With just four teams remaining, here’s one thing each of these teams must do if they want to make it to Super Bowl LIV.
Losing in any elimination game gives you the entire offseason to think about the things you should have done. For the Tennessee Titans, Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers, and Green Bay Packers, there’s still that one last hope for the Super Bowl that no other team still has this season. The AFC and NFC Championship game entrants have faced off in the regular season already.
In Week 10, the Titans came back from a 10-0 Chiefs lead, and Patrick Mahomes’ three-touchdown performance, to beat Kansas City 35-32. Ryan Tannehill, still in his first few games as Marcus Mariota’s replacement, threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to receiver Adam Humphries with 29 seconds left in regulation, and Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker missed a potential game-tying 52-yard field goal at the end of regulation. At least the Chiefs can say they were in that game.
The Packers, not so much. In Week 12, the 49ers beat the daylights out of Green Bay, 37-8. Aaron Rodgers averaged 3.15 yards per completion when he was able to throw the ball, the Packers went 1-for-15 on third down, and a defense that had been relatively on point allowed Jimmy Garoppolo to look like Joe Montana.
Still, the good news for both losing teams in this instance is that neither the Chiefs nor the Packers have lost a single game since those particular defeats. Mahomes seems to have recovered from his in-season injuries, Green Bay’s passing offense is more explosive, Kansas City’s defense is far better than it used to be, and the Packers’ coverage units seem to have recovered from what 49ers head coach and play-designer Kyle Shanahan did to them.
That said, the Titans are as in-tune as any remaining team on both sides of the ball, and with the postseason return of edge-rusher Dee Ford, linebacker Kwon Alexander, and safety Jaquiski Tartt, San Francisco’s defense has recovered nicely from a late-season swoon.
So, if we take the conference title games as new entities (as we should) while attempting to learn from the past, here’s one thing each of the remaining teams should do if they want to make it to Super Bowl LIV.