There will be some unexpected heroes in this weekend’s NFL conference championship games. The results will always be decided by the stars.
The big players get bigger as the scene gets bigger, and that scene is huge. The winners of the Tennessee Titans-Kansas City Chiefs AFC Championship Game and the Green Bay Packers-San Francisco 49ers NFC Championship Game will advance to Super Bowl LIV in South Florida. Both conference championship games can be streamed live on the Yahoo Sports app.
[Watch live NFL games on the Yahoo Sports app, here’s how]
An offensive star in every game and the defense’s ability to slow them down will go a long way in determining who plays for the Lombardi Trophy:
Slowing down Derrick Henry will be the Chiefs’ goal
Derrick Henry is on a historic run, and it’s easy to see when it started.
Henry had a good season before meeting the Chiefs on November 10. He only had 100 yards once, and exactly that against the Falcons. Then he went for 188 against the Chiefs, and his season went to a different level after that.
He averaged 159.1 rushing yards per game, including the playoffs, starting with that big game against the Chiefs. He averages 6.3 yards per carry. He is the first player in NFL history to rush for 180+ yards in three straight games. Henry, who can become a free agent in March, has made a lot of money in the last eight games.
The Chiefs’ defense also started to turn around after that 35-32 loss to the Titans. The Chiefs beat the Chargers 24-17 the following week, got a bye, and came back from the bye week with a different defense. After the Chiefs’ bye, they allowed 10.2 points per game in their last five regular season games. They’ve allowed just 94.9 rushing yards per game since the Titans’ opener.
Henry has become the talk of the NFL with his dominating play in the playoffs, and the Chiefs know they have to slow him down to win. The Ravens and Patriots knew it too. That’s easier said than done, especially considering he weighs 247 pounds.
“It tends to carry you about 5 meters more,” Chiefs linebacker Anthony Hitchens said. “Hit him low. Everything is legal in the game, but you have to hit it lower.
If Henry can have another big game, it would keep Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense off the field, which is what any team wants. Henry’s production will go a long way in determining the AFC Championship.
Packers passing game revolves around Davante Adams
The Packers’ passing offense isn’t too hard to figure out. It’s Davante Adams and that’s about it.
Adams had at least 10 targets in nine of his last 10 games. Adams missed four games and still had 127 targets. Marquez Valdes-Scantling was second among the Packers’ wide receivers with 56. Running back Aaron Jones had 68 and tight end Jimmy Graham had 60. Adams is the focal point of the Packers’ passing game, and it’s is because they don’t have many choices.
In the 2018 draft, the Packers drafted three receivers: J’Mon Moore, Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown. Moore and St. Brown disappeared completely and Valdes-Scantling did not develop as hoped. That left the Packers with a big hole on the other side of Adams. Aaron Rodgers just doesn’t have much to work with other than Adams.
Adams is a good start though. He was fantastic in the Divisional Round against the Seahawks, with a franchise-record playoff 160 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He’ll get as many targets as he can handle against the 49ers.
In the first meeting between the teams, Adams was held to 43 yards on seven catches. According to Pro Football Focus, the 49ers didn’t use any particular defensive backs on Adams. Seven different defenders covered Adams’ strikes, according to PFF. Expect a similar team effort against Adams on Sunday.
The Packers will have to find something on offense. The first time the two teams met, the Packers had 198 yards in a 37-8 loss. Rodgers had one of the worst games of his career, netting just 102 yards on 20 of 33 passes. That’s the fewest yards in NFL history for a quarterback with 20 completions in a match. Packers coach Matt LaFleur will need to make some significant adjustments to perform better against a 49ers defense coming off of a fantastic game against the Vikings.
Whatever the Packers game plan is sure to involve Adams heavily and the 49ers know it. Slowing down Adams again will be key for San Francisco to qualify for the Super Bowl.
– – – – – – –