By Lenn Robbins
It’s time to thank the New England Patriots for becoming the first 12-4 team to possess one of the epically awful offenses of all-time.
That offense led to the Pats getting sent home by the Tennessee Titans, 20-13, leaving us with one of the most wonderfully flawed Final Fours in NFL Playoff history. Forget the fact that we don’t have a clear-cut favorite. We have four teams that make you wonder how they’re still standing.
As of Monday morning, the Chiefs had been installed as 11-10 favorites. This is the same Chiefs team that allowed 128 rushing yards per game this season and trailed 24-0 at home in its divisional game against the Texans.
Fortunately for the Chiefs they have a 24-year-old quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, the likes of which we’ve never seen, coached by an unappreciated 61-year-old wunderkind who draws up plays on diner napkins – true. The Chiefs’ offense was on full display in the final three quarters scoring 51 points in a 51-31 win.
The 49ers appear to be the most balanced team left and they are 7-5 to win it all. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw 13 interceptions this season, only two less than Mahomes (5), Aaron Rodgers (4) and Ryan Tannehill (6) combined. The 49ers try to compensate for the lack of a bell cow back with a committee of three backs, none of whom ran for 800 yards.
Fortunately for the 49ers they have an imposing front seven which is getting healthier. San Francisco, which gets the Pack at home again, throttled the Minnesota Vikings, holding them to 147 yards and seven first downs.
The line drops significantly with the Titans at 15-2 to win it all. Tennessee has gone back in time offensively. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has attempted just 29 passes (completing 15) for 160 yards and two touchdowns. Mahomes threw for 95 yards and four touchdowns in just the second quarter of Sunday’s win against Texas.
Fortunately for the Titans, they have a defensive end playing running back. Derrick Henry, the 6-3, 247-pound battering ram of a man, has rushed for 377 yards on 64 carries (5.9 yards per carry) and one touchdown. He did this against two elite defenses – New England and Baltimore. Tannehill doesn’t throw often because he doesn’t have to.
Bringing up the rear is Green Bay, which boasts the old-school blueprint of an elite QB (Rodgers), running back (Aaron Jones) and wide receiver (Davante Adams). Green Bay needs all three to be at the top of their game because there are no other weapons that really strike fear in a defensive coordinator’s heart. The Packers suffered their worst beat down of the season in a 38-7 shellacking at San Fran on Nov. 24. Aaron posted an 8.5 QBR, Jones averaged just 2.9 yards per carry and Adams was held in check – seven catches for 43 yards.
Fortunately for the Packers, their Big Three is playing well at the right time. Rodgers threw for 243 yards and two TDs, Jones ran for 62 yards and two TDs and Adams, caught eight balls for 160 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-23 win over the Seahawks. If they play at the level, Green Bay can beat anyone.
Before the season started the pick here was Kansas City over Seattle. One down, one still in. We’ll stick with Chiefs over the 49ers. Thanks New England, this should be fascinating final three games of the season without those Pats around.