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Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill celebrate after 42-36 overtime victory over the Buffalo Bills. Credit: Alika Jenner/NFL

AFC/NFC Championship Predictions

Oh my. Is it safe to say that was the best weekend of football we’ve had in years? I certainly think it was. All four games were decided on the final play of the game, which is ridiculous to think about. Three game winning field goals and a walk-off overtime touchdown, you couldn’t script a better ending than that. After going 6-0 on predictions for the Wild Card, I suffered my first and only loss of the playoffs when the Packers were upset by the 49ers. Although a 9-1 prediction record isn’t too shabby. Anyways, let’s get to my predictions for the AFC/NFC championship games.


#4 Cincinnati Bengals @ #2 Kansas City Chiefs, Jan 30. 3:05 PM:

Starting with a recap of last week’s game, the #4 Bengals snuck past the #1 Titans with an Evan McPherson game-winning field goal, final score 19-16. In retrospect, the result of this game wasn’t too surprising. The Titans struggled down the stretch of their schedule, despite going 6-3 for their last nine games. The Titans defense played great, taking advantage of an inferior Bengals offensive line with nine sacks. However, the Titans offense could not capitalize on these defensive stops. Derrick Henry proved that trying to play NFL running back with a new steel plate in your foot is harder than it looks and Ryan Tannehill struggled, throwing three interceptions. When you consider the offensive line protecting him, Joe Burrow played great. Despite throwing no touchdowns and one interception, he threw for 348 yards with close to zero time in the pocket. 

Moving to the next game, the #2 Kansas City Chiefs beat the #3 Buffalo Bills in theatrical fashion with a walk-off overtime touchdown, final score 42-36. Coming into this game, it was by far the most hyped up matchup of the playoffs so far. Boy did it live up to expectations. Mahomes vs. Allen, the NFL’s new greatest rivalry. This was one of the most impressive offensive showdowns I have ever seen. Josh Allen threw for 329 yards and 4 touchdowns and Patrick Mahomes threw for 378 yards and 4 total touchdowns. Both quarterbacks played perfect games, but one team had to win. 13 seconds, too much time for Patrick Mahomes. In 13 seconds, Mahomes took his team 44 yards into Buffalo territory to tie the game with a field goal. Tied 36-36 going into overtime, Josh Allen called tails on the coin toss. Once the coin landed, the referee announced heads and Kansas City had won the toss. In an instant, I had a flashback to the 2019 AFC championship game when Mahomes never got to touch the ball in the overtime loss to the Patriots. I knew this time would end differently. As Mahomes and his team took the field, they marched effortlessly down the field. After four minutes and fifteen seconds, Mahomes threw a back-shoulder fade route to Travis Kelce to seal the game, final score 42-36. There may be a bit of recency bias in this, but I believe that was the greatest football game I’ve ever seen. It’s not everyday that two quarterbacks play absolutely perfect games and score 25 combined points in the last two minutes of the game. After that overtime victory, the AFC championship was set for the Cincinnati Bengals at the Kansas City Chiefs. 

This game has potential to be very exciting, as both teams are offensive teams that can have defensive struggles. Joe Burrow has been having an excellent postseason and Ja’Marr Chase, Joe Mixon, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd have also been playing very well. The same cannot be said for their offensive line, which Chris Jones looks to take advantage of. The Chiefs’ defensive line and linebackers have been playing well, however without Tyrann Mathieu and Rashad Fenton, the secondary struggled last week. Whether Mathieu plays or not could be a deciding factor in this game. The Bengals have also had some bad injury luck by losing DT Larry Ogunjobi for the AFC championship. Pro Bowl DE Trey Hendrickson’s availability may also be up in the air, which could be a huge loss for the Bengals. The early season offense of the Chiefs appears to be gone, and Mahomes has shown tremendous growth at the QB position. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are still Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, there’s not much else to say. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrel Williams, and Jerrick McKinnon are all competing for touches in the backfield, and they are great in their own areas. Barring any injury, the Chiefs have no glaring weaknesses on offense currently.

Will Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs get revenge for their Week 17 31-34 loss to the Bengals? I think they will. The Chiefs are the favorites to win the Super Bowl and are looking better than ever, final score 45-33.


#6 San Francisco 49ers @ #4 Los Angeles Rams, Jan 30. 6:40 PM:

Moving on to the NFC championship, the Los Angeles Rams are hosting the San Francisco 49ers. Starting with the less exciting of the two divisional matchups, the 49ers beat the Packers, 13-10. This game came as a surprise to me because I was certain that the future MVP Aaron Rodgers would have put up more than 10 points. However, this loss isn’t entirely on him. The majority of the blame should be put on the Packers’ special teams unit. The Packers defense did not allow the 49ers offense to score a single touchdown, and the 49ers scored all of their points on special teams. Two field goals, including the game winner, and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown is all it took to knock the MVP out of the playoffs. 

The other NFC matchup was much more exciting, when the Rams beat the Buccaneers, 30-27. The Buccaneers had many injured players, specifically on offense, and they struggled greatly. The Rams had jumped to a 27-3 lead by the third quarter, but no lead is safe against Tom Brady. Throughout the second half of the game, the Rams did everything they could to hand the game to the Buccaneers. The Buccaneers didn’t start playing better, the Rams just fumbled four times. The Buccaneers capitalized on these mistakes and managed to tie the score at 27-27 with 42 seconds left. With 27 seconds left, Matt Stafford threw a 44 yard bomb to Cooper Kupp that got them into field goal range. They managed to spike the ball, and Matt Gay kicked a game winning field goal, final score 30-27. With that kick, the Rams punched their ticket to their first NFC championship since 2019. 

This game also has potential to be very exciting. Matt Stafford is starting his first NFC championship and the 49ers hope to keep their six game win-streak against the Rams alive. Both of these teams are very physical and like to run the ball, so this game could be a dog-fight. At age 33, Matt Stafford is having a career year and with help from Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr, and Darrell Henderson, has led this team to the NFC championship. The 49ers defense is led by Fred Warner, Arik Armstead and Nick Bosa, and they have held up well against the Rams this year. Coming off on a lackluster performance against the Packers, the 49ers offense is looking to prove their doubters wrong. Being one of those doubters, I am not expecting much from Jimmy Garoppolo. Jimmy Garoppolo has not played well in the playoffs, despite having a good supporting cast of Deebo Samuel, Elijah Mitchell, and George Kittle around him. The Rams defense is as dominant as ever, with Aaron Donald and Von Miller on the defensive line wreaking havoc on Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.

Beating a team three times in a year is a very hard thing to do, and I think the Rams will break the six game losing streak against the 49ers, final score 32-24.

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