Well, we’ve made it to the penultimate weekend of the NFL Season. I know what you’re thinking, the Super Bowl is in two weeks. That’s true, but the week between the Conference Championship Games and the Super Bowl is reserved for the Pro Bowl, which is technically a game but doesn’t really count for much. So, what I’m trying to say is savor this weekend. After Sunday, we only have one meaningful game left in the season.
Last weekend’s Divisional Round was incredible. We got four extremely close games, and I went 2-2 in picks. Now we’re at Championship Week, and my quest is to nail both these picks. We’ll see how close I can come.
Cincinnati Bengals (10-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-5)
About: The Bengals have certainly overachieved all season long. They went from worst to first to win the AFC North and then beat the Raiders and Titans in the playoffs to advance to the championship game. And now they get to face an opponent they’ve beaten already this season in a stadium where they won. And it even happened this month. In Week 17, the Chiefs hosted the Bengals in a crucial late-season game. Ja’Marr Chase simply exploded, going for 236 yards and three touchdowns on 11 receptions. The Bengals won 34-31, knocking the Chiefs out of the No. 1 seed and securing an AFC North title. Can they do it again Sunday? They certainly can, but will they? The Chiefs entered the post-season as the No. 2 seed but with some flaws—one of those being that they lost to all the other division winners in the 2021 season. That didn’t come back to haunt them in the Divisional Round, where the Chiefs overcame a regular season loss to the Bills with a 42-36 overtime win. The Chiefs also enter this game with a wealth of experience. It’s the team’s fourth straight AFC Championship Game. The Chiefs are the favorites and they should be. I’m not ruling out the Bengals, and I’m hoping for another close game, but the Chiefs seem to have hit an extra special level on Sunday, and I think that will carry them to a third straight Super Bowl.
The Pick: Kansas City Chiefs
San Francisco 49ers (10-7) at Los Angeles Rams (12-5)
About: This is another re-match from the regular season, and another home team looking to reverse the outcome of a crucial late season game. The Rams were tracking toward the No. 2 seed, up at the half against the 49ers in Week 18. But Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers came back. A trip to the playoffs was on the line, and the 49ers wouldn’t be denied. Their win got them into the playoffs, and since getting in they’ve continued to be the little team that could. The 49ers slipped past the Cowboys in Dallas and then got a miracle finish, thanks in no small part to some incredible Special Teams play, to edge the No. 1 seeded Packers 13-10 in the Divisional Round. The Rams, meanwhile, rebounded from that Week 18 disappointment to make the most of their playoff berth. The Rams dispatched with the Cardinals in the Wild Card round then took a commanding lead over the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay. Tom Brady brought the Buccaneers back, but a last-second field goal put the Rams back on top, earning them a trip to the NFC Championship Game. The Rams now get to host the Championship Game on the same field where the Super Bowl will be played two weeks later. In short, the Rams could be the first team to win the Conference Title Game and Super Bowl on the same field. But they have to get past the 49ers, no small feat. When the Rams last made the Super Bowl, following the 2018 season, they swept the 49ers in the regular season. The Rams haven’t beaten the 49ers since. That’s a three-year span. In 2019, the 49ers’ win knocked the Rams out of the playoffs. This season, as mentioned, it cost them the No. 2 seed. The Rams are 0-6 in the last three years, and 7-16-1 against the 49ers since 2010. In short, this one feels like a true toss up. Call me crazy, but I believe in Matthew Stafford, Von Miller and Aaron Donald.
The Pick: Los Angeles Rams
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.