AFC AND NFC CHAMPIONSHIP PREDICTIONS

2023-01-25 · 4 min read · NFL/Football
Bengals Joe Burrow and 49ers Nick Bosa

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images | Ben Solomon

We are down to the final four teams in the NFL season as the conference championships this weekend will feel like a carbon copy of a year ago as three clubs that made it this far during the 2021 campaign are back.
The newcomer is the Philadelphia Eagles, who are playing for the NFC crown for the first time since the 2017 season when they won it all, while we will see what the Bengals and Chiefs have for an encore in the AFC game.
Here is a look at Sunday's matchups and my predictions.
San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles
When he takes to the field on Sunday, the Niners' Brock Purdy will become the fifth rookie quarterback in league history to start in a conference championship game, joining Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez and Shaun King.
Rookie QBs have not fared well in these games historically, going 0-4, combining to throw nine interceptions compared to just four touchdowns.
Purdy and the offense were not at their best last week versus Dallas, failing to throw a touchdown pass.
Still, George Kittle stepped up and made some spectacular catches with a total of five for 95 yards, while the secondary picked off Dak Prescott twice and held an opponent to under 20 points for the 14th time this season.
Nick Bosa is still searching for his first postseason sack in 2022, as Kyle Shanahan's crew have four in two playoff games and they have the second-best turnover differential at +3.
The Eagles that dominated the NFL for a large portion of the regular season reappeared in the Divisional Round last week as Jalen Hurts threw a pair of touchdown passes, one to Dallas Goedert and another to DeVonta Smith, in a 38-7 victory over the Giants.
New York didn't have an answer to Nick Sirianni's rushing attack as Philly put up 268 yards on the ground, while the defense sacked Daniel Jones five times and James Bradberry had an interception.
Heading into this encounter, part of the game plan for Philly will likely focus on stopping the 49ers' run game, with the Eagles allowing a 4.6-yard-average on the ground during the regular season, while San Francisco has captured six in a row when reaching that average.
One of the more underrated aspects of the Eagles this season is their ability to move the ball through the air.
That is especially the case for them at home, where Hurts threw 14 touchdowns to A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Goedert, respectively, while only tossing four interceptions for a QB rating of 103.9.
  • Prediction- San Francisco 49ers 20-19 Philadelphia Eagles
Purdy will have to be sharper than he was versus the Cowboys last weekend, especially against perhaps the best cover unit in the NFL.
I think this game being in Philly gives the home team a better chance than if they were heading to San Fran, but Christian McCaffrey's versatility along with the Niners’ depth through the air should make life a little easier for Mr Irrelevant if he struggles.
Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs
Cincinnati made a statement last Sunday in Buffalo, as they dominated the line of scrimmage, allowing just one quarterback sack on Joe Burrow, who hit Ja'Marr Chase and Hayden Hurst for touchdown catches in a 27-10 triumph over the Buffalo Bills.
They even got the running game going as Joe Mixon rushed for 105 yards on 20 carries, finding the end zone once, and they picked off Josh Allen once and had one sack.
Protecting Burrow has been pivotal to their success over this campaign, with the Bengals 0-3 when he's sacked five or more times, while going 14-1 when he's sacked less than that.
Sunday's victory was the first time in 2023 that they allowed under 100 yards rushing to an opponent, while Burrow has shredded the Chiefs' secondary in the past, completing 72.2% of his throws against them, averaging 327.3 yards per game.
It was a gutsy performance in the Divisional Round for Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes, who suffered a high ankle sprain, but still managed to will his team to victory, primarily with throws in the pocket, while his tight end Travis Kelce made 14 catches, two for touchdowns.
The talk all week will be about how well Mahomes’ ankle is holding up, and against the Jaguars on Saturday, he didn't need his legs as Isiah Pacheco ran for 95 yards on 12 carries.
Keeping Mahomes protected will be critical regardless of how bad his ankle might be, and the O-line held strong versus the Jaguars failing to allow a sack.
Slowing down opposing running attacks has proven to be quite difficult for them of late, with the Chiefs allowing fewer than 100 yards on the ground just once in its previous four contests, while Chris Jones has yet to register a sack in the playoffs this year, after having 15.5 during the regular season.
  • Prediction- Cincinnati Bengals 30-28 Kansas City Chiefs
There's no dancing around the fact that Mahomes' ankle will be a factor, but in addition to that, Burrow seems to have his number, going 3-0 against the KC pivot, who is likely to win MVP this season.
No team remaining has been as overlooked or ignored more than the Bengals, and Zac Taylor's group have embraced that throughout the season, while I feel their receiving corps is a little more potent than the Chiefs’.
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By: Joel Lefevre

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