NFL Playoffs: Conference Championships Preview

NFL Playoffs: Conference Championships Preview


The race for the NFL’s coveted Lombardi trophy has narrowed to just four teams.

The playoff excitement continues on Sunday with the Conference Championships. First up, Brock Purdy and the 49ers will face Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles. Later that evening, Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals will take on Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. All four teams are legitimate Super Bowl contenders and have a shot at winning it all.

Here’s what you need to know:

In the NFC, it’s the 49ers and the Eagles.

Both teams have capable quarterbacks, well-rounded offensive units, and strong defenses. This game will be incredibly well-matched and a win won’t come easy for either side.

Despite battling injuries late in the regular season, Eagles’ quarterback Jalen Hurts has been excellent since the start of the postseason.

In last week’s Divisional round, he totaled three touchdowns on the way to a 31-point blowout victory over the Giants.

His biggest strength is his ability to slice through defenses with deep throws. He leads the league in touchdown passes and is the only quarterback in the league to complete 50% of passes on throws of 25-plus air yards this season.

This part of his game could be the X-factor against the 49ers’ elite defense.

On the other side, the 49ers defense can combat Hurts with pressure. Against pressure this season, Hurts has completed 44.4% of passes for 527 yards, with four touchdowns and two interceptions.

While these numbers aren’t terrible, they reflect the weakest part of Hurts’ game; if the 49ers are smart, upping the pressure will be a major part of their plan to stop him.

Even if the 49ers can contain Hurts, they can’t win this game with defense alone.

It will be up to rookie quarterback Brock Purdy to lead this team to victory. “Mr. Irrelevant” has won each of his first seven career starts. Last week, he became the first rookie quarterback to ever start and win in the Divisional round.

With a win this weekend, he would become the first rookie quarterback to ever start and win a Conference Championship. It’s a tall task, but luckily for Purdy he won’t have to do it alone. He has an arsenal of offensive weapons on his side. If he can get the ball to tight end George Kittle and wide receiver Deebo Samuel, the points will come.

To see which team will make it out of the NFC, tune in on Sunday at 3:00 pm ET.

In the AFC, it’s the Bengals and Chiefs for the second straight season. Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes will look for revenge after last year’s crushing defeat at Arrowhead Stadium. Bengals’ quarterback Joe Burrow will look to replicate last year’s end result for his fourth straight win over Kansas City.

The Chiefs ended the regular season as the AFC’s No. 1 seed. They earned a week of rest in the Wild Card stage, took care of the Jaguars in the Divisional round, and are now exactly where they want to be.

The Chiefs defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-20 last week.

The only problem is that their star quarterback isn’t 100% healthy.

Mahomes suffered a high ankle sprain in the Divisional round. There’s no doubt that he will persevere through the pain, but any issues with his mobility will impact his playmaking abilities.

Mahomes will have to get creative with how he moves the ball up the field. The pressure is also on the offensive linemen to keep Mahomes protected. If he’s left exposed, there’s increased risk of further injury.

While the Bengals are the away team and the lower seed, it would be incorrect to consider them the underdogs.

In the Divisional round, they upset the Bills and made it look easy. If that game is any indicator of how things will go this weekend, the Chiefs should be ready for a battle.

It’s also worth noting that history favors the Bengals. Burrow is 3-0 against Mahomes. And in all three games, Cincinnati was either tied or behind to start the fourth quarter.

Even if the Chiefs get ahead early, the Bengals have proven that they are not to be counted out until the final whistle. To top it all off, Burrow is an even better quarterback than the last time these two met in an AFC title game. His numbers have improved across the board, and he’s gained more experience playing at a high-level.

Joe Burrow is 3-0 against Mahomes.

Ultimately, the Chiefs are an elite team with an MVP-caliber quarterback, injured or not. The Bengals are a young, talented team with history on their side. Only time will tell which team has what it takes to get to the next stage.

To see how it all plays out, tune in on Sunday at 6:00 pm ET.

Here’s how to catch these teams and others across the league in action, from wherever you are.

Australia: NFL Game Pass, ESPN, 7Plus

Brazil: NFL Game Pass, ESPN

Canada: CTV, TSN, RDS, NFL Game Pass on DAZN

Germany: NFL Game Pass, ProSieben MAXX, DAZN

Mexico: NFL Game Pass, TUDN, ESPN, Fox Sports, Sky Sports

UK: NFL Game Pass, Sky Sports, ITV, Channel 5

US: NFL Game Pass, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, ESPN, Amazon Prime

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