It was a tumultuous offseason for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Well, maybe to be more precise, it was rough for the Packers and their fans: Rodgers was probably pretty calm about it.
The soon to be two-time reigning National Football League MVP (Rodgers has odds of -400, with Tom Brady +400; that is the race) has had his share of issues in the media this season, but has let everything roll off his back. Rodgers led Green Bay, after a first week disaster (that has been a theme here, right? Everything is a disaster to the media and fans, but no issue in the team), to the top seed in the NFC, and a first week bye in the playoffs.
Green Bay watched on as the San Francisco 49ers beat the Dallas Cowboys, and will now get the NFC West Wild Card team in the Divisional Round in the final “primetime” game of the year. The Packers also watched as two of San Fran’s best defensive players went out of the game injured, and let the Cowboys back into the contest.
So now, after all of the circus surrounding the Packers all year, it comes down to what they do on the field in the most important game of the year. If you remember their playoff history (and I am SURE I do not have to remind any Green Bay fans), since they last won the Super Bowl in February of 2011, the Packers have fallen often to the 49ers (three times), and four of the last five playoff appearances have ended with losses in the NFC Championship Game.
This year has to end with a trip to the Super Bowl at minimum, and ideally, a Super Bowl victory: anything else would have to be considered an abject failure.
Oh, and one more thing. Are the 49ers this season’s Buccaneers? Tampa won the Super Bowl last season with three road wins in the playoffs from the five seed, exactly where San Fran is right now. Just some food for thought.
🤕 Injury updates: Nick Bosa exited the win over Dallas with a head injury, and Fred Warner has an ankle injury. Those are two of the key defensive players for the 49ers.
Green Bay should be getting some key players back after the bye.
You have to think if players are on the fence, they will probably at least suit up for the playoffs.
Remember, with COVID-19, the status of players can change quickly, so make sure you check the NFL injury report here before the game.
Head to head: the two teams have split the last four meetings. Green Bay won a thriller 30-28 back in September, and won the regular season encounter in 2020 34-17. But San Fran beat Green Bay twice the season before, including in the playoffs.
What to watch for: do Bosa and Warner suit up, and are they close to 100 percent. San Fran is going to need its defense at full strength to face Rodgers and this Green Bay offense.
The Packers have been gearing up for this playoff run ever since last year’s NFC Championship game loss to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The offseason was a mess, Rodgers was going to leave, then he did not. He had the COVID-19 thing, but nothing derailed this run to the top seed. To lose here in the Divisional Round would be devastating.
Prediction: with the two key defensive players banged up, San Fran almost fell apart against a bad Dallas team. Now, they have to play a good Green Bay offense. I think the Packers come out and put on a performance in a 31-17 victory.
If you would have told most National Football League fans and handicappers that one of the Tennessee Titans or the Cincinnati Bengals would be playing in the AFC Championship Game this season, you probably would have gotten a lot of blank stares.
But look at you now: they all think you are the new age Nostradamus.
One of those two teams WILL be playing for a chance to go to the Super Bowl next weekend, while last year’s AFC Championship Game participants, the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills, are going to do battle in the other AFC Divisional Round contest. Most people would have pegged that game as the easy choice for the AFC title game, but it did not work out that way, much to the excitement of the other two fan bases.
Think about this: when Derrick Henry went out injured after Halloween, he had 937 yards rushing and had the Titans at 6-2. Tennessee won the next two games, then lost three of four, to fall out of the AFC discussion. But Mike Vrabel (who HAS TO BE the NFL Coach of the Year) and the Titans turned it around late, and they got the top seed in the AFC. That bye week allowed Tennessee to heal up, and also saw the Bengals get beat up against the Raiders (see below).
Most of the talk all season has been about the Bills or the Chiefs, and they are still ahead of the Titans and Bengals right now in the AFC title odds. But the winner of this game will have a good shot to go to the Super Bowl: Tennessee beat the Bills in the regular season, and the Bengals beat the Chiefs (both 34-31 games).
But that is for next week: who is going to win this AFC Divisional Round contest?
Take a look below, and don’t forget to tune in to the How to Bet podcasts this week.
🤕 Injury updates: the Bengals had three defensive lineman go out injured in the win over the Raiders, and that is a position they were already a little shallow in; make sure you follow the injury report closely to see if they will be back in the fold.
For the Titans, it is all about their two-star offensive players. If Derrick Henry and Julio Jones are healthy, this team is going to be DANGEROUS.
Check the injury report daily in the days leading up to the game, as the COVID-19 protocols could change the lines quickly if players are out.
Not many people expected this Tennessee team to be the top seed in the playoffs, but Mike Vrabel has done a great job over his time with the Titans. That said, Tennessee has to come out here and win this game, and get a home AFC Championship contest; it would be the second title game appearance in three years.
There are people saying that this team is not better with the best running back in the game. To be honest, I can’t believe those stories ever got published. This team now has all the weapons to play with anybody left in the playoffs.
Prediction: Henry and Jones are big name players, and their presence on the field makes the Titans Super Bowl contenders. But this is going to be a tough game. Cincinnati is young, brash, and playing well. I think, though, Tennessee will benefit from the time off, and from the injuries to the defensive front of the Bengals. Titans 28-20.
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