Miami awaits. The two-week run-up to the Feb. 2 Super Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium begins on Sunday when the two teams are determined in the AFC and NFC championship games. The Cinderella in this final four is discarded Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill trying to lead Tennessee to its first SB appearance in 20 years — in his old stadium. But everybody packs a tale to tell. It has been 50 years (!) since Kansas City’s last Super Bowl appearance and win, and Andy Reid has coached more playoff games (27) than anyone to never win it all. Aaron Rodgers is after his elusive second career championship after Green Bay last reigned in 2010. And San Francisco last appeared in an SB in 2012 — but hasn’t won one since 1994. Of this final four, only K.C. made the playoffs last year, and the NFL is assured a new Super Bowl champ for the 15th season in a row. Two games. Win and you’re in. And Miami awaits.
NO. 6 TITANS (11-7) at NO. 2 CHIEFS (13-4)
Line: K.C. by 7½.
Cote’s pick: K.C. 30-17. (Sunday, 3:05 p.m., CBS).
Titans won in New England, dethroning the champs, won in Baltimore, toppling the top seed, now maraud into Arrowhead bent on slaying another giant. Impressive stuff from coach Mike Vrabel. Awesome stuff from running back Derrick Henry. And storybook stuff from Tannehill. Him one win from reaching a Super Bowl in Miami is the best thing in sports right now. Won’t happen, though. Sorry. Yes, I’m aware Titans have beaten Chiefs four in a row including 35-32 in November as Henry ground out 188 yards. Also know that Andy Reid-coached teams are 1-8 vs. Tennessee. But this I know, too: Titans won last week because three Ravens turnovers gifted them 21 points. Titans are the first No. 6 seed in a championship game since 2010 because Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson lost his cool early and was choke-awful in a way that will cheapen the MVP award. Kansas City rarely turns the ball over. And Patrick Mahomes is great. He erased a 24-point Houston lead last week like it was never there. Henry would be first NFL rushing champ in a Super Bowl since Shaun Alexander in 2005, but fatigue (96 carries in past three games) and K.C.’s mega-improved D suggest a mortal game from him.
NO. 2 PACKERS (14-3) at NO. 1 49ERS (14-3)
Line: S.F. by 7½.
Cote’s pick: S.F. 27-16. (Sunday, 6:40 p.m., Fox).
Two storied franchises tangle in their eighth playoff meeting overall and first since 2013, with Aaron Rodgers chasing his elusive second career Super Bowl win and Jimmy Garoppolo trying to deliver San Fran its first since 1994. Niners provide hope to lousy teams everywhere, as the fifth team since 1990 to get this far after winning four or fewer games the year before. I generally don’t put a ton of weight on what happened when two teams met earlier in a season, but this time it’s hard to ignore.
The host Niners crushed the Gee Bees, 37-8, in late November. It was a thorough, wire-to-wire manhandling. Rodgers was 1 for 15 on third-down conversions. Sunday is bound to be closer, but it has a chance not to be. S.F. edge rushers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford will own GB’s O-line and harry Rodgers all night. Did you see the way San Fran’s run D bottled up Dalvin Cook last week? And 49ers cover ace Richard Sherman will do a lot better than Seattle did in containing Davante Adams. Pack’s best shot? They won six road games this season and their plus-12 on give/take is best of final four. If unrattled they have zero turnovers and Rodgers is vintage magical, it will be close. If not, Green Bay will go out as an overrated, fraudulent 14-3 as the 49ers pack for Miami.