By Christopher G. Hetu
C/O to cbssports.com
And then there were four.... talk about the unexpected, this divisional round weekend we just experience was probably one of the most entertaining playoffs in recent memory. From the Bengals toppling off the number one seed Titans, to the 49ers taking down Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the coldest conditions. The Ram edging out the Tom Brady and his Buccaneers and a shootout in Kansas City that pushed the Chiefs to their fourth straight conference championship game. The final four have play exceptional and competitive football and they have proven they deserve to be in the dance. Quite a shocking weekend to say the least and I'm sure these teams won't disappoint us this weekend either. It's been an unpredictable season, so we'll see once again dive into these matchups and really flesh out what may happen come championship Sunday!
(6) Cincinnati Bengals (10-7) vs. (2) Kansas City Chiefs (12-5)
Location: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO
Kickoff: Sunday 1/30 3:00PM EST
Spread: -7.0 Chiefs
C/O to USA Today Images
Joe Burrow has officially put himself in the conversation as one of the best quarterbacks not just in the AFC but in the NFL. Despite the team only getting itself one touchdown on the ground from Joe Mixon (14 CAR, 54 YDs, 1TD), Burrow did enough to drive the Bengals offense down the field to setup Evan McPherson for four field goals (one being the game winner). Although the Bengals defense allowed 140 yards rushing, they were able to hold Derrick Henry to 60 yards on 20 carries. This Bengals receiving core still came in clutch on the backs of JaMarr Chase (5 REC, 109 YDs) Tee Higgins (7 REC, 96 YDs) and C.J. Uzomah (7 REC, 71 YDS) which allowed Burrow to throw for 348 passing yards.
It was great win for the Bengals and the first time they've been in the AFC Championship game since 1989! Joe Burrow has ensured he could possibly bring his team to many more as their future grows brighter. However, the Bengals offensive line is the biggest question mark here, allowing the Titans Defense to force 9 sacks on Joe Burrow. The game will be a lot more manageable for the Bengals if they can prevent pressure on their quarterback. The run game production must increase in this game from Joe Mixon who hasn't even gotten past 60 yards in his last two starts. They'll need a strong run defense like they've shown to force Mahomes to throw the ball a lot more. This Bengals team is LEGIT, I'm sure they'll give us a show come Sunday.
Kansas City Chiefs
CLUTCH. That's the first word that comes to mind when you think of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Last week's game fell nothing short of a shoot out and was easily the best playoff game last weekend, maybe even one of the greatest in NFL history. Both Josh Allen (329 YDs, 4 TDs, 0 INT) and Patrick Mahomes (378 YDs, 3 TDs, 0 INT) combined for over 700 passing yards. Being down with 13 seconds the Bills defense croaked and allowed the Chiefs to setup a game tying field goal that sent both teams into overtime. Eventually leading to the Chiefs winning, after winning the coin toss and marching down field for the game winning TD, 42-36 OT Final.
So, same story as last year, however the Chiefs might be more scary now than ever. They've proven despite all the doubts from this season, they are still the kings of the AFC. They are the most lethal offense in the league and that defense steps up when it calls for primetime. Mahomes will have to aid in the run efforts a lot this week as the Bengals defense was 4th best against the run this season. Mahomes will have to look towards the air a lot once again which he had a lot of help from players like Tyreek Hill (11 REC, 150 YDs, 1 TD) Travis Kielce (8 REC, 96 YDs, 1 TD) and Jerrick McKinnon (5 REC, 54 YDs). Tyrann Mathieu returned to practice Thursday, so that will really give a boost to that secondary. Either way, the Chiefs are no stranger to the stage so we will see a strong attack from them on both sides of the ball.
Both teams battled adversity to get where they are and these teams put on a show against one another in Week 17 when the Bengals defeated the Chiefs 34-31. This game happened a few weeks ago so there's going to be a lot from applied from that matchup to this one. But I'm sure we'll see a similar game to the last time these two played. We're going to see a lot passing yards once again and little defensive effort but this game will once again come down to who makes that key mistake.
So I expect Mahomes and Burrow to combine for over 600 yards through the air, the run games will be scattered and the defenses will play tough and it'll be a magical AFC Championship game. However, Kansas City holding home field advantage once again in this round and this being their fourth straight conference championship game will make this tough for the Bengals to overcome. Although we've seen a lot of upsets this postseason, this game WILL come down to the more experienced team and the Chiefs are that experienced. Burrows going to have a ridiculous game that'll put him in the conversation for one of the top quarterbacks in the league for years to come. But this Chiefs defense will force him to make that mistake that is costly to him and his squad.
Final Score: Chiefs 34 Bengals 28
(6) San Fransisco 49ers (10-7) vs. (4) Los Angeles Rams (12-5)
Location: So-Fi Stadium, Los Angeles, CA
Kickoff: Sunday 1/30 6:30 PM EST
Spread: -3.5 Rams
C/O to Fox Sports
San Fransisco 49ers
Talk about a game last weekend, the 49ers escaped Green Bay with a 13-10 victory and it was quite a cold one. Temperatures reached less than 4 degrees, with the only offensive touchdown coming from AJ Dillion on the ground. The Niners defense however held down Aaron Rodgers, sacking him five times and allowed under 250 passing yards against one of the all time greats.
Elijah Mitchell (12 CAR, 53 YDs) and Deebo Samuel (10 CAR, 39 YDs) brought a steady run attack while Jimmy Garoppolo struggled. He was sacked four times and threw for only 131 yards and one interception, it was a sloppy defensive effort. The Niners have to give a huge thanks to that special teams, with that blocked punt and return by Talanoa Hufanga to house for six allowed the Niners to tie the game. And Robbie Gould punched their ticket to the Championship game as he remained perfect on kicks in the postseason.
I expect them to build on this performance as they return to a much warmer climate but keep an eye on the Niners injury report. Trent Williams is listed as doubtful, he was seen in a walking boot most of this week. Expect Elijah Mitchell to play despite the injury report, but no Jeff Wilson Jr. in all likely hood as he hasn't practiced at all this week. If the Niners can build upon these last two wins, they should have a successful day to keep the Rams at bay.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are truly on a mission this season, this team has gotten hot at the right time. Their defense is playing like the Super Bowl caliber defense that we should be expecting out of them. Matthew Stafford (366 YDs, 2 TDs) and the offense look confident as ever, going into the third quarter they led 27-3. But suddenly late in third, the Buccaneers woke up and Brady and the offense had managed to even things out late in the fourth with the score being 27-27. But with about 40 seconds left, Stafford threw a deep shot to Cooper Kupp (9 REC, 183 YDs, 1 TD) to set them up to have Matt Gay kick the game winning field goal.
The Rams looked unstoppable through 3 quarters of action, sacking Brady three times and constantly delivering pocket pressure. Forcing Brady to throw tight passes, create mistakes and force plenty three and out drives for the Buccaneers. Matthew Stafford continued to look flawless as the pass attack was hot throughout the game. However, the run game can to a sudden halt, Cam Akers (24 CAR, 48 YDs) and Sony Michel (1 CAR, 4 YDs) were awfully quiet and basically ineffective in this matchup. If they can get the run game a little more involved in the matchup this weekend, we will see the Rams continue to dominate once again in this game of epic proportion's.
These two teams have met twice already, Niners winning both games, however the Rams are a different team now than they were then. The Niners might be starting to slow down, despite that being said, these two teams will put on a show this Sunday. Jimmy Garoppolo is going to have to play at an elite level and make key plays to receivers such as Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk. The run game will need a stellar attack and that defense needs to step up big against Matt Stafford and force to him to make mistakes like he did in their past meetings.
However, that Rams front seven is like a nightmare from hell right now, if they can keep up pocket pressure and get to Jimmy G. the offense will have no struggle in moving the ball downfield. Cooper Kupp is still playing like it's the regular season and Odell Beckham Jr. along with Van Jefferson and Tyler Higbee have proven to be valuable assets for Stafford to throw to. This games will come down to the wire, these are experienced playoff teams, but it's make it or break it for the Rams. They will dominate early on and the Niners will find a way to sneak their way back into the game just as the Buccaneers did. But the Rams will once again come out on top and finally defeat Kyle Shanahan in the biggest of games.
Final Score: Rams 29 Niners 26