NFL Playoffs 21–22: Conference Championship Round Preview
I went 1–3, got COVID, and am writing this article in an isolated state, but that won’t stop me from going 2–0 this week.
Playoffs Record: 6–4, Total Record: 169–112–1
Before predicting this coming week, I just have to mention how insane the Divisional Round was. We start off with Joe Burrow being sacked 9 times, yet STILL leading the Cincinnati Bengals to a 19–16 victory against the well-rested Tennessee Titans. Later that day, we got a hard-fought game between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers, another well-rested team off its bye week. San Francisco didn’t care, though, and played defensive, physical football and used the opportunities it got on special teams and defense to win the game 13–10.
The next day, we thought we’d see our first blowout, with the Los Angeles Rams leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at one point by a score of 27–3. But Tom Brady did Tom Brady things, and LAR couldn’t hold onto the ball, leading to the teams to be tied up 27–27 before LAR won the game behind two miraculous Cooper Kupp catches and a Matt Gay walk-off field goal, a 30–27 victory for the Rams. Following that was the Buffalo Bills at the Kansas City Chiefs, a game that was arguably one of the best games in NFL history. The back-and-forth game featured incredible play between Josh Allen and Pat Mahomes, and ultimately ended up falling to a coin flip in OT. The Chiefs survived Josh Allen’s fury by a score of 42–36.
Now we’ve got our conference championship games, an interesting pairing where the away teams have already beaten the home teams this year, with Cincinnati knocking off Kansas City in Week 17 by a score of 34–31, and San Francisco having knocked off L.A. twice this season by scores of 31–10 and 27–24. However, both teams are still favored to lose, which I find interesting. I think KC’s loss to Cincinnati in Week 17 was a bit unlucky, but how do the Chiefs contain this Bengals passing attack? They clearly couldn’t contain Josh Allen, and even with Bills WR Stefon Diggs being relatively quiet in the game, WR Gabriel Davis scored 4 touchdowns. The Bengals are similar, I think. If Ja’Marr Chase is quiet, expect Tee Higgins or Tyler Boyd to make some noise.
Meanwhile, in the NFC, the Rams will look to have the offensive success against the 49ers that both the Cowboys and Packers were unable to have. Stafford torched the Cardinals and Buccaneers, but those teams had already been shown to be exploitable. Out of all teams, this San Francisco team is probably the one the Rams had least preferred to face in their biggest game thus far. The 49ers have struggled offensively, though, and the Rams will hope for a game similar to their latest one (a 27–24 SF overtime victory) where LAR went up early and just failed to keep SF out of the game. The margin of error will be incredibly small, meaning that a Cam Akers fumble or a Jimmy Garoppolo interception could swing the game in favor of either team.
Honestly, I’m struggling to pick these games, but here is my best prediction:
Chiefs 37, Bengals 31
Rams 29, 49ers 22
The Bengals-Chiefs game feels a lot tougher for the Bengals than the 49ers-Rams game feels for the Rams. The Rams have the benefit of the Buccaneers Effect, that being that even though teams can be crushed twice in regular season, the playoffs are just a different environment (TB lost twice to NO last season 34–23 and 38–3 before winning 30–20 against them in the divisional round). Bad QB play can sink a team, and the 49ers have the weakest of the bunch. That is the difference in this game. As for the Bengals-Chiefs, this could be another game that ends in OT, hence the 6-point difference. I expect the Bengals to jump ahead early, but the Chiefs will come back. This game comes down to one possession, and I trust the Chiefs a bit more than the Bengals, especially in Arrowhead.
An LAR-KC Super Bowl sounds like great fun. I’ll be looking forward to it.