Derrick Henry

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

Raiders' primary objective vs. Titans: Stop 'machine' Derrick Henry

Raiders' primary objective vs. Titans: Stop 'machine' Derrick Henry

ALAMEDA -- Ryan Tannehill is receiving credit for Tennessee’s recent resurgence. That’s appropriate given how well the former backup quarterback has been playing during a 5-1 stretch since becoming the starter.

Let’s not forget who’s really driving the Titans' offense. That’s the 6-foot-3, 247-pound freight train coming out of the backfield.

Derrick Henry has been a monster this season, proving as tough to take down as ever. He has 1,140 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground, currently on a run of three straight games with at least 145 yards and a touchdown.

A repeat performance on Sunday against the Raiders at Oakland Coliseum would make Henry the only player to do so in four straight games.

The Raiders would like to prevent that and are armed with the No. 12-ranked run defense. They’ll try to slow a back that never seems to wear down.

“The secret sauce in Henry is he’s got all the talent, and size, and running instincts, but he never tires,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “He does not get tired. He’s a machine, man. This guy wears you down -- physical -- he can wear you down. You’ve got to gang tackle him. He’s a better-than-advertised receiver, but he just never tires. The more they give him the ball, the better he gets. It’s an impressive human being.”

Tannehill obviously benefits from Henry’s threat and a balanced offense that has the Titans going strong. Stopping the run, or slowing it at least, will be key for the Raiders' defense in this important game. It will not, however, be easy.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge, but we know it’ll be a challenge dealing with Superman Derrick Henry,” defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said on this week’s Raiders Talk podcast. "... He’s a great back. He’s big. He’s fast. He sheds tackles like there are kids trying to tackle him. I think, overall, we have to do a good job of keeping him in the backfield and not giving him open lanes or creases to work. We also need to hit him as much as we can, because he’s a big guy. Overall, I think we’re ready for the challenge. I’m excited for this game.”

[RELATED: Raiders' offense takes big hit with Brown out vs. Titans]

It’ll take the entire defensive unit playing disciplined football to slow Henry down. Give him an inch of space or leverage or poor tackling technique and he’ll take chunk yards by the mile.

“I just think you’ve got to be in good position,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “You’ve got to have eleven guys to the ball. You’ve got to play the blocks. First and foremost, you’ve got to be in the right spots, play the block, and then when he gets through there you’ve got to have eleven guys to the ball. He does a good job of trying to get extra yards, so we’ve got to put hats on him wherever he is, on his body as he’s trying to get those extra yards. We’ve got to make sure we get eleven to him.”