NFL Playoffs: Championship Weekend Preview and Predictions

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NFL Playoffs: Championship Weekend Preview and Predictions

Chicago Bears

The stage is set for the Championship Weekend in the NFL!

AFC Championship

Cincinnati Bengals (10-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-5)

•   Kickoff: Sunday, January 30 – 2:00 pm (ct)
•   Broadcast: (TV) CBS: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Jay Feely, Evan Washburn & Tracy Wolfson – (Radio) Westwood One (SiriusXM Ch 88): Ian Eagle, Tony Boselli & Ross Tucker
•   Odds: KC -7 – O/U: 54.5

The Kansas City Chiefs will host an NFL-record fourth straight AFC Championship game at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. The Chiefs make their fifth appearance in the AFC title game and enter with a 2-2 record and a 2-1 record the past three seasons. The Bengals will make their first appearance in the AFC title game since 1988. Cincinnati is 2-0 in the conference championship game to this point.

Patrick Mahomes and the Bills put on an absolute show last week, an all-time excellent performance, and the Chiefs’ offense has been clicking on all cylinders in the playoffs scoring 42 points against the Steelers in the Wild Card round and 42 against the Bills last weekend. That’s a whopping 84 points in two games. Patrick Mahomes has completed 63-of-83 (75.9%) passes for 782 yards, eight touchdowns, and one interception. Mahomes’ two favorite targets Travis Kelce (13 receptions, 204 yards, two touchdowns) and Tyreek Hill (16 receptions, 207 yards, two touchdowns), have caught a combined 29 passes for 411 yards and four touchdowns.

Simply put, the Chiefs’ offense has been clicking on all cylinders.

Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals enter Sunday’s AFC Championship through a pair of road upsets that were much lower scoring affairs than the Chiefs’ two victories in this postseason. By his own right, Burrow has been excellent in those two wins. The second-year quarterback has completed 73.2 percent of his passes (52-72) for 592 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.

The question here is not whether Joe Burrow and the Bengals have the offensive firepower to keep up with the Chiefs (unless, of course, the offensive line looks like it did against Tennessee), but can Joe Burrow do what Josh Allen narrowly missed out on last week, out-dueling Patrick Mahomes at Arrowhead?

As much as I love the Bengals’ story, and as much as I want them to win (I have a Joe Burrow jersey coming in a bet if they win), I just can’t see it. The AFC Championship has become a regular thing for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. They know how to win this game, they’ve done the last two years, and I think they’ll be hoisting the Lamar Hunt trophy once again on Sunday.

Prediction: Chiefs

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NFC Championship

San Francisco 49ers (10-7) at Los Angeles Rams (12-5)

•   Kickoff: Sunday, January 30 – 5:30 pm (ct)
•   Broadcast: (TV) FOX: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews, & Tom Rinaldi – (Radio) Westwood One (SiriusXM Ch 88): Kevin Harlan, Kurt Warner & Laura Okmin
•   Odds: LAR -3.5 – O/U: 45.5

This year it’s a battle of NFC foes in the NFC Championship game with both the 49ers and the Rams looking to get back to the Super Bowl. The Rams and 49ers have each won one of the past three NFC titles, and the two teams have made a combined 28 trips to the NFC Championship. The 49ers’ 17th appearance is the most in the history of the NFL, and the Rams’ 11th appearance ranks third all-time.

After spending 12 years in Detroit, Matthew Stafford can smell the blood in the water as he searches for his career’s first Super Bowl appearance. All he has to do now is best a San Francisco defense that shut down the Cowboys and Packers in each of the last two weeks. Stafford and the Rams blew the doors off the Cardinals and shocked the Buccaneers last week, but can the 49ers have beaten the Rams twice this season, including a few weeks ago when San Francisco beat the Rams at SoFi Stadium, the site of this weekend’s title game.

Jimmy Garoppolo takes a lot of grief from the national media, and quite frankly, he’s not an elite quarterback in my eyes. Still, he’s an elite game manager with an elite head coach, defense, and weapons around him. Deebo Samuel has been ‘Deebo Does it All’ this season, and while he couldn’t get much going at a blistering cold and snowy Lambeau Field last week, he’ll be in a dome in SoCal this week. Oh, and Deebo isn’t having any of the Jimmy G slander going around.

Samuel logged 1,770 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns on 77 catches and 59 rushing attempts on the season, and he racked up 110 yards and a touchdown on 13 touches (10 carries, 3 receptions) in the 49ers victory over the Dallas Cowboys before the Packers (and the weather) held him to 39 rushing yards on 10 attempts and 44 receiving yards on three catches. Let’s not forget about rookie running back Elijah Mitchell either. Mitchell ran for 963 yards and five touchdowns on 207 attempts (4.65 Y/A) during the regular season and has rushed for 149 yards on 44 attempts (3.3 Y/A) in two playoff games.

The one thing that gives me pause, and has given me pause about the 49ers, is their vulnerability to the deep pass. San Francisco ranks 30th in DVOA in defending deep passes (passes over 20+ air yards). If San Francisco lets Cooper Kupp get behind the secondary, it’ll be a long day at the office for the 49ers.

The Rams are the favorite here, and Jimmy Garoppolo is no Matthew Stafford, but I’m going with San Francisco’s ground and pound approach in this one.

Prediction: 49ers

Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is a Staff Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.