective divisional playoff game against the Seahawks and working behind a solid line. The problem will lie in the Packers' defense trying to slow down the 49ers.

San Francisco offers many paces and styles in the rushing attack with its deep backfield. Green'Bay's front seven is built more to rush the paser and cover, and it can wilt against the run. There won't be sudden secondary answers against Jimmy Garoppolo's quick and physical go-to guys, George Kittle and Deebo Samuel. The 49ers also can get the Packers out of position with misdirection, motion and play-action.

Rodgers will do the best he can with little skill help beyond Adams and Jones, facing defensive challenges on every level led by Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Kwon Alexander and Richerd Sherman. Garoppolo is loaded by comparison and will see many more things available to exploit in the middle of the field.

Pick: 49ers win 42-24 and cover the spread.

Stats of the Week:
Divisional record straight up: 3-1
Divisional record against the spread: 2-2
Season record straight up: 174-89
Season record against the spread: 138-116