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Sport Four potential X-factor players in AFC, NFC conference championship games

11:35  19 january  2020
11:35  19 january  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

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Everyone knows the stars to watch in the AFC and NFC title games . But strong contributions from their supporting casts are critical. Here’s a look at each game and four players , Jones included, who will be called upon to deliver X - factor performances to help their teams win.

Both the AFC and NFC Championship Games are rematches, but there will be plenty of new wrinkles for the Patriots, Chiefs, Rams and Saints. With just four teams left in the NFL playoffs facing off in their respective conference championship games Sunday, it’s not only the star players and obvious

"Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games."

Green Bay Packers' Aaron Jones runs during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer) © ASSOCIATED PRESS Green Bay Packers' Aaron Jones runs during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

It’s a motto Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones has tried to live by throughout his football career.

His father, Alvin, has repeated it for as long as he could remember, but Jones has said he recalls the mantra really sticking with him around the age of 8. He was just getting started as a running back in Pop Warner action. He idolized Emmitt Smith and embraced the chance to deliver whenever called upon. And now, as the moments have grown bigger in his third NFL season, Jones craves those opportunities even more. 

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Making his playoff debut last week, Jones rushed for two touchdowns as the Packers defeated the Seattle Seahawks 28-23.

The games don’t get much bigger than this week’s slate. 

On Sunday, Jones and the Packers will face the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game. Meanwhile, in the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs will host the Tennessee Titans.

As the four teams square off, the faces of the franchise — Aaron Rodgers, Jimmy Garoppolo, Patrick Mahomes and Derrick Henry — will rightfully have the spotlight trained on them. But strong contributions from their supporting casts are critical. 

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The two players will be x - factors in the AFC and NFC Championship Games .

Schedule, kickoff times set for AFC and NFC conference championship games . In the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, the best teams took over. The better seed and home team won all four games . That sets up a couple of amazing matchups for conference championship weekend.

Here’s a look at each game and four players, Jones included, who will be called upon to deliver X-factor performances to help their teams win.

Packers at 49ers

The much-hyped Week 12 matchup between the two teams fell far short of its billing of a potential NFC championship preview, as the 49ers thumped the visiting Packers 37-8. Garoppolo had one of his best games of the season, completing 70% of his passes for 253 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown to George Kittle and a 42-yard score to Deebo Samuel. Meanwhile, San Francisco’s defense held Rodgers to 104 passing yards while sacking him five times. 

But the Packers call themselves a much-better team now. They’ve shored things up defensively, found greater comfort in the offensive system and won six consecutive games since that defeat. 

Potential X-factors

• Packers: RB Aaron Jones — Back when he was in the running for the Packers’ head coaching job, Matt LaFleur reached out to Jones. He encouraged the third-year pro to study film of Rams running back Todd Gurley, as well as Tevin Coleman’s footage from his time in Atlanta. LaFleur wanted Jones to play a similar well-rounded feature back role in his offense. Jones has delivered, rushing for 1,084 yards and a league-leading 16 touchdowns while also catching 49 passes for 474 yards and three touchdowns. 

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LaFleur preaches the importance of balance and believes in establishing the ground game to set up opportunities in the passing game. That’s why it'll be important for Green Bay to get Jones going on Sunday. In the earlier loss to San Francisco, he was limited to just 38 yards on 13 carries. 

If Jones can get off to a quick start against a 49ers defense that has allowed 112.6 rushing yards per game, that will pave the way for the well-rounded brand of ball the Packers want to play. 

• 49ers: CB Richard Sherman — Sherman and Rodgers have history, having faced each other seven times during the regular season and once more in the postseason. Yet Rodgers has tended to shy away from targeting Sherman, and the cornerback has never surrendered a touchdown to the two-time MVP. 

Rodgers’ top target, Davante Adams, set a franchise playoff record with 160 receiving yards on eight catches last week. Look for Sherman to match up with him throughout Sunday. Adams had a pedestrian day against the 49ers earlier this year with seven catches for 43 yards and one touchdown, which didn’t come against Sherman.

Titans-Chiefs: How both teams have fared since Week 10 meeting

  Titans-Chiefs: How both teams have fared since Week 10 meeting When the Kansas City Chiefs came into Nashville back in November, no one know that game would wind up being a preview of Sunday’s AFC Championship game. Now, 69 days later, the two teams will meet again. The venue has changed from Nissan Stadium to Arrowhead Stadium and the stake are raised. The Titans and the Chiefs are the last two teams standing in the AFC, and only one of them will represent the conference in Miami for Super Bowl LIV. Tennessee used Week 10’s thrilling 35-32 victory as a catalyst to fuel its postseason push, and ended the regular season as one of the hottest teams in football.

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The American Football Conference ( AFC ) and National Football Conference ( NFC ) make up the American National Football League (NFL). Each conference has 16 teams in the United States, four in each division (North, South, East, West). The top six teams from both conferences (division

Sherman, who is back to playing at a Pro Bowl level, had an interception in last week’s win over Minnesota while being targeted only three times. If he carries this dominant stretch into Sunday’s game, the 49ers have a good shot at securing a spot in the Super Bowl.

Titans at Chiefs

The last time these teams met, Mahomes made his return from the knee injury that sidelined him for two games, and he threw for a season-high 446 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions while completing 72% of his passes. But Henry rushed for 188 yards and two touchdowns while averaging a season-best 8.2 yards per carry and spearheading a fourth-quarter comeback that led to a 35-32 triumph.

Potential X-factors

 Titans: CB Adoree’ Jackson — Tyreek Hill went off in previous meeting between these two teams with 11 catches for 157 yards and a touchdown. Look for the Chiefs to look get "the Cheetah" going early and often again. 

One of the best ways to limit Hill's production is to attack him at the line, and Jackson boasts the physicality to do so while also possessing good speed. In their one playoff showdown (2018), Jackson helped limit Hill to seven catches for 87 yards and no touchdowns, and he'll aim to have a similar impact on Sunday. 

Minimizing one of Kansas City’s most explosive offensive weapon will go a long way toward improving the Titans' chances of an upset. 

Watch: Titans steal play from Chiefs for Henry rushing TD

  Watch: Titans steal play from Chiefs for Henry rushing TD The Tennessee Titans are taking advantage of yet another slow first quarter for the Kansas City Chiefs. Tennessee orchestrated a lengthy drive, thanks to a clutch fourth-down catch by receiver Adam Humphries and a big reception by tight end Jonnu Smith. So what are the Titans to do? Run the ball with Derrick Henry, of course! Henry took the direct snap in the red zone (swiping a play the Chiefs ran against New England in Week 14 with Travis Kelce!), and had a wide open lane for the touchdown and to extend Tennessee's lead to 10-0.

NFL Conference Championships : 4 Potential X - Factors . by Nick Elgeson January 21 For the four remaining teams in the NFL playoffs, there is no shortage of star power. Which candidates will step up and serve as an “ X - factor ” in the conference championship games this weekend? However, the guy is one of the fastest players in the entire NFL, as proven by his 4.28 40-yard dash at the NFL

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• Chiefs: S Tyrann Mathieu — It should be a busy day for the Honey Badger. The Chiefs’ leading tackler must lead an improved effort as he and his teammates try to find a way to contain the 6-3, 247-pound Henry.

The Chiefs have to do a better job of stopping Henry at the line of scrimmage. Last time, they frequently got caught out of position, left too many cutback lanes for the back to attack and then fared poorly in pursuit. Conditioning also will come into play, Mathieu told reporters this week. Late in the game, as defenders tire, Henry seems to only get better, the safety lamented. 

But Mathieu also must deliver in pass coverage. In Ryan Tannehill's career rebirth with the Titans, the quarterback has provided the threat of the big play, though he hasn't needed to do much in consecutive playoff wins in which he has passed for less than 100 yards. During the regular season, however, Tennessee’s offense erupted with Tannehill under center to average more than 30 points per game in the veteran's 10 starts. Mathieu will be asked to help take away that deep threat, which will frequently come off of the play-action.

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones and listen to the Football Jones podcast on iTunes.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Four potential X-factor players in AFC, NFC conference championship games

Big 12 suspends Kansas' De Sousa 12 games for role in brawl .
The Big 12 suspended Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa 12 games and Kansas State forward James Love eight games for their roles in Tuesday's brawl between both schools, the conference announced Wednesday. Jayhawks sophomore David McCormack and Wildcats freshman Antonio Gordon were also banned for two and three games, respectively. Both programs were reprimanded for violating the Big 12 sportsmanship policies, as players from each school left their benches during the incident."This kind of behavior cannot be tolerated and these suspensions reflect the severity of last evening's events," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement.

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