NFL playoffs conference championships: Bengals-Chiefs, 49ers-Eagles

There are solely 4 groups left within the 2022 NFL season’s playoffs as we head to the conference championship spherical. Fresh off a win over the Cowboys on Sunday night time, the 49ers will face the Eagles — who dismantled the Giants on Saturday — within the NFC Championship Game. And after beating the Bills on Sunday, the Bengals will attempt to get again to the Super Bowl for a second consecutive 12 months in opposition to the Chiefs within the AFC Championship Game. Kansas City held off Jacksonville on Saturday to get the divisional spherical rolling, regardless of a proper ankle damage to Patrick Mahomes.

Let’s sit up for that thrilling conference championship schedule. To get you prepared for subsequent week’s slate, Brooke Pryor picked out the most important factor to observe for in every recreation, and Seth Walder explored how every staff can win to advance to Super Bowl LVII. Let’s get began within the NFC.

Note: Odds and recreation strains are through Caesars Sportsbook. Game projections are through ESPN’s Football Power Index.

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SF-PHI | CIN-KC

NFC Championship Game

Sunday, Jan. 29 at 3 p.m. ET (Fox)

Opening line: PHI -2 (45.5)
FPI projection: PHI, 64.4% (by 4 factors)

What to observe for: This is the way it was purported to be. We have the 2 most dominant groups within the NFC assembly with a visit to the Super Bowl on the road. The 49ers and Eagles have not confronted one another this season, so it will be a clear slate for either side. Philadelphia has the benefit of a extra skilled quarterback in Jalen Hurts, who has an incredible supporting solid that features large receivers DeVonta Smith and AJ Brown, tight finish Dallas Goedert and working again Miles Sanders. But he is nonetheless recovering from a proper shoulder sprain suffered greater than a month in the past.

And whereas the 49ers are on their third beginning quarterback in Brock Purdy (the 2022 draft’s Mr. Irrelevant), Kyle Shanahan’s quarterback-friendly system and the 49ers’ plethora of offensive playmakers — tight finish George Kittle, large receiver Deebo Samuel and working again Christian McCaffrey amongst them — make San Francisco’s offense lots potent even with a rookie quarterback. There is an outdoor likelihood quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo may very well be prepared for the NFC Championship Game, too, however Purdy has helped the 49ers get this far after the veteran went down in Week 13 with a damaged foot. Purdy, although, hasn’t confronted a protection like Philadelphia’s unit — one which held groups to a league-low 5.5 web yards per cross try and three,057 passing yards within the common season.

Meanwhile, the 49ers’ protection allowed 6.4 yards per cross try and a league-low 3.4 yards per carry, and it had 20 interceptions to the Eagles’ 17. In a recreation so evenly matched, this one may come all the way down to expertise, and whereas the 49ers have been in a Super Bowl extra not too long ago than the Eagles, Hurts’ relative expertise to that of Purdy may very well be the difference-maker.

Why the Eagles will win: The 49ers have the one roster that may even examine to the Eagles, however by way of the total 53-man lineup, Philadelphia nonetheless has the sting. That’s particularly evident within the trenches. The Eagles have the superior cross block win price and cross rush win price, and Haason Reddick (17.5 sacks, postseason included) needs to be arrange for an additional massive day. He will face Mike McGlinchey, not Trent Williams. And whereas the 49ers’ offense has been largely nice with Purdy on the helm, nobody’s doubting who’s the higher quarterback on this matchup. It hurts, and that can matter.

Why the 49ers will win: The distinctive attributes of the San Francisco offense will restrict the effectiveness of the usually dominant Eagles protection. That a lot of the 49ers’ receiving manufacturing comes from McCaffrey, Samuel and Kittle will mitigate the impact of the very good cornerback duo of James Bradberry (who led all corners in fewest yards per protection snap allowed, per NFL Next Gen Stats) and Darius Slay . And edge rusher Nick Bosa can beat Jordan Mailata, who ranked 56th out of 64 in cross block win price this season.

AFC Championship Game

Sunday, Jan. 29, at 6:30 pm ET (CBS)

Opening line: KC -2.5 (49.5)
FPI projection: KC, 65.2% (by 5 factors)

What to observe for: Chiefs. Bengals. Patrick Mahomes. Joe Burrow. Arrowhead Stadium. Super Bowl berth on the road. It feels a little bit like déjà vu, would not it? But though the circumstances are comparable, these two groups are hardly the identical teams that met a 12 months in the past for an extra time thriller through which Cincinnati rallied from 18 factors all the way down to clinch its first Super Bowl journey in 33 years. Including the Bengals’ 27-24 win in Week 13, these two groups have performed 3 times for the reason that begin of the 2021 season, and Cincinnati has gained by three factors every time.

Mahomes, who’s 1-3 in his profession in opposition to the Bengals, has a excessive ankle sprain (confirmed by an MRI), per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Even with restricted mobility, he nonetheless went 22-of-30 for 195 yards and two landing throws within the second half of Saturday’s divisional spherical win over the Jaguars, and he stated he expects to play in opposition to the Bengals. In the December assembly between Cincinnati and Kansas City, the Bengals’ protection held Mahomes to 16 completions on 27 makes an attempt (223 yards and a landing cross), his fewest completions of the season.

Burrow, in the meantime, accomplished 25 of 31 makes an attempt for 286 yards, two passing TDs and one speeding TD — and he grew to become the primary quarterback to beat Mahomes three video games in a row. Burrow obtained an enormous increase in that recreation from a 106-yard speeding efficiency by working again Samaje Perine. Against the Bills within the divisional spherical, Joe Mixon was the new Bengals rusher with 105 yards and a landing. But we additionally must name out the Cincinnati protection, which held the Bills to simply 10 factors and eight first-quarter yards.

Why the Chiefs will win: A banged-up Mahomes remains to be a top-10 quarterback. Yes, the damage will restrict him. But Mahomes will nonetheless have an elite pass-protecting line serving to him, together with head coach Andy Reid’s playcalling and tight finish Travis Kelce — who caught 14 passes in opposition to eight completely different defenders within the Chiefs’ playoff victory over the Jaguars — being seemingly uncoverable. proper now.

With a two-high-heavy protection, the Chiefs can restrict the specter of Bengals receiver Ja’Marr Chase catching deep photographs down the sideline. But the true defensive key will probably be defensive sort out Chris Jones, who recorded 79 cross rush wins within the common season, 26 greater than every other defensive sort out. Can he blow up the lackluster Bengals offensive line, which ranked thirty first in cross block win price this 12 months getting into Sunday?

Why the Bengals will win: The Bengals have a bonus nobody anticipated — the higher quarterback. Burrow is superior to an injured Mahomes, and that shifts the offensive edge in the direction of Cincinnati. Chase and Tee Higgins have the benefit over the Chiefs’ corners, too. Chase recorded 97 receiving yards within the Bengals’ win over Kansas City in December. And in Sunday’s win over the Bills, Burrow demonstrated as soon as once more that he can overcome his offensive line by getting the ball out rapidly (2.5 seconds on common, per NFL Next Gen Stats).

And if the Bengals are the higher offensive staff with a restricted Mahomes on the alternative sideline, that might give them the benefit in all three phases. The Bengals ranked ninth in EPA per play on protection earlier than shutting down Josh Allen and the Bills, whereas the Chiefs are fifteenth. And Kansas City has had the worst particular groups effectivity of any staff this season.

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