49ers

NFL playoff predictions: Picks for 2020 AFC, NFC Championship Games

NFL playoff predictions: Picks for 2020 AFC, NFC Championship Games

And then there were four.

The NFL divisional round saw the Tennessee Titans spring yet another upset, this time knocking off Lamar Jackson and the top-seeded Ravens. It saw the 49ers flex their muscles in a dominating win over the Vikings. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers ended Russell Wilson's do-it-all campaign in the cold of Lambeau Field, and Patrick Mahomes spotted the Houston Texans 24 points before blowing past them 51-31.

So, Championship Weekend is set. The No. 2-seeded Packers will travel to Levi's Stadium to face the 49ers, while the Chiefs will host the Cinderella Titans at Arrowhead Stadium. 

The 49ers already drug the Packers up and down the Bay in Week 12, winning 37-8. Mike Vrabel's Titans are a nice story, but running back Derrick Henry only can carry the entire team on his back for so long.

So, the title game predictions should be easy, right? Let's see.

AFC Championship Game

This game seems like it could go one of two ways. Either the Chiefs are going to string Ryan Tannehill up by his jockstrap and roll to a blowout win, or this game is close and it's up to a Chiefs defense that might not have defensive tackle Chris Jones to do something the New England Patriots and Ravens failed to do -- tackle Henry in the cold with the game on the line.

For the sake of television ratings, Vrabel's anatomy and my own sanity, I'll take the former.

Mecole Hardman takes the opening kickoff back to the Titans' 20-yard line and Mahomes finds Travis Kelce one play later for an easy score. Tannehill finally folds like a cheap chair, tossing a pick-six on the Titans' second play from scrimmage and the flood gates open early at Arrowhead. Henry never factors into the blowout. 

Prediction: Chiefs 42, Titans 17

[RELATED: Super Bowl is 49ers' to lose with Ravens, Lamar out of the way]

NFC Championship Game

Over/Under on how many times we're going to hear about the 49ers not drafting Rodgers this week? 200? Seems low.

This is a different Packers team than the one that was thoroughly embarrassed two months ago. They've won six straight games, almost all in ugly fashion. But a win is a win.

The 49ers go 78 yards on the opening drive, with Jimmy Garoppolo capping it with a 9-yard strike to Deebo Samuel to blow to roof off Levi's Stadium.

But this time the Packers don't fold. Davante Adams smolders Emmanuel Moseley on a 47-yard touchdown to knot the score early. After a nice punting exhibition, Rodgers engineers a 10-play, 86-yard drive that ends with an Aaron Jones 5-yard touchdown run to take a 14-7 lead. The Niners get a field goal before the break to trail 14-10.

As they have done time and time again, the 49ers' defense steps up to begin the second half. Nick Bosa sacks Rodgers and jars the ball loose. Kwon Alexander dives on the rock and sets Jimmy G and the offense up with a 19-yard field.

On second-and-7 Raheem Mostert blows through the line, shakes Blake Martinez and strolls into the end zone to give the 49ers the lead.

A Mason Crosby field goal makes it 17-17, but the 49ers begin to assert their will, running the ball on seven of nine plays before Garoppolo finds George Kittle from 11-yards out to re-take the lead.

It falls on Rodgers' shoulders to save the Packers season. He digs deep and accounts for all 75 yards on a seven-play drive, rushing in from 2 yards out to tie the game at 24 with 1:11 to play.

After two incomplete passes, the 49ers take the game to OT, believing they have the edge with The Faithful roaring louder than ever.

Sure enough, the Niners win the toss and elect to receive. Garoppolo drives them into the red zone, but the drive stalls when Za'Darius Smith sacks him on third-and-6 to bring out Robbie Gould for a go-ahead 39-yard field goal. Good.

Rodgers gets the ball, hoping he has enough magic beans to pay for a trip to Miami. But not so. On fourth-and-7 from their own 42, Rodgers drops back and is forced out of the pocket. He escapes to buy time but is hit by DeForest Buckner as he's letting the ball go and it falls harmlessly to the turf.

Prediction: 49ers 27, Packers 24

Stephen Jackson insists Colin Kaepernick is owed apology by 'fake' NFL

Stephen Jackson insists Colin Kaepernick is owed apology by 'fake' NFL

On Saturday, five days after George Floyd died while in police custody in Minnesota and with protests raging across the country, the NFL released a statement.

The words from the NFL didn't go over well.

In Twitter-speak, the tweet is getting ratio'd. More than 24,000 replies to just over 4,000 retweets.

NFL players Kenny Stills, Eric Reid, and filmaker Ava DuVernay had strong reactions to the NFL's tweet.

Former Warriors forward Stephen Jackson, who considered Floyd a brother and called him "Twin," did not appreciate the NFL's statement either.

"That's so fake, man," Jackson told The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears on Monday. "It's so fake, it's so fake, it's so fake."

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Jackson believes the league should have apologized to former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee during the national anthem in 2016 to raise awareness for social injustices.

"Like, why even do it?" Jackson said. "We know it's not real. We know it's not real. You're making yourself look bad. That's one of those situations where they shouldn't even say nothing, bro. They shouldn't even say nothing. ... If anything, they need to apologize to Kaepernick. If they're gonna respond on this type of stuff, start it off with an apology to Kaepernick. Then maybe we'll accept it."

Kaepernick hasn't played in the NFL since 2016. In a column posted by CNN over the weekend, former NFL executive Joe Lockhart said one team official told him they feared losing 20 percent of their season-ticket holders if they signed Kaepernick.

Kaepernick worked out for teams last year, but remains a free agent.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

How Colton McKivitz earned 49ers' prized 'gold helmet' before NFL draft

How Colton McKivitz earned 49ers' prized 'gold helmet' before NFL draft

When general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan took over the 49ers in 2017, they established an ideal set of criteria for potential draft-eligible prospects. An array of attributes are evaluated, from off-the-field character to football IQ.

49ers vice president of player personnel Adam Peters recently told The Athletic's Matt Barrows that fifth-round pick Colton McKivitz was one of around 15 potential draftees the team deemed worthy of this "gold helmet" designation.

“Gold helmet is not something we give out a lot,” Peters told Barrows. “The person really has to be exemplary, really has to stand out.”

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

McKivitz is a unique personality to say the least, as his father became famous around the West Virginia campus for wearing various animal skins as hats at every Mountaineer game.

But McKivitz also was a National Honor Society recipient and started 47 of 50 games in his collegiate career, even earning Big 12 Co-Offensive Lineman of the Year honors in 2019.

[RELATED: Trent Williams explains why 49ers were his ideal trade destination]

McKivitz has an aggressive reputation on the field, but his former offensive line coach and family friend says the 49ers couldn't be getting a better all-around person.

“You’re not going to find a better human being as far as moral conduct is concerned,” Brion Schiappa said. “He will never embarrass the 49ers. Ever.”

San Francisco dealt with injuries across the offensive line in 2019, and will be counting on McKivitz's versatility in 2020 for depth.