NFL Conference Championships: Who will make the Super Bowl?Published January 30, 2022 by Sol FH
Tonight at 20:00 GMT the Chiefs vs. Bengals and at 23:30 GMT it's the Rams vs. 49ers for a spot in Super Bowl LVI.
The NFL's divisional-round playoff games, which featured three walk-off field goals and an overtime touchdown, will be tough to match this weekend, if only because there are fewer games to play.
However, fans shouldn't be concerned because the rich storylines in both conference championship contests should divide viewers and provide creative clashes on the field.
The AFC championship game takes place on Sunday. The resurgent Cincinnati Bengals, who started the postseason as the No. 4 seed, will try to keep the Kansas City Chiefs from reaching their third consecutive Super Bowl.
The star-studded Los Angeles Rams, who spent much of their draft capital to assemble a group capable of playing in a Super Bowl in their home stadium, will then be put to the test by the tenacious San Francisco 49ers, the lowest remaining seed, and an N.F.C. West division opponent, in the later game.
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow has led a bottom-feeding organization to its first conference championship game since 1988 in only his second season. His connection with rookie receiver Ja'Marr Chase and a group of skill position players has powered much of his success. In his sixth season in Cincinnati, running back Joe Mixon set career highs in yards (1,205), touchdowns (13), and carries (292) to help relieve some of the offensive load from Burrow, who was the league's most pressured quarterback in 2021.
The Bengals' happy-go-lucky streak could end in Arrowhead Stadium, which has hosted a record four consecutive AFC championship games. The team's domination and the home fans make it a difficult place to play, and as Mahomes demonstrated last week against the visiting Bills, a game-tying drive can be completed in just 13 seconds.
The Bengals, on the other hand, have prospered this season by keeping games close — they've only lost one game by more than seven scores — and then having Burrow find a playmaker or getting a big stop or take away from their defense. Burrow, like Josh Allen, is capable of matching throw-for-throw with Mahomes, and a shootout would make picking the over a safer option, especially given Kansas City's Pro Bowl safety Tyrann Mathieu is questionable for Sunday after suffering a concussion in last week's game against the Bills.
AFC Conference Championship Odds
At bet365 Sports, the Chiefs are heavy favorites at 1.27 for the win. For weeks, the Bengals have been the underdog and still find ways to win. They are listed at 3.90.
The Rams take on the 49ers at 23:30 GMT in the NFC Championships game.
For all the talk about the Matthew Stafford trade and the Rams' headline signings of defensive back Jalen Ramsey, linebacker Von Miller, and receiver Odell Beckham Jr. on their way to a championship, the team's success on Sunday will depend on whether Coach Sean McVay can use those players to do something he hasn't done in six previous attempts: beat Kyle Shanahan and his 49ers.
McVay and Kyle Shanahan (along with Packers Head Coach Matt LaFleur) were assistants under Mike Shanahan on Washington's 2013 team as division opponents are intimately familiar with each other's game preparations. On the other hand, Kyle Shanahan has had the upper hand because the 49ers' scheme precisely offsets the Rams' Aaron Donald-led pass rush by combining aggressive run plays with intricate pre-snap motions, essentially playing hide and seek with the defense. Ramsey is kept at bay by short tosses over the middle.
After taking a helmet to the right leg in last week's win against the Packers, Shanahan expects Deebo Samuel, a critical part of making that offensive scheme work, to practice and play this week. It's unclear whether left tackle Trent Williams (sprained ankle) will be able to play, and his absence might be a significant blow to the 49ers' hopes to keep Donald and Miller at bay.
Los Angeles expects to see starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee, ankle) and safety Taylor Rapp (concussion) return — and has the added motivation of wanting to avenge blowing a 14-point halftime lead against San Francisco in the regular-season finale. This meltdown allowed the 49ers to reach the playoffs. Shanahan, on the other hand, has the Rams' number.
NFC Betting Lines
The Rams are favorites, even though the 49ers have had their number in recent games. At bet365 Sports, the Rams are at 1.55, while San Fransisco is at 2.60 for the outright win.