After Weekend Games, 4 Teams Are Left In The NFL Playoffs
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Well, there are four teams left in the NFL playoffs, and with three of them, it's really not that big of a surprise. They're the San Francisco 49ers, the Green Bay Packers, the Kansas City Chiefs - they all won their divisions in the regular season. But Tennessee? Tennessee is still there. They did not win their division, and their presence in this final four is a huge surprise. They're really on a roll after having to fight to even make it into this postseason.
Let's talk about this moment with NPR's Tom Goldman, who, like me, spent his weekend watching football. Hi, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Wasn't it fun?
GREENE: It was great. I'm asking this because it's news and not because I'm happy about it, as a Steelers fan. But what happened to the Baltimore Ravens?
GOLDMAN: (Laughter) We who follow pro football, David, are still shaking our heads, right?
GOLDMAN: Remember who the Ravens were going into the playoffs - they were Super Bowl favorites and for good...
GOLDMAN: Yeah. They won - had won 12 straight games. They had a quarterback, Lamar Jackson, who was dazzling this season, a running and passing marvel and still favored to win the most valuable player award. And then they go out and lose to Tennessee, 28-12.
Were the Ravens rusty? That's a theory. They hadn't played an important game for a few weeks. They'd been resting their top players at the end of the regular season. And, you know, they fell behind Tennessee early, and they probably weren't tight because of that. They were making a lot of mistakes, and they were never able to settle and just play football the way they'd done magnificently all season long.
GREENE: They didn't just lose. I mean, they got destroyed.
GOLDMAN: Oh, yeah. Yeah. And the Titans really are good. People don't think that about a six seed. But, you know, they were a struggling team midway through the regular season and then traded to get quarterback Ryan Tannehill from Miami, put him in as a starter, and the season turned. It wasn't easy getting into the playoffs. They had to win big games down the stretch of the regular season. And on Saturday, they were tested and tough. And oh, by the way, they have a runaway train in their backfield.
GOLDMAN: Running back Derrick Henry has now run for at least 180 yards in each of the last three games. No one's ever done that before.
GREENE: Now the question, though, can they keep that up against the Kansas City Chiefs, who looked like this offensive juggernaut when they got going yesterday and scored 51 points against Houston?
GOLDMAN: (Laughter) When they got going - I think that's an interesting way of putting it. They fell behind 24-nothing at home, looked like another big upset. But they steadied, the way Baltimore didn't. And quarterback Patrick Mahomes - remember - he was last year's MVP. He threw four touchdown passes in the second quarter alone, only the second player ever to do that in the NFL playoffs. And then in the second half, Kansas City pulled away.
Now, this is a daunting task for Tennessee - to travel to Kansas City for next weekend's game. But, David, who's betting against the Titans now?
GOLDMAN: Last two playoff games, they beat defending champion New England, then Baltimore - both on the road.
GREENE: All right. Well, then, of course, the other game next week that we'll be watching - Green Bay and San Francisco, Tom. But I got to ask you about college because the championship tonight, Clemson-LSU. I mean, the football doesn't end, and I love it.
GOLDMAN: It really doesn't. And David, I'm going to go out on a limb here. I'm going to make a bold prediction. In a game between the Clemson Tigers and the LSU Tigers, the Tigers will win.
GREENE: (Laughter) Good prediction. Safe.
GOLDMAN: Good one, yeah. So Clemson's undefeated. They're the defending champ. But undefeated LSU is favored. They have the Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Joe Burrow, and what should be an enormous rooting section. The game's in New Orleans, not far from the main LSU campus in Baton Rouge. And school has canceled classes today and tomorrow. So for LSU students, there will be no distractions. I mean, who needs classes when you got football?
GREENE: Exactly. Love talking football with you, Tom. Thanks.
GOLDMAN: Thank you.
GREENE: NPR's Tom Goldman.
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