Look for Chiefs, Rams to advance to Super Bowl

Its+NFL+Championship+Weekend+with+the+49ers%2C+Rams%2C+Chiefs+and+Bengals+vying+for+a+spot+in+the+Super+Bowl.

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It’s NFL Championship Weekend with the 49ers, Rams, Chiefs and Bengals vying for a spot in the Super Bowl.

Michael Zarich, Staff Writer

After one of the greatest playoff weekends of NFL history, four teams remain in the hunt: the 49ers, Rams, Chiefs and Bengals. Last week we saw all four games end on the last play of the game, with three of them being on a game winning field goal. Both these two matchups are rematches, so who will make a trip to the Super Bowl? 

It’s championship weekend, so here’s a full breakdown and prediction of the two games:

AFC Championship Game:

No. 4 Cincinnati Bengals at No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs (-7)

Sunday 12:00 p.m. on CBS

The Kansas City Chiefs are the first team in history to host the AFC Championship Game in four straight years. The’ve been the kings of the AFC and are a massive home 7-point favorite. The Chiefs went from being on the brink of elimination, down by 3 with 13 seconds, to securing another trip to the AFC Championship.

Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen played one of the best quarterback games in playoff history as the game went down as one of the best games in playoff history. Their resilience, relentless and unmatched mentality proved to the league that the Chiefs are the team to beat.

Meanwhile, their opponent, the Bengals, just came off of their first road win in franchise history. The Bengals improbable season looks to continue after a 19-16 nail-biter win against Tennessee. Burrow has completely turned this franchise around, after being the worst team in the league two years ago to being in the AFC Championship Game is insane. But the Bengals are here to stay and aiming for one goal, which is a Super Bowl win. 

These two teams faced off in week 17, in Cincinnati and the Bengals won a thriller 34-31 on a last second field goal. That win clinched the AFC North title while ending the Chiefs eight-game winning streak. The Burrow and Jamar Chase connection was on full display as the two connected for 266 yards, 11 receptions and 3 TDs.

So while the Bengals do have the Chiefs’ number this year, there is an element of Mahomes in the playoffs that makes him nearly unstoppable. He’s 8-2 in his playoff career and out for more blood. So can the Bengals keep their dream season alive? Or will the Chiefs head to their third straight Super Bowl?

Bengals keys to the game:

  • On offense they got to protect Burrow, who was sacked nine times in the divisional round. What’s incredible is that they won. If the Bengals o-line can’t protect Burrow then they won’t even have a chance in this one.
  • The Bengals have to try to get the ball out quick, get in a rhythm and spread the ball around. Once the defense has to try to stop more then one player, then attack with Chase in one on one coverage.
  • Running back Joe Mixon has to be a factor in this game. A great way to slow down the pass rush is to mix in the running game and keep the defense guessing between run and pass.
  • They’ve got to score touchdowns and field goals, especially to keep up with Chiefs.
  • Bottom line, the Bengals offense needs to be able to go toe to toe with the Chiefs in a shootout to have a chance at winning.
  • On defense, the Bengals need to capitalize on any Chiefs’ mistakes. They got to catch them flatfooted and they have to create momentum early and often.
  • The defense needs to give Mahomes some different looks and bring some blitzes. 
  • The secondary has stepped it up this playoffs so far so Jesse Bates, Vonn Bell, Eli Apple and Mike Hilton needs to create havoc once again

Chiefs keys to the game:

  • The Chief’s offense is back to the best in the league. Playoff Mahomes seems unstoppable and they’ve got everything rolling. They can beat you with 13 play drives or down the field throwing to tight end Travis Kelce or wide receiver Tyreek Hill. The offensive line is healthy and they’ve been running the ball a bit. Mahomes is playing at an elite level. It’s going to be extremely difficult to stop this offense.
  • On defense, the guys up front are very dangerous in Chris Jones, Frank Clark and Melvin Ingram. They’re going to need to attack and rush the Bengals bad offensive line and pressure Mahomes. Those guys can win those matchups in the trenches and if they do the Bengals will be under duress all game.
  • Secondary should likely go man to man. The’ve got good some good corners but they can’t go allow Burrow to sit in the pocket and attack outside to his playmakers. 

My Prediction: I’m really going to be pulling for Burrow and the Bengals. But after last week with the Chiefs beating the Bills, I don’t think that the Bengals can pull off the upset and stomp the Chiefs. The offense and the pass rush is going to overwhelm the Bengals. The game will be close but Mahomes will pull away late.

Kansas City 36-30

NFC Championship Game:

No. 6 San Francisco 49ers at No.4 Los Angeles Rams (-3.5)

Sunday 3:30 p.m. on FOX

In the NFC Championship, it’ll be an NFC West showdown between two California teams in the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers are coming off of a huge upset after defeating the number one seed Packers 13-10. It was an incredible win for the 49ers as their only touchdown was on a blocked punt return.

The defense was the story as the sacked Aaron Rodgers five times and held him to 225 yards passing and 0 TDs. The 49ers did an amazing job at bringing pressure with their front four and switching up looks pre snap and post snap. Overall it was a team win that proved how dangerous they are. 

The Rams slayed the defending champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-27. It was a game they dominated most of it leading at one point 27-3. Sean McVay’s offensive game plan was sharp and Matthew Stafford was on point once again. The defense pressured Tom Brady night and made him get rid of the ball quickly. The game ended up being close as the Rams fumbled the ball four times. Eventually the Rams held on and Stafford threw some clutch throws to put it away. 

In the regular season, the Niners swept the series 2-0 against the Rams. They won their first one in dominating fashion 31-10 on Monday Night Football in Week 10. Their second matchup was on the last week of the season in which was a playoff clincher for the 49ers. The Rams led 17-3 at halftime, until the 49ers turned it up and tied it at 17 and then 24. The game went to overtime and the 49ers won 27-24 in thrilling fashion.

Kyle Shanahan as the head coach for the 49ers is 6-0 against the Rams. So can The Rams turn it around in the NFC Championship? Or will the 49ers continue to own the Rams? 

49ers keys to the game:

  • Obviously the heartbeat for this offense is the running game. Shanahan’s creativity is going to be on display once again but what’s going to win this game for the 49ers is Jimmy Garoppolo. He’s going to need to make some big throws to put them in a position to win this game.
  • The Rams aren’t going to blow up on special teams and they definitely aren’t going to score just 10 points. So the 49ers are going to need to run the ball as usual, but also attack down the field since the Rams will sellout on the run.
  • On defense, the pass rush sacked Rodgers five times last week and was the difference on the defense. Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead have been playing phenomenal so they’ll need to get home and sack Stafford.
  • Protect the corners and don’t get beat with Cooper Kupp or OBJ. The niners are one of the best at playing the cover 2 zone and disguising looks/coverages. But they have to protect their corners from getting matched up one on one with Kupp and company.
  • In the last two matchups against the Rams, they’ve brought pressure to Stafford and created turnovers. 

Rams keys to the game:

  • This Rams offense is a lot different then when they played the 49ers the first two times. OBJ has found his groove, Stafford is playing lights out, and Cam Akers has balanced out the run game. 
  • It comes down to protecting Stafford. The 49ers pass rush can certainly get there and if Stafford is under pressure, the offense won’t be in rhythm.
  • Bring a balanced attack of the run game and the passing attack.
  • They can’t turn the ball over. In their losses to the 49ers, the offense gave the game away with turnovers. If they turn the ball over four times like last week, the Niners will capitalize and win the game.
  • On defense , the game plan is simple for the Rams. They’ve got to sellout 100 percent on stopping the run. Green Bay did it last week and it world for most of it. The Rams needs to slow down the Shanahan, Elijah Mitchell, and Deebo Samuel run game. 
  • Force Garoppolo to make the throws down the field. He’s the weak link of that offense so the Rams better attack him and make him beat them. 
  • Expect to see the Rams corners go man to man more especially Jalen Ramsey. 

My Prediction: This game could go either way and both teams know each other extremely well. The 49ers are on an amazing run and have all the confidence in the world right now. But I think it’s very difficult to beat a team three times and there are a lot of factors to the Rams that makes them a much better team from the last two times they’ve played. So I’ve got the Rams on this one.

Los Angeles 30-26