The Conference Championship Games are Upon Us

By: Alex Yu

Courtesy of USA Today Sports

After an exciting slate of divisional round games, we are now down to the last four teams. I think most of us can agree that these are the most skilled, well coached, and well-rounded teams left. Both games are packed with crazy talent, as well as some of the best offensive-minded coaches in the NFL. I went 4 for 4 with my predictions last week (well maybe not the scores), so we’ll see if my luck continues.

NFC: San Francisco 49ers (2) @ Philadelphia Eagles (1) – 3 pm EST

I cannot remember the last time I’ve seen a matchup with so much skill on both sides of the ball. Both teams have very few weaknesses, which is rare even in a conference championship game. The 49ers defense has allowed only 70 or fewer yards by a single rusher in 27 straight games. Keeping that streak up against the Eagles will prove to be tough. Led by the best offensive line in the league with Pro-Bowlers such as Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson, the Eagles offense has rarely struggled with the running game. They rank 4th in the league with 154 yards per game on the ground. The 49ers’ secondary will also have their hands full with AJ Brown and Devonta Smith, who have combined for 2,692 receiving yards in the regular season. Although Philadelphia will have the clear advantage at quarterback, I think San Francisco can out-scheme them. Just like they did against Dallas last week, I think they will aim to somewhat take Brock Purdy out of the game and rely on a heavy running game. When they do use Purdy, they’ll likely try to use lots of pre-snap motion and get him easy completions to ease him into the game. Come the fourth quarter, he will however have to make a big play or two. If he can do that, I think it will give them enough of a chance to win. The 49ers just have too many weapons on offense. Stacking the box will likely get punished by Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk’s elite route running skills and leaving too many players in coverage is just begging Christian McCaffrey to pound them on the ground. If any team is to stop them however, it is the Eagles. I see a low scoring game with a clutch throw from Purdy to bail San Francisco out.

Final Score prediction: SF 24, PHI 21

AFC: Cincinnati Bengals (3) @ Kansas City Chiefs (1) – 6:30 pm EST

As it stands right now, Joe Burrow is currently 3-0 against Patrick Mahomes. The Cincinnati mayor has even said Burrow was requested to take a paternity test to confirm he is in fact Mahomes’ father. Jokes aside, I always had the Bengals making the AFC championship the moment they started to heat up in the regular season. Burrow has been playing like the second-best quarterback in the league, and their defense has been taking the ball away. He will be going into Arrowhead stadium without two of his starting linemen, with Alex Cappa being out with an ankle injury, and Jonah Williams with a kneecap injury. This wasn’t much of an issue last week against Buffalo however, as Joe Burrow was only hit a total of three times. The Chiefs’ Chris Jones may cause more of an issue though. Patrick Mahomes suffered a high-ankle sprain last week in the Chiefs’ win against Jacksonville and has now had his second straight full practice. Kansas City is now back to being favored after they news that he will play. Travis Kelce caught 14 balls against the Jaguars, and he looks to continue his hot streak against Cincinnati. He will only need 53 more receiving yards to pass Julian Edelman for the second most receiving yards all time in the playoffs. If Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard are successful in getting Mahomes out of the pocket, then the Bengals will have a great chance to win. I can see Mahomes’ injury preventing him from properly extending plays in his classic fashion. Many people like the Bengals in this one, but I still like Kansas City in a close shootout.

Final score prediction: KC 35, CIN 31