This reporter went 1-4 this past weekend after one of the greatest NFL Divisional Round playoffs in recent history, as all four games went down to the very last play and three of the four winning teams were underdogs pulling upsets on the road. Let’s now look ahead to conference championship weekend and pick winners.
Bengals-Chiefs: Championship Sunday kicks off at 3pm from Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri as the Chiefs will host the Cincinnati Bengals. It would not surprise me if this game is close, especially considering that the Bengals beat Kansas City back in Week 17 in a shootout. However, while I am aware that quarterback Joe Burrow has completed 73.2% of his passes in the playoffs, the highest rate of any player in his first two playoff games in NFL history, I still believe that the Chiefs will win for two reasons: Patrick Mahomes and home field advantage. As we just witnessed on Sunday, Mahomes went head-to-head with red-hot Bills QB Josh Allen and still came out victorious. Home field advantage is my second reason because Arrowhead Stadium is one of the toughest and loudest places to play for opponents, especially come playoff time. In fact, Arrowhead Stadium has broken the Guinness World Record twice (2013 and 2014) for being the loudest stadium in the world reaching a decibel level of 142.2. As great as Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase have been, I believe that the atmosphere will be too much for Burrow to handle. Yes, I know that Burrow already went on the road just this past Saturday and knocked off the top-seeded Tennessee Titans, but Kansas City is on another level both on the field and with home field advantage. Plus, Burrow was sacked nine times on Saturday against the Titans, which is the most sacks in an NFL playoff game in the past 15 seasons. While he may not face as much of a strong pass rush as he did in Tennessee, if he cannot stay upright he will have a hard time outscoring the Chiefs because offense is the only chance Cincinnati has at going to Los Angeles.
49ers-Rams: Championship Sunday concludes with the final game taking place at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, CA kicking off at 6:30pm when the Rams will host the San Francisco 49ers in the battle of California and the right to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. San Francisco has dominated this rivalry in recent years winning six consecutive games, including a 31-10 blowout in Week 10 and an overtime thriller in Week 18. While the 49ers have dominated this rivalry and the Rams have a hard time getting their own fans to attend home games (The Rams are limiting online ticket purchases this time to fans that have a local address), I still believe that the Rams are the better team since they have a dynamic duo at wide receiver in Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham, Jr as a 1-2 punch. Plus, Rams QB Matthew Stafford has been playing out of his mind during these playoffs as he has 908 passing yards, 63.2 completion percentage, five touchdowns and only three interceptions in the two games. On the other hand, 49ers QB Jimmy Garappolo has a 61.4 completion percentage with 303 passing yards and two interceptions. However, if you have been watching Garappolo play lately, outside of the Dallas game on Wild Card Weekend, he has been very average with a lot of bad decisions that should have resulted in interceptions, ending their season. In addition, San Francisco is dealing with injuries to two of their top players, wide receiver Deebo Samuel and left tackle Trent Williams. On the other sideline, the Rams have a guy by the name of Aaron Donald who caused problems for Tom Brady on Sunday and will do the same with Garappolo. I believe the Rams will come out on top and be the second team in the past two years to play in the Super Bowl in their home stadium.