Championship Sunday produced an anomaly last season: Both road teams won.
Before those overtime victories by New England and the Los Angeles Rams, home teams had won 10 consecutive titles. I am calling for a return to the norm but for only one home team to cover the spread.
Titans at Chiefs
12:05 p.m. Sunday (KLAS-8)
Line: Chiefs -7; total 53
For underdog lovers, the Titans are the flavor of the playoffs. I cashed tickets backing them against the Patriots and the Ravens, the AFC’s No. 1 seed. I’m tempted to take them again because the Saturday divisional playoff winners are 5-1 against the spread on Championship Sunday in the past three years. The Titans fit that description.
Patrick Mahomes has convinced me otherwise. Broadcasting from the Raiders’ radio booth the past two years, I have watched Mahomes demonstrate why he’s the NFL’s No. 1 quarterback. In Kansas City’s four victories over the Raiders, by a combined score of 143-55, Mahomes threw for 1,194 yards and 11 touchdowns to seven receivers.
Titans backers love to point out that they defeated the Chiefs in Week 10 in Nashville, and that when championship games are rematches, the winners of the first games are 6-1 in the past five years. Strong stuff. But in that 35-32 loss, Mahomes threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns.
Mahomes is the real deal, and I think he would have played in the Super Bowl a year ago had the Patriots not won the overtime coin flip and scored a touchdown, ending the game before the Chiefs got a fair chance. (Yes, I hate the overtime rule.)
Derrick Henry has been fabulous for Tennessee, and I’m predicting he will rush for 150 yards. Ryan Tannehill is the comeback quarterback of the year. Mike Vrabel is the AFC coach of the year. But Mahomes and the Chiefs will rule the day.
Chiefs 34, Titans 24
Packers at 49ers
3:40 p.m. Sunday (KVVU-5)
Line: 49ers -7½; total 46
Another rematch. But for this game, the first meeting was far more convincing.
The 49ers embarrassed the Packers 37-8 in Week 12. For the title game, I’m listening to the rematch stat in championship games, the one that strongly points toward the first game’s winner doing so again.
San Francisco covered easily last week against the Vikings. I did sweat out the Packers’ win over Seattle because Russell Wilson never exits quietly.
One big edge for the Packers: quarterback. Aaron Rodgers is a future Hall of Famer. Jimmy Garoppolo remains a work in progress.
Rodgers’s primary target is Davante Adams, who has 35 receptions for 472 yards in the Packers’ past four games. But in the regular-season meeting against the 49ers, Richard Sherman held Adams to 43 yards.
As Jimmy the Greek would have said, this rematch features an intangible. Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur’s brother, Mike, is a member of Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers staff. If brothers think alike, did Mike’s input help the 49ers stomp the Packers in the regular season?
I have no idea whether Rodgers has forgiven the 49ers, his favorite NFL team as a kid, for selecting Alex Smith as their quarterback instead of him in the 2005 draft. But I am sure it’s in the back of his mind.
Rodgers is the reason I’m not giving 7½. Packers hang tough and lose by a field goal.
49ers 27, Packers 24
Brent Musburger hosts “My Guys in the Desert” from 2 to 4 p.m. weekdays on VSiN.com, SiriusXM 204 and from 5 to 7 p.m. on 920 The Game in Las Vegas.