49ers

Super Bowl is 49ers' to lose after Titans' NFL playoff upset of Ravens

49ers

The rematch has been circled since Week 13, when Justin Tucker's field goal sailed through the uprights to give the Baltimore Ravens a 20-17 rain-soaked win over the 49ers.

We'll see you in Miami, they both thought. They were, after all, the two best teams in the NFL. Both would secure home-field advantage in the playoffs. Flights from Charm City and the Bay to South Beach already were being booked.

But no one counted on the Tennessee Titans.

Mike Vrabel's merry band of hard-hitting, blue-collar football guys went into Foxboro in the wild-card round and pummeled the New England Patriots into submission. No matter. Surely, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens would run over the Cinderella Titans. Their stay in the NFL playoffs would end Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium in the divisional round.

But -- as they say -- that is why they play the game.

The Titans showed up to Baltimore and hit the Ravens in the mouth early. The clearly rusty Ravens -- who hadn't played a real game in three weeks -- never recovered, as the Titans secured a 28-12 upset win to punch their ticket to the AFC Championship Game.

Gone is the dream rematch of 49ers-Ravens.

But also gone is the 49ers' biggest impediment to their sixth Super Bowl title.

The Ravens long had been seen as the favorites to win the Super Bowl title. They had won 12 straight games heading into the playoffs, hadn't trailed at halftime since Week 4, and boasted the league's most-feared offense led by the presumptive MVP in Jackson.

 

With Lamar out of the way -- along with Drew Brees and Tom Brady -- the Niners are the best team left standing.

As shown by the Titans' stunning upset of the Ravens, the 49ers still will have to earn it on the field. Championships handed out in odds and predictions don't earn you parades.

The 49ers checked one box Saturday, when they ground the Minnesota Vikings into dust at Levi's Stadium, courtesy of a 27-10 win. Next up: Either the Green Bay Packers or the Seattle Seahawks will make the voyage to Santa Clara next Sunday for the NFC Championship Game.

Back in Week 12, the 49ers beat up the Packers, pulled their underwear over their heads and stole their lunch money in a 37-8 win. The 49ers and the Seahawks have played two instant classics, with each team grabbing a win on opposing turf.

[RELATED: Sherman takes victory lap after 49ers' playoff win]

The 49ers' defense is fully healthy and back to terrorizing opposing quarterbacks. If they can protect home field next Sunday, they'll fly to Miami to face either the Titans, Houston Texans or Kansas City Chiefs, any of which the 49ers should be favored against and have the personnel to combat what each opponent likes to do.

The MVP is dead, and so are the Ravens.

The Super Bowl should be the 49ers' for the taking.