It’s no surprise that some of the best players in the NFL are slated to take the field during Championship Sunday. That’s what it is all about — elite performers helping their teams earn a trip to the Super Bowl.
This will be no different come Sunday. Reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and his Chiefs will host record-breaking running back Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship Game.
Over in the NFC, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will look to pull off the upset against Richard Sherman and the top-seeded San Francisco 49ers.
These are among the top-10 players set to take to the field during NFL Championship Sunday.
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Simply incredible. There’s no other way to go about explaining what Mahomes has done in two seasons as a starting quarterback in the NFL. Are we sure he doesn’t hail from Europa or some far off galaxy? This kid just led a 24-point comeback in the AFC divisional playoffs, helping the Chiefs score touchdowns on a record seven consecutive possessions. He also broke the single-game playoff mark of four touchdown passes in one quarter.
Mahomes, 24, has put up 9,128 passing yards with 76 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in two seasons as a starter. By any standard, that’s otherworldly. But considering Mahomes’ age and lack of experience, it might be among the most eye-opening things in the modern history of the NFL.
2- Derrick Henry, running back, Tennessee Titans
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We have to give Tennessee’s defense credit for its surprising run to the AFC Championship Game. However, it’s the NFL’s leading rusher from this past regular season who has put this team on his shoulders. Henry is the first player in NFL history to rush for 180-plus yards in consecutive playoff games. He’s recorded 588 rushing yards over the past three games, dating back to Week 17 of the regular season.
A 6-foot-3, 247-pound running back in an NFL that values the fleet of foot, Henry is turning the clock back to the 1980s and 1990s. Think Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis with some breakaway speed. And it has the Titans one win from the Super Bowl despite their quarterback having put up fewer than 200 combined passing yards in two playoff games. Just absurd.
3- Nick Bosa, defensive end, San Francisco 49ers
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Forget Defensive Rookie of the Year, Bosa was a candidate for the top individual honor on that side of the ball throughout the regular season. The stats (25 quarterback hits, 16 tackles for loss and nine sacks) don’t do the rookie No. 2 pick justice.
Bosa has been an absolute madman in every regard as a rookie. According to Pro Football Focus, Bosa had 80 quarterback pressures and 52 quarterback hits to go with those basic stats. He’s legitimately already one of the top defensive players in the NFL heading into Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against the Packers.
4- Tyreek Hill, wide receiver, Kansas City Chiefs
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Electric. That’s what Hill has been since he entered the NFL as a late-round pick back in 2016. Despite a major mistake in the last round, Hill heads into Championship Sunday as the biggest threat at receiver around the league.
Here’s a dude who is averaging 73 receptions for 1,174 yards and nine touchdowns over the past three seasons. His ability to make sweet music with Mahomes is second to none in the AFC. Even going up against an elite Titans defense on Sunday, we’re expecting Hill to make a major impact.
5- George Kittle, tight end, San Francisco 49ers
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At this point, it might be unfair to Kittle to compare him to the great Rob Gronkowski. That’s just how dynamic this third-year tight end has been from both a blocking and receiving standpoint. Kittle has already surpassed Hall of Famer Mike Ditka for the most receiving yards by a tight end in his first three NFL seasons.
All said, the Iowa product has hauled in 173 passes for 2,340 total yards since the start of last season. He also caught 80% of the passes thrown in his direction during the 2019 campaign. Already dominant from a receiving perspective, Kittle is equally as good in the blocking game. The dude is already a top-10 player in today’s NFL.
6- Aaron Rodgers, quarterback, Green Bay Packers
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A lot was made of Rodgers’ struggles during the regular season under first-year head coach Matt LaFleur. That’s patently absurd. The former league MVP threw for 4,002 yards with 26 touchdowns and four interceptions. About 99% of NFL teams would take that type of production from the quarterback position.
Rodgers now heads into the NFC Championship Game looking to avenge a 37-8 loss to the 49ers back in late November. He’ll be doing so against the team he rooted for as a child and having lost two consecutive playoff games to San Francisco. Expect Rodgers to be up to the task Sunday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium.
7- Za’Darius Smith, EDGE, Green Bay Packers
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There are very few football players who had more of an impact than Smith in his first season with the Packers. That was no more evident than in his two-sack performance against Seattle in the divisional round. It’s a game in which the free agent acquisition recorded four quarterback hits of Russell Wilson, dominating an inferior offensive line in the process.
This came on the heels of the former Ravens star recording a whopping 37 quarterback hits and 13.5 sacks for what had been a pass rush-needy Packers defense. Despite failing to earn either a Pro Bowl or All-Pro honor (snubbed), Smith is among the best players remaining in the NFL playoffs. It’s that simple.
8- Richard Sherman, cornerback, San Francisco 49ers
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Stunning. That’s the best way to describe what we’ve seen from Sherman this season. Two years removed from suffering a torn Achilles as a member of the Seahawks, this future Hall of Famer is now playing the best football of his career.
That’s not hyperbole. Over the course of the past 13 games, Sherman has allowed 17-of-34 passes thrown in his direction to be completed for 130 yards with a 35.2 opposing quarterback rating. That’s 10 yards per game. Oh, and he had a game-changing interception of Kirk Cousins in the divisional round. How do you like that?
9- Davante Adams, wide receiver, Green Bay Packers
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Fresh off a record-breaking 160-yard performance against the Seattle Seahawks last week, Adams is set to take on one of the NFL’s best corners — Sherman — in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game. That’s fine and dandy. It’s going to be a huge matchup.
What we know is that Adams has gained the most trust of any receiver catching passes from Aaron Rodgers since Jordy Nelson. That’s no small thing. The Fresno State product has now tallied 194 receptions for 2,383 yards and 18 touchdowns while catching 66% of his targets since the start of last season. Is that good?
10- Tyrann Mathieu, safety, Kansas City Chiefs
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One of the most underrated players in the NFL, the Honey Badger was once again snubbed of a Pro Bowl appearance and All-Pro honors this season. What does the dude have to do in order to get recognition? He’s the Rodney Dangerfield of the NFL.
The former mid-round pick recorded 75 tackles, 12 passes defended, four interceptions and two sacks in his first season with the Chiefs. He’s also helped this defense turn it around after some major struggles earlier in the year. Put some respect by Tyrann’s name.