2022 NFL Championship Round Preview and Predictions

Updated: Jan 29


Photo Credit: Westwood One


Coming off easily the best Divisional Round in NFL history, we are set up the the Conference Championship games this Sunday. In the 4 divisional round games, the games were decided by game winning drives. 3 of the four were decided by the road team converting a game-winning field goal.


Road teams finished as survivors and upsets to some: the Cincinnati Bengals, San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams. The Kansas City Chiefs were the only home winner this weekend. Now all 4 teams are looking to clinch a berth to the Super Bowl for the right to hold up the Vince Lombardi Trophy.


Here the Chef’s breakdown of both championship games, along with predictions for each contest.


AFC Championship Game

Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs

When: Sunday, 3:30pm EST

Line: Chiefs -7

O/U 53.5

Photo Credit: Athlon Sports


Breakdown:


This is a rematch of a late season matchup from Week 17. Cincinnati overcame a 14-0 deficit to defeat the Chiefs 34-31. Rookie kicker Evan McPherson nailed a 20-yard field goal as time expired to seal the win. However, that game was in Cincy and the championship game will be played in the hostile environment of Kansas City. The Bengals have prepared for this game by pumping in crowd noise at practice this week. But what can prepare you for the fans at Arrowhead in the playoffs?


Photo Credit: GettyImages


Joe Burrow basically put the NFL world on notice with his brilliant performance in Week 17, completing 30 of 39 passes for 446 yards and 4 TDs. Star WR Ja'Marr Chase also went off for 11 catches for 266 yards and 3 TDs. I expect the Chiefs to roll coverage to Chase like they did in the Divisional Round against star WR Stephon Diggs. Diggs was shut down, but it allowed mostly unknown WR Gabriel Davis to have a day (8 catches for 201 yards and 4 TDs). However, the health of Tyrann Mathieu will be key to the success as he returned to practice Thursday after he left the game Sunday with a concussion.


Burrow was sacked four times by the Chiefs in Week 17 and pressure will be the name of the game this week. The Bengals gave up 9 sacks to the Titans last week as Burrow was constantly pushed out of field goal range or had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns. The Chiefs watch QB Josh Allen hang 36 points on them last week, so they must apply pressure to slow down the Bengals high-powered offense.


Photo Credit: GettyImages


The Bengals' defense will have the task of containing the high-powered Chiefs offense lead by Patrick Mahomes, TE Travis Kelce, and the “Cheetah” WR Tyreek Hill. The Bengals secondary ranks near the bottom in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game during the regular season. It’s possible that this game is going to be a shootout but depending on the performance of the Chiefs defense, I can see the Chiefs taking the air out of the ball and running it more. But then again, if you can’t stop the passing attack, Mahomes can have a big day.


Prediction:


This game will likely come down to how the Bengals offensive line can hold up against the Chiefs talented pass rushers. If Cincinnati can protect Burrow, this will be a shootout of epic proportions. Cincinnati also has the better running back Joe Mixon and I expect him to be the dark horse. But Kansas is tough at home and Mahomes should be able to score at will.


Score: Chiefs 37, Bengals 33


NFC Championship Game

San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams

When: Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET

Line: Rams -3.5

O/U 46.5

Photo Credit: Athlon Sports


Breakdown:


The NFC title game is a rematch of divisional rivals from the league’s most competitive division. The NFC West sent 3 teams to the playoffs and is now guaranteed a representative in the Super Bowl. The San Francisco 49ers swept the season series from the Los Angeles Rams with a thrilling 27-24 overtime comeback win in Week 18 that clinched the 49ers' playoff berth. To add to the drama, the Rams haven’t beaten the 49ers since 2018 as the 49ers have owned the Rams for 6 straight victories.


Photo Credit: Athlon Sports


Much like the AFC version, the Rams were up big early on the 49ers until a 2nd half comeback and Matt Stafford turnovers were the Rams undoing. The Rams had no answer for stud WR Deebo Samuel as he tallied 133 total yards and 2 TDs in Week 10 and 140 total yards with 1 TDs in Week 18. The 49ers do a great job of just getting the ball in Deebo’s hands as a WR or as a RB, so simply putting CB Jalen Ramsey on him is only part of the puzzle. Running back Elijah Mitchell also ran for a combined 176 yards on 48 carries. The 49ers offensive line kept star tackle Aaron Donald away from QB Jimmy Garoppolo as he was able to put up two solid games vs the Rams. Trent Williams is trending towards not playing as he wasn’t able to be a full participant in Friday walk through. However, the 49ers as a whole are as healthy as they can be at this point of the season.


Rams QB Matthew Stafford struggled in both matchups this season as he did throw 4 TDs and 4 INTs. Stafford threw a pick-six to Jimmie Ward in Week 10 and was also sacked 7 times in both games combined (including 5 sacks in Week 18). The Rams only allowed 2 sacks in the Divisional Round against the Bucs as their stellar defensive line was unable to get after Stafford.


Photo Credit: Rams Wire - USA Today


Much like the Rams couldn’t contain Deebo Samuels, the 49ers couldn’t stop star WR Cooper Kupp (not like anyone has this season anyways). Kupp caught a combined 18 passes for 240 yards and 1 TD against San Francisco during the regular season. But the 49ers were able to down the Rams' rushing attack, as the Rams averaged only 3.12 yards per carry. However, the first matchup didn’t feature RB Cam Akers or WR Odell Beckham Jr. The Week 10 matchup the Rams only managed 10 points on 278 total offensive yards while the Week 18 matchup saw 24 points of 265 total offensive yards. The Rams must move the ball down the field more against this tough 49ers defense that has shut down the high powered offenses of the Cowboys and Packers.


Prediction:


Los Angeles' offense has found new life with the addition of Odell Beckham Jr. and the return of RB Cam Akers. Beckham has finally found his role expand with limited double coverages and he’s responded. But the 49ers have owned the Rams for 3 years, for the Rams to get back to the Super Bowl they will need to slay this demon. The 49ers are as healthy as can be, riding strong momentum since week 18 and are a strong contender to reach their 8th Super Bowl in franchise history. San Francisco's defense is dominant, while Jimmy G has done enough not to lose games. But Matt Stafford has proved all season and playoffs that he belongs in the conversation of elite QBs in the game. I’m going with my heart and not my head on this one.


Score: Rams 27, 49ers 23


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