We just witnessed one of the greatest football weekends in NFL history in the Divisional round. From a low-scoring upset in the snow to a game where 25 points were scored within the final two minutes of regulation, that was one weekend of football that had it all and absolutely lived up to the hype.
Naturally, the Conference Championship round will not cone close in terms of excitement (in my opinion, anyway) but we still have a couple of good games on tap!
If you guys enjoy this preview, I'd love to hear about it! If you would like to collab on a project, hit me up on Twitter! Thank you all for reading and have a great day!
Cincinnati (12-7) @ Kansas City (14-5)
We start off with a hell of a rematch from week 17! Cincinnati surpassed everyone's expectations, as second year franchise quarterback Joe Burrow has led to the team to not only the organization's first playoff win in 31 years, but followed it up with another upset over the #1 seed Tennessee Titans on the road!
Their playoff win last week came off the foot of 5th round rookie kicker Evan McPherson (who I have dubbed the "Young GOAT"). Having a consistent and reliable kicker is much more important than many may believe. In addition, the Bengals sport a high flying offense led by Burrow and a defense who have allowed 35 points combined in their two previous matchups.
The Chiefs, however are on another level offensively than either of Cincinnati's previous opponents.
Patrick Mahomes and this offense have found their rhythm, as shown by their back-to-back 42 point outings. This is highly impressive considering they were up against a unit featuring two players who are among the best in the league at their position (T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick) in Pittsburgh, and the statistically ranked #1 defense in overall yards, passing yards, points allowed and 3rd down conversions allowed.
Jerrick McKinnon has been a major boost to this offense (10 carries, 7 targets last week and 12 carries with 6 targets against Pittsburgh). He is dynamite with the ball in his hands, gaining 75+ combined yards in both of those games and a receiving touchdown. In my opinion, I think McKinnon should be Kansas City's starter moving forward and even attempt to trade Clyde Edwards-Helaire if Darrel Williams sticks around.
The Chiefs have a great pass rush if they show up for the game. Chris Jones and Frank Clark can wreak havoc any given game... and luckily for them, they go up against an offensive line who has allowed their quarterback to be taken down not only four times in their previous matchup against one another, but 11 times in those two playoff wins (including a postseason record tying 9 sacks last week against Tennessee). I feel this Chiefs defense will bring Burrow down at least three times in this one.
Played in 2021?
Week 17: Bengals 34, Chiefs 31
Key Question: Which offense will get the ball last?
This will most likely be the deciding factor in this game. Evan McPherson ended their week 17 game with a 20 yarder to seal the deal as time expired and I expect to see a similar outcome.
Bengals-Chiefs II should feature excitement considering not only is it to decide the AFC representative in the Super Bowl, but the Chiefs weren't featuring running back Jerrick McKinnon in the offense - he has truly been a spark plug for this offense in recent weeks.
I do believe if the Chiefs get to Burrow four times or more like their last matchup, that could keep Cincinnati from keeping up with Kansas City, but I see this one coming down to a 37 yard clutch kick from Young GOAT McPherson to sent the Cincinnati Bengals to their first Super Bowl in 33 years.
My Prime Performer:
WR Ja'Marr Chase, Bengals
13 receptions 160 yards 3 TDs
Spread: Kansas City, -7.0
My Pick: Bengals by 3
San Francisco (12-7) @ LA Rams (14-5)
On the NFC side, we get round 3 of the 49ers-Rams rivalry. Much like what Zac Taylor is doing in Cincinnati, Kyle Shanahan has been leading San Francisco into upset win after upset win despite everybody counting them out.
The 49ers do have a 2-0 record over the Rams this season (including a 21 point blowout), but it is worth noting that their two playoff wins came with huge asterisks. I don't want to take away from the incredible job this team has done, but in the Wildcard round the Cowboys seemingly refused to win the game after the 49ers did their best to give it away. Dallas has penalty after penalty in clutch situations and the whole Dak Prescott QB draw with :14 left was controversial and potentially robbed the Cowboys of a last second win.
I'll give the San Francisco defense and special teams full credit over their win against the Packers last week, but again Jimmy Garoppolo played poorly and the only San Francisco touchdown came off of a blocked punt late in the game
My point is, don't simply look at their two wins over the Rams and automatically assume they'll have three... because the 49ers have shown they have flaws, and L.A. has the firepower to make them pay for it.
The Rams whooped the ass of their NFC West rival Arizona Cardinals 34-11 in the Wildcard round and followed it up by edging out last year's Super Bowl champion Buccaneers.
This is a different Rams team than they were in the other two games against the 49ers (despite the second matchup was only in week 18). Matthew Stafford seems to be getting more comfortable after winning in the playoffs for the first time in his career against Arizona, then followed it up with 366 yards and 2 scores against Tampa Bay. Stafford has 4 touchdowns and no interceptions in his two playoff games (his achilles heel during the regular season) and Cooper Kupp is obviously a major boost in the passing game for him.
The main advantage the Rams have in this game is in Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd and Von Miller. Green Bay racked up four sacks on Garoppolo last week and left tackle Trent Williams limped off the field with an ankle sprain. If he is unable to go, I expect at least 5 sacks by this Rams defense.
The 49ers also have superstar wide receiver Deebo Samuel nursing a knee injury, and running back Jeff Wilson Jr. dealing with a low ankle sprain. Injuries could rue the day for this 49ers team.
Played in 2021?
Week 10: 49ers 31, Rams 10
Week 18: 49ers 27, Rams 24
Key Question: Will Matthew Stafford continue his playoff hot streak?
Like I mentioned earlier, Stafford enters this game with a 4:0 touchdown-interception ratio and has been averaging 284 yards per game in that span. The Triple Crown winner Cooper Kupp has caught 14 of his 18 targets for 244 yards and a pair of touchdowns in those games as well.
Considering Stafford has averaged 240 yards per game with a 4:4 ratio in his games against San Francisco, he will obviously need to continue his more recent streak of playoff football, as I believe if the San Francisco defense can force the Rams quarterback to throw more picks than touchdowns, we could very easily see Jimmy G and co. return to the Big Game.
My Prime Performer:
QB Matthew Stafford, Rams
22/33 291 yards 3 TDs
Spread: L.A., -3.5
My Pick: Rams by 4
Bengals 37, Chiefs 34
Rams 27, 49ers 23