USA TODAY Sports Network’s conference championship game previews, predictions

The USA TODAY Sports Network previews Sunday’s matchups — Titans at Chiefs and Packers at 49ers — with a trip to Super Bowl LIV at stake.

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Looking for a one-stop primer for NFL Championship Sunday — complete with point spread, television and satellite radio broadcast information and informed predictions?

Look no further. Touchdown Wire has you covered.

The AFC Championship Game promises to provide new blood in Super Bowl LIV, which is slated for Sunday, Feb. 2 at 6:30 p.m. ET on Fox. The Titans made their only Super Bowl appearance 20 years ago, while the Chiefs last appeared in the big game 50 years ago.

The NFC Championship Game offers a matchup of two teams familiar with Super Bowl appearances and postseason success. The Green Bay Packers will have to be at their best to topple a San Francisco 49ers team that beat them 37-8 in Week 12. Conversely, the 49ers probably want to get out to a big lead and apply pressure to Aaron Rodgers.

Let’s explore the matchups. Without further ado, here are your NFL conference championship game previews for Sunday, Jan. 19:


AFC Championship Game: Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs Tennessee Titans
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

TV: 3:05 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS

Records: Titans 9-7, 2-0; Chiefs 12-4, 1-0

Line: Chiefs by 7½

Satellite radio: Titans feed on Sirius 82 (streaming 830), Chiefs feed on Sirius 83 (streaming 815)

Titans’ keys: Tennessee must try and jump out to a big lead early. Kansas City erased a 24-point deficit in a quarter of play in their divisional round win over the Texans. But the Titans have an ace in the hole when leading: RB Derrick Henry, who is 6-3 and 247 pounds. In Week 10, Henry thrashed the Chiefs on the ground for 188 yards and two TDs on 22 attempts.

Chiefs’ keys: Don’t fall for the play-action passing game. The Titans are going to get their yards on the ground, but what Kansas City can’t afford to do is give up big passing plays that are set up by the run. In Week 10 (a 35-32 Titans win over the Chiefs), QB Ryan Tannehill connected on a play-action pass of 52 yards that set up Tennessee’s first score (also a play-action pass). Chiefs CBs Charvarius Ward and Bashaud Breeland will have to stay disciplined, especially without the help of now-injured S Juan Thornhill on the back end.

Matchup to watch: Titans DE Jeffery Simmons vs. Chiefs LG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. Simmons seems to be the defensive difference-maker for Tennessee despite only netting two combined tackles against the Chiefs in Week 10. Duvernay-Tardif has been the clear weak link in Kansas City’s offensive interior. This looks to be the key battle in the trenches to watch in both the running game and the passing game.

Who wins? The Chiefs want to reach their first Super Bowl in 50 years, taking out another team that beat them during the season. Chiefs 37, Titans 24

— Charles Goldman

USA TODAY Sports Network’s NFL divisional playoff previews, predictions

The USA TODAY Sports Network previews each of this weekend’s matchups: Vikings-49ers, Titans-Ravens, Texans-Chiefs and Seahawks-Packers.

We’re down to eight teams remaining in the NFL postseason, and the top two seeds in each conference bounce into action this weekend. The divisional round of the playoffs has a history of memorable upsets, and this year’s slate offers plenty of intrigue.

The Minnesota Vikings, fresh off a surprising overtime win in New Orleans, face the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday in search of another upset win. Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen is listed as questionable, while the 49ers hope to get pass-rusher Dee Ford back on the field.

The Tennessee Titans, having slain the dynastic New England Patriots, travel to Baltimore to face the AFC’s top seed. It’s a matchup of the NFL rushing champion, Derrick Henry, against the league’s top rushing offense in the Ravens.

The Houston Texans already beat the Kansas City Chiefs during the regular season. Now they will try to do it under the postseason spotlight in a duel between two quarterbacks selected two spots apart in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Finally, the Seattle Seahawks visit the Green Bay Packers, an unlikely No. 2 seed if ever there was one, in a game oddsmakers expect to be the closest of the weekend.

Without further ado, here are your NFL playoff game previews for Saturday, Jan. 11 and Sunday, Jan. 12:

Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers

Kirk Cousins Minnesota Vikings
Chuck Cook -USA TODAY Sports

TV: 4:35 p.m. ET Saturday, NBC

Records: Vikings 10-6, 1-0; 49ers 13-3, 0-0

BetMGM line: 49ers by 7

Satellite radio: Vikings feed on Sirius 82 (streaming 819), 49ers feed on Sirius 83 (streaming 827)

Vikings’ keys: Getting RB Dalvin Cook going early opens up play action against an aggressive 49ers defense. A heavy dose of play action with WRs Adam Theilen and Stefon Diggs would help QB Kirk Cousins and the offense get rolling. On the defensive side, S Harrison Smith should see plenty of action against 49ers TE George Kittle, and shutting Kittle down is the quickest way to slow San Francisco’s passing game.

49ers’ keys: QB Jimmy Garoppolo can operate under pressure, but he’s at his best when he has time to let windows open down the field. The arrival of WR Emmanuel Sanders, the emergence of rookie WR Deebo Samuel and the continued excellence of Kittle have allowed the 49ers to shed some of their early-season limitations in the passing game. On defense, the 49ers live and die with their pass rush. Rookie DE Nick Bosa is the driver of a vicious defensive line, while LB Fred Warner helps shut down the middle of the field and CB Richard Sherman is as good as ever in the secondary.

Who wins? These are two evenly matched clubs. The 49ers having home-field advantage, and a more diverse group of playmakers on offense, should allow them to survive. 49ers 24, Vikings 23

Kyle Madson

Ten@Bal / Hou@KC / Sea@GB

USA TODAY Sports Network’s NFL wild-card playoff previews, predictions

The USA TODAY Sports Network previews each of this weekend’s matchups: Bills-Texans, Titans-Patriots, Vikings-Saints and Seahawks-Eagles.

The NFL postseason is finally here, and this weekend’s four wild-card matchups are intriguing — even if your favorite team is sitting out the playoffs this season.

The Buffalo Bills aim for their first playoff win since the 1995 season when they visit the Houston Texans on Saturday afternoon. Houston will benefit from the return of pass-rusher J.J. Watt, who has been out since Week 8 with a torn pectoral muscle.

On Saturday evening, the Tennessee Titans play at the New England Patriots as Titans coach Mike Vrabel matches wits with his former coach, New England’s Bill Belichick. Tennessee is likely to pressure Pats quarterback Tom Brady, while New England is dealing with injuries to wide receiver Julian Edelman and others.

The Minnesota Vikings play at the New Orleans Saints on Sunday afternoon, as Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins prepares to make just his second playoff start. Finally, the Seattle Seahawks travel to play the injury-riddled Philadelphia Eagles on late Sunday afternoon in what might be the weekend’s most competitive game.

Without further ado, here are your NFL playoff game previews for Saturday, Jan. 4 and Sunday, Jan. 5:


Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans

Deshaun Watson Houston Texans
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

TV: 4:35 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN/ABC

Records: Bills 10-6, Texans 10-6

Line: Texans by 2½

Satellite radio: Bills feed on Sirius 82 (streaming 803), Texans feed on Sirius 83 (streaming 812)

Bills’ keys: Disruptive defensive tackles Ed Oliver, a rookie, and Jordan Phillips have to shut down the run and pressure the quarterback. Houston will be without its speedy No. 2 wide receiver, Will Fuller, which means Buffalo can roll coverage to help CB Tre’Davious White lock down WR DeAndre Hopkins. On offense, Bills QB Josh Allen has to use his dual-threat abilities to beat the defense with his legs and find WRs John Brown and Cole Beasley through the air.

Texans’ keys: Protect QB Deshaun Watson, who was sacked 44 times in the regular season. LT Laremy Tunsil sat out Week 17 and will have to be ready to take the best from the Bills’ pass rush. What also helps keep Watson upright is the production of RB Carlos Hyde, who had his first 1,000-yard season. DE J.J. Watt is expected to return from a torn pectoral injury and needs to bolster the anemic pass rush.

Who wins? Buffalo’s opportunistic defense can shut down the run and suppress the passing game. Bills 19, Texans 13

Mark Lane

Ten@NE / Min@NO / Sea@Phi

USA TODAY Sports Network’s NFL Week 17 game previews, predictions

The USA TODAY Sports Network previews Week 17 in the NFL, with Steelers-Ravens, Redskins-Cowboys and 49ers-Seahawks leading the schedule.

The final week of the 2019 NFL regular season has arrived, and many postseason scenarios remain to be determined.

Only one NFC playoff berth has yet to be awarded — the NFC East championship. The Philadelphia Eagles can clinch the division title and the No. 4 seed with a win at the New York Giants. If the Eagles lose, the Dallas Cowboys can steal the last playoff spot with a victory over the visiting Washington Redskins.

Meantime, the San Francisco 49ers look to clinch the NFC West title and the No. 1 seed at the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night. The Seahawks, who have reunited with popular running back Marshawn Lynch, also can win the division with a victory, but will need help from the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints in order to get the top seed.

Over in the AFC, the final playoff spot remains up for grabs, and the Tennessee Titans can clinch it with a win against the Houston Texans. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders also remain in contention if the Titans lose in Houston.

The Baltimore Ravens are locked into the AFC’s top seed, but the New England Patriots can clinch the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye with a win over the visiting Miami Dolphins. If the Pats stumble, the Kansas City Chiefs can sneak into the No. 2 spot with a win against the visiting Los Angeles Chargers.

You can find all the Week 17 NFL postseason scenarios and complete playoff picture here. To see which games will be shown on network TV in your area, visit our Week 17 game maps article here.

Without further ado, here are your NFL game previews for Sunday, Dec. 29:

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions

Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

TV: 1 p.m. ET Sunday, Fox

Records: Packers 12-3, Lions 3-11-1

Line: Packers by 12½

Satellite radio: Packers feed on Sirius 138 (streaming 811), Lions feed on Sirius 83 (streaming 810)

Packers’ keys: Run effectively with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams and attacking the underbelly of the Lions’ defense with running backs in the passing game should work splendidly. QB Aaron Rodgers can stretch the defense with deep shots to WR Geronimo Allison and TE Jimmy Graham.

Lions’ keys: If they are to pull off a wildly improbable upset, it will come from the defense making big plays. CB Darius Slay is capable of doing that but needs help from the likes of youngsters CB Amani Oruwariye and S Tracy Walker. The offense around rookie QB David Blough is missing several key pieces, but WR Kenny Golladay remains one of the NFL’s premium red-zone weapons.

Who wins? Packers are vying for playoff seeding. Packers 37, Lions 13

Jeff Risdon

GB@Det / NYJ@Buf / Cle@Cin / LAC@KC / Chi@Min / Mia@NE / Atl @TB / NO@Car / Was@Dal / Oak@Den / Ari@LAR / Phi@NYG / Ind@Jax / Pit@Bal / Ten@Hou / SF@Sea

USA TODAY Sports Network’s NFL Week 15 game previews, predictions

The USA TODAY Sports Network previews Week 15 in the NFL, with Bills-Steelers, Rams-Cowboys and Texans-Titans leading the schedule.

Three more weeks. That’s all that remains of the 2019 NFL regular season.

As the field of postseason contenders gets thinner by attrition, we focus on several games in Week 15 with particular importance to the playoff picture.

The Houston Texans visit the Tennessee Titans with first place in the AFC South at stake, and Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill has a chance to make history in a statistical sense.

The Los Angeles Rams travel to North Texas to face the Dallas Cowboys in a rematch of last season’s divisional playoff game. Even though the Rams have the better record, it’s the Cowboys who are in a better position to make the playoffs.

Finally, in what might be the best matchup of the week, the surprising Buffalo Bills hit the road to face the resilient Pittsburgh Steelers in a game with implications on the AFC wild cards.

To see which games will be shown in your area, visit our Week 15 game maps article here.

Without further ado, here are your NFL game previews for Sunday (Dec. 15) and Monday (Dec. 16):


New England Patriots at Cincinnati Bengals

Bill Belichick New England Patriots
Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

TV: 1 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS

Records: Patriots 10-3, Bengals 1-12

Line: Patriots by 9½

Satellite radio: Pats feed on Sirius 134 (streaming 820), Bengals feed on Sirius 81 (streaming 806)

Patriots’ keys: Lean on Rex Burkhead and James White through the air against a defense that has struggled to contain running backs in the passing game.

Bengals’ keys: DEs Carlos Dunlap and Carl Lawson will have to get after Patriots QB Tom Brady and force him into game-changing mistakes.

Who wins? The Patriots’ defense is suffocating, and the offense can scheme up ways to exploit one of the NFL’s worst defenses. The Bengals have scored more than 20 points in a game twice all season and are unlikely to match a team coming off two straight December losses. Patriots 30, Bengals 13

Chris Roling

NE@Cin / TB@Det / Chi@GB / Hou@Ten / Den@KC / Mia@NYG / Phi@Was / Sea@Car / Jax@Oak / Cle@Ari / Min@LAC /LAR@Dal / Atl@SF / Buf@Pit / Ind@NO

USA TODAY Sports Network’s NFL Week 14 game previews, predictions

The USA TODAY Sports Network previews Week 14 in the NFL, with Ravens-Bills, 49ers-Saints and Chiefs-Patriots leading the slate.

It’s Week 14 of the 2019 NFL season, and playoff scenarios are becoming clearer.

The Chicago Bears humbled the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night, with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky leading the way. The win helped the Bears (7-6) stay relevant in the crowded NFC postseason race, while the Cowboys (6-7) remain atop the woeful NFC East despite a losing record.

Sunday’s slate of games includes three especially intriguing matchups that will clarify the playoff picture further.

The Baltimore Ravens head to upstate New York to meet the upstart Buffalo Bills, with the visitors looking to solidify their grip on the AFC’s top seed while the Bills hope to remain in contention for the AFC East title.

The San Francisco 49ers travel to face the New Orleans Saints in a matchup of teams with eyes on the NFC’s top seed and designs on a deep postseason run.

The Kansas City Chiefs visit the New England Patriots in a battle of AFC division leaders with generational talents under center for both teams in star quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady.

To see which games will be shown in your area, visit our game maps article here.

Without further ado, here are your Week 14 game previews for the Sunday and Monday games.

Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills

Lamar Jackson Baltimore Ravens
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

TV: 1 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS

Records: Ravens 10-2, Bills 9-3

Line: Ravens by 5½

Satellite radio: Ravens feed on Sirius 121 (streaming 802), Bills feed on Sirius 134 (streaming 803)

Ravens’ keys: QB Lamar Jackson’s playmaking skills have to show up early and often. The Ravens have scored at least 30 points in five of their past six games.

Bills’ keys: Their defense has to keep the offense within striking distance over the course of the game. The Ravens have scored at least 30 points in five of their last six games, and the Bills’ offense has scored 30 twice, both times against the Dolphins. Buffalo showed a national TV audience on Thanksgiving that QB Josh Allen, WR Cole Beasley, WR John Brown and RB Devin Singletary can make plays.

Who wins? The Bills are riding high and have an all-around defense to keep things closer than some might think. But the Ravens have enough to escape. Ravens 28, Bills 20

Nick Wojton

Car@Atl / Cin@Cle / Was@GB / Den@Hou / Det@Min / SF@NO / Mia@NYJ / Ind@TB / LAC@Jax / Pit@Ari / KC@NE / Ten@Oak / Sea@LAR / NYG@Phi

USA TODAY Sports Network’s NFL Week 13 game previews, predictions

The USA TODAY Sports Network previews Week 13 in the NFL, with 49ers-Ravens, Patriots-Texans and Vikings-Seahawks leading the slate.

Week 13 of the 2019 NFL season already has begun in earnest, with a Thanksgiving tripleheader that saw the Bears edge the Lions, the Bills earn a statement win over the Cowboys and the Saints defeat the Falcons to claim the NFC South division title.

The beautiful thing about this point in the season is that there are no more bye weeks. That means we get 13 more games this weekend, including some matchups just as delicious as Thanksgiving dinner.

A potential Super Bowl preview lurks in the early window of games, as the Baltimore Ravens play host to the San Francisco 49ers in a matchup of the top two teams in the Touchdown Wire Power Rankings.

On Sunday night, the New England Patriots travel to meet the Houston Texans in a battle of division leaders as Bill Belichick matches wits with former assistant Bill O’Brien.

Another tasty game awaits on Monday night as the Minnesota Vikings visit the Seattle Seahawks in a matchup of teams with playoff aspirations.

Without further ado, here are your Week 13 game previews for the Sunday and Monday games.

San Francisco 49ers at Baltimore Ravens

DeForest Buckner San Francisco 49ers
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

TV: 1 p.m. ET Sunday, Fox

Records: 49ers 10-1, Ravens 9-2

Line: Ravens by 6½

49ers’ keys: San Francisco will need to contain QB Lamar Jackson and stuff the inside run lanes RB Mark Ingram favors. Offensively, the 49ers should be able to test Baltimore’s run defense with their three-headed rushing attack.

Ravens’ keys: Baltimore has to lean on its power rushing attack, which should free up outside runs for Jackson as well as passing lanes for the tight ends and WR Marquise Brown. If the Ravens can hit 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo consistently, they’ll force poor throws and potentially create turnovers.

Who wins? This is a matchup of two of the best offenses and defenses. However, no team has really been able to contain Jackson. Ravens 30, 49ers 24

— Matthew Stevens

SF@Bal / Cle@Pit / NYJ@Cin / Ten@Ind / Phi@Mia / GB@NYG / Was@Car / TB@Jax / LAR@Ari / LAC@Den / Oak@KC / NE@Hou / Min@Sea

Thanksgiving NFL TV info, point spreads, predictions

The USA TODAY Sports Network foreshadows the Bears-Lions, Bills-Cowboys and Saints-Falcons Thanksgiving NFL matchups.

Football has been an indelible part of Thanksgiving Day for decades, and this year’s NFL schedule goes retro in that regard.

In 1934, the Lions began a franchise tradition of playing on Thanksgiving by playing host to the Chicago Bears. The visitors would win that game, 19-16, but it established an annual football ritual in Detroit. The Lions have played a home game on Thanksgiving annually since then, except for a six-season hiatus from 1939 to 1944.

The Bears visit Detroit this Thanksgiving as well, marking the 18th time the teams have clashed on the holiday. Chicago holds a 9-8 series lead entering the 2019 matchup.

After that, the Buffalo Bills visit the Dallas Cowboys in a battle of teams with designs on the playoffs. The night game is an NFC South grudge match between the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons.

Look for the rest of the Week 13 game previews from the USA TODAY Sports Network on Friday.

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions

David Montgomery Chicago Bears
(Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports)

TV: 12:30 p.m. ET Thursday, Fox

Records: Bears 5-6, Lions 3-7-1

Line: Bears by 2½

Bears’ keys: Getting a couple of long runs from rookie RB David Montgomery would do wonders to reduce the pressure on QB Mitchell Trubisky to engineer long drives, which is not his game.

Lions’ keys: QB Jeff Driskel’s ability to avoid pressure and run will stress the Bears’ defense. It’s imperative for Detroit’s defense to pressure the Bears and force their offense to work for its accomplishments.

Who wins? Detroit’s special teams will make a big splash in what remains the most important game on the Lions’ calendar every season. Lions 27, Bears 21

Jeff Risdon

Buf@Dal / NO@Atl

USA TODAY Sports Network’s NFL Week 12 game previews, predictions

The USA TODAY Sports Network previews the Week 12 games, including the Cowboys-Patriots, Packers-49ers and Ravens-Rams matchups.

Week 12 of the 2019 NFL season is upon us, and playoff races are ramping up in earnest.

The Houston Texans edged the Indianapolis Colts, 20-17, on Thursday night to take sole possession of first place in the AFC South. That is one of several key games with implications on the playoff picture this week. The Seattle Seahawks visit the Philadelphia Eagles in a battle of teams who sit one game out of first place in the NFC West and NFC East, respectively. The Dallas Cowboys travel to meet the New England Patriots in an interconference matchup of two of the NFL’s most popular teams.

The Green Bay Packers travel to California to take on the San Francisco 49ers in a matchup of division leaders on Sunday night. The Baltimore Ravens, currently ranked No. 1 in the Touchdown Wire Power Rankings, face a road test against the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night.

Without further ado, here are our Week 12 previews with TV info, point spreads, keys to the game for both teams and score predictions.

(The Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers and Minnesota Vikings have a bye this week.)

Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles

Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

TV: Fox, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

Records: Seahawks 8-2, Eagles 5-5

Line: Eagles by 1½

Seahawks’ keys: The ability of QB Russell Wilson, the highest-rated passer for the bulk of this season, to put stress on the Eagles as a runner and a passer.

Eagles’ keys: QB Carson Wentz and Philadelphia will look to maintain its efficient run-pass balance.

Who wins: The Eagles take advantage of the 1 p.m. ET flex time. Eagles 31, Seahawks 28

— Glenn Erby

USA TODAY Sports Network’s NFL Week 11 game previews, predictions

The USA TODAY Sports Network previews the Week 11 games, including the important Texans-Ravens and Patriots-Eagles matchups.

Week 11 of the NFL season kicked off Thursday night with a game that won’t soon be forgotten.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t because the Steelers-Browns game — won by Cleveland, 21-7 — was compelling in a competitive sense. Instead, it was because of what transpired in the final seconds, when Browns defensive end Myles Garrett attacked Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph with a helmet.

Hopefully, the remaining 13 games on this week’s schedule will be more competitive and less barbaric. With that in mind, the USA TODAY Sports Network previews the remaining 13 games on this week’s slate — with point spreads, game times, TV info, predictions and keys to the game for each team.

(The Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans have a bye this week.)

Dallas Cowboys at Detroit Lions

Dak Prescott Amari Cooper
(Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

TV: 1 p.m. ET Sunday, Fox

Records: Cowboys 5-4, Lions 3-4-1

Line: Cowboys by 3½

Cowboys’ keys: Ride RB Ezekiel Elliott to riches. The run game success also helps QB Dak Prescott get into favorable downs and distances to attack downfield.

Lions’ keys: Getting both WRs Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones hot at the same time would be a major boost. They tend to alternate as top weapons instead of having strong games together.

Who wins? The Lions’ defense is no match for Elliott and the Cowboys’ strong offensive line. Cowboys 34, Lions 28

Jeff Risdon

Jax@Ind / Buf@Mia / Den@Min / NO@TB / NYJ@Was / Atl@Car / Hou@Bal / Ari@SF / Cin@Oak / NE@Phi / Chi@LAR / KC@LAC