Four teams, three Cougars, two Utes and Aggies remain in a quest for Super Bowl glory. Let’s see how they fared in the divisional round!
Kansas City Chiefs:
Former Utah State running back Darwin Thompson had a critical fumble recovery that could have easily been a lot more yards had he not hesitated. That was his only noteworthy stat of the game but he still made his name heard on the special teams side with a big play that set up a touchdown to pull the once down 24-0 Chiefs within three points. He was in the right place at the right time and it paid off.
Jackson Barton, an offensive tackle from the University of Utah, hasn’t gotten playing time for the Chiefs but was a good pick up for them. It will be important to have him on the team though. Injuries happen a lot in the trenches and they will need bodies to step up and protect their reigning MVP quarterback, Patrick Mahomes.
Daniel Sorensen, a safety out of Brigham Young University, had a little Aggie/Cougar connection in the win over the Texans. He was the one who helped force the fumble that Darwin Thompson ended up recovering. He also recorded 9 total tackles. That isn’t half bad. His head coach, Andy Reid, also played for BYU. Dan isn’t a veteran but he has been in the league long enough to be an asset as far as experience is concerned. He knows how to make football plays.
Tennessee Titans: The Titans don’t have any locals on the team. If you’re picking an underdog go with them. Otherwise go for the boys back home playing the Chiefs of the AFC! It will be tough because Tennessee has beaten two juggernauts in New England and Baltimore so don’t expect this Wild Card team to be scared.
Green Bay Packers: On the NFC side, there are plenty of locals to cheer for on both teams. On the Packers you have the all time leader in rushing yards for BYU, Jamaal Williams. While his postseason production hasn’t been as high with plenty of Green Bay running backs healthy now, Jamaal did have one carry for 3 yards. I predict he will have at least one meaningful carry that will have a big impact on the game for better or for worse. Look for him to be used in short yardage situations.
On the defensive side of the ball, look no further than former Aggie standout Kyler Fackrell. While he has been battling a shoulder injury, Fackrell did finish the regular season with an impressive 3 solo tackles in a narrow win vs Detroit. He did not play against the Seahawks but look for him to make a big play or two if he is healthy enough to play. In the past we’ve seen former local players like Kyle Van Noy make a few plays that were the ones that counted in their Super Bowl run.
Aaron Rodgers claimed he has a defense after the first win of the season. Aaron hasn’t been that bad man he normally is all season so every man on the defensive side including Fackrell will have to make plays in order for the offensive side to be good enough to win. The Packers got blitzed by the 49ers in Week 12 of the regular season. They better come ready if they don’t want it to happen again.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers have a Ute and a Cougar so now they are laying aside their Holy War weapons and fighting in battle together. Fred Warner is a big presence on the vaunted 49ers defense and punter Mitch Wishnowsky is a big factor in special teams.
Fred played against Mitch twice in college with Mitch ending up on the winning end both times. Never underestimate the power of a punter! Mitch won the Ray Guy award in college which is given to the best punter in college football. He was also a unanimous All-American his sophomore year. He was a big factor in winning games as the Utes traditionally did by running the ball, defending and doing well on special teams.
Fred has the luxury of playing with some of the best defensive players in the NFL. Nick Bosa was a stud linebacker coming out of Ohio State. Just ask Baker Mayfield. Richard Sherman will still tell you he’s the best corner in the game. Once the best defense in the NFC West belonged to the Legion of Boom in Seattle. It now belongs to the Golden Gate Gauntlet.
Fred Warner led the team with 7 tackles in a game where they gave up just 10 points to a Minnesota Vikings team led by a confident Kirk Cousins that finally won his first postseason game. They made the 84 million dollar man look overpaid a week after he proved to be the man vs New Orleans.
If the 49ers are going to go to the Super Bowl they will need at least 4 tackles from Fred Warner and great production from everyone else. I fully expect that to happen. It’s hard to say what will happen on the AFC side. The Chiefs are the better team but the Titans have beaten the better team two weeks in a row. This might be the first year ever that the state of Utah and the NFL remembers the night they played the Titans!
NFC Championship Prediction:
San Francisco 31 Green Bay 21
AFC Championship Prediction:
Tennessee 38 Kansas City 34
Super Bowl Prediction: To Be Determined