Could you have picked two better NFL Conference Championship games than these ones to decide who advances to Super Bowl LVII? Strap yourselves in for two cracking matchups.
It’s all looking Purdy, Purdy, Puuuurdy good for the San Francisco 49ers right now. They’ve managed to navigate the back end of the NFL regular season with a rookie quarterback behind an elite defence and always-dangerous offence. With back-to-back wins in the playoffs, they’ve now won 11 games on the bounce. Purdy made NFL history throughout those two games, too.
“Purdy went back-to-back games with 200 passing yards without an interception. No rookie quarterback in NFL history had achieved the feat in a playoff game let alone two in a row.” – 5 Players To Watch In The Conference Championship
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles have been on fire all season. Their huge win over the New York Giants last week made it 15 wins in the 16 games Jalen Hurts has played this season. They’re among the top teams on both sides of the ball and enter this one as $1.68 and -2.5 favourites at home.
Where it will be won and lost
The 49ers and Eagles are both top-shelf defensive teams. Unsurprisingly, it’s on the defensive end that this one will be decided.
While they’re excellent overall, the two teams have different strengths. The 49ers are especially strong against the run while the Eagles make things particularly difficult for quarterbacks to pick up yards in the air.
The 49ers defense is great but so is the Eagles.
— Clay Harbor (@clayharbs82) January 26, 2023
It’s especially important for the 49ers defence to start strong. Sure, Brock Purdy hasn’t looked much like a rookie recently. However, he has benefited from some luck and the odd throw is there to be picked off if the defence is up for it. If the 49ers defence gives up a few early points and forces Purdy and the offence to chase points, it could get out of hand fast.
Who scores and how many?
As expected, the Eagles are $1.68 and -2.5 favourites to beat the 49ers ($2.18) in this one. While the two teams are among the best in the NFL defensively, the 46.5 points total suggests there is an expectation for points. As already outlined in the minor concerns around Purdy, it won’t be a surprise to see both teams open up early in the search of the first points.
They might be underdogs but 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey is the $7.25 favourite to score the first touchdown ($1.88 anytime). Jalen Hurts isn’t far behind at $9.50 ($2.40) with Miles Sanders ($10/$2.50), A.J. Brown ($11/$2.65) and Deebo Samuel ($11.50/$2.85) rounding out the first five lines of betting. It’s worth noting that while Sanders is a key part of the Eagles offence and one to watch this week, he hasn’t reached the endzone since Week 14. Instead, Kenneth Gainwell – who rushed one in last week – appeals as a bit of a smokey at $19 to score first and $4.50 anytime.
This one will be a beauty. The 49ers rank first in points and yards conceded per game while the Eagles rank first in points scored and yards gained. It’s an incredible matchup of two excellent teams and one that is unlikely to be decided by more than a touchdown.
Whether you subscribe to the conspiracy theories around the NFL wanting the Buffalo Bills to be here over the Cincinnati Bengals or not, this is the Conference Championship many people were hoping to see. It’s a rematch of the AFC Championship in which the Kanas City Chiefs blew an 18-point lead as Joe Burrow and the Bengals advanced to the Super Bowl with a 27-24 win.
Plenty tipped the Bengals to keep it close if they couldn’t beat the Bills last week. Few saw their 27-10 coming, though. Burrow and the Bengals dominated from the start as, once again, the quarterback showed incredible composure in a big spot. Nothing seems to phase Burrow and the prospect of facing the Chiefs in Kansas City certainly won’t after what he was able to do last week. He’s 3-0 against the Chiefs throughout his NFL career.
Where it will be won & lost
It’s a battle of the quarterbacks, really. Burrow has been in the headlines in recent weeks but Patrick Mahomes is widely regarded as the best in the NFL. Even as he nurses an ankle injury during the week, the expectation is for Mahomes to be fit enough to fire. He might need to be a little bit more methodical. Mahomes won’t be able to scamper and produce the outrageous adlib moments he’s capable of quite so often. It’s not difficult to imagine him sitting in the pocket and scanning his options before throwing a rocket to his receivers. Travis Kelce, in particular.
We can trust Burrow to produce the goods. He did so early last week and laid the platform for a comfortable win. It’s whether or not Mahomes’ ankle is up to it and if the offensive line can provide him with enough time that will decide this one.
I am often more impressed with the ungodly talented things Patrick Mahomes, & Josh Allen do while quarterbacking than anything, but Joe Burrow’s ability to navigate, assess, & execute the responsibilities of the position absolutely fascinate me! Legit quarterback savant.
— Ryan Clark (@Realrclark25) January 22, 2023
Who scores and how many?
Nothing splits these two teams at the moment. Favouritism is likely to chop and change, but at the time of writing, the Bengals are slightly in front at $1.88 to the Chiefs’ $1.92. With both teams capable of piling up points in a hurry, the Points Total is set at 47.5 for this one.
No surprises here given the combination he has with Joe Burrow, but Ja’Marr Chase is the $8 favourite to score the first touchdown ($2.03 anytime). In a similar vein, Travis Kelce is on the second line of betting at $8.25 ($2.08).
“The tight end reeled in a career-high 12 touchdowns in the first 12 weeks of the season before going without one through to the end of Week 18. But as the best players in the league tend to do, Kelce recaptured his form for the playoffs, just as he has done in recent years.” – 5 Players To Watch In The Conference Championship
Outside of the two players each quarterback relies on most, Joe Mixon ($9/$2.18), Isiah Pacheco ($11/$2.60), Jerick McKinnon ($12/$2.75) and Tee Higgins ($12.50/$2.75) are all expected to be targeted in the red zone at some point.
These two teams set the bar incredibly high last season so we shouldn’t expect a repeat. The Bengals won’t give up an early lead in this one for a start. Instead, expect a tit-for-tat four quarters and for one of Chase or Kelce to score the last touchdown to win it.