N.F.L. Playoff Predictions: Our Picks for the Conference Championships

Back in Week 1, the Chiefs expected to be playing this weekend, and the Packers were certainly hoping to still be alive. The 49ers, however, did not start to feel like a real contender until they had strung quite a few wins together, and the Titans were still fighting for a playoff spot in Week 17. But regardless of expectations — and a regular season dominated by the Ravens — all four of these teams survived to this weekend, and each is a victory away from playing in Super Bowl LIV.

Here are our predictions for the conference championship games, with each pick made against the spread.

Last weekend’s record against the spread: 3-1

Overall postseason record: 5-2-1

A.F.C.

3:05 p.m., CBS | Line: Chiefs -7 | Total: 53

But after two weeks of relying on a largely one-dimensional offense, the Titans may diversify now that they have gotten past New England and Baltimore, which had two of the three most suffocating secondaries in the N.F.L.

N.F.C.

6:40 p.m., Fox | Line: 49ers -7.5 | Total: 45

The efficiency with which the 49ers demolished the Packers in Week 12 is hard to forget. San Francisco forced a fumble on Green Bay’s opening drive and then scored a touchdown on its first offensive play. The Packers’ seven other drives of the first half ended in six punts and a turnover on downs, while the 49ers built a 23-0 lead.

Green Bay lost only three games this season, and it is telling that Bulaga missed huge chunks of two of them. He has been limited in practice this week with an illness but is expected to be on the field Sunday — as is Ford — and the game could easily be won or lost based on how Green Bay’s offensive line handles San Francisco’s ferocious pass rush.

The 49ers had one of the best offenses in the N.F.L. this season — they were ruthlessly efficient in the passing game and rushed for more yards than any team other than Baltimore — but even quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo made it clear this week that the primary difference in the team from last season is the defense. Garoppolo went so far as to suggest that his own season-ending knee injury in 2018 helped make the transformation happen, as San Francisco ended up with a record worth the No. 2 pick in the N.F.L. draft.

“I always told myself it was a blessing in disguise, the A.C.L.,” he said. “We got Bosa out of it.”

It would be fairly shocking if Rodgers, Jones and wide receiver Davante Adams did not have at least a little more success against the 49ers this time around. But nothing the Packers have done indicates that they are playing at San Francisco’s level, and their fine first season under Coach Matt LaFleur seems destined to end one step before the Super Bowl. Pick: 49ers -7.5

All times are Eastern.

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