After an incredible weekend of NFL Playoff football that some called the best, we are now on Conference Championship Sunday. Both conference title games will be rematches in a trend that has already happened eight times this postseason.
In the AFC, the Cincinnati Bengals will take on the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in a rematch of a Week 17 game won by the Bengals 34-31 in Cincinnati. In the NFC, we have a West Division showdown for the third time this season between the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in SoFi Stadium. This is a rematch from Weeks Nine 31-10 49ers win at Levi Stadium and a 27-24 win at SoFi Stadium.
These two games will be interesting considering they will be rematches, and both teams have seen each other once and in the Rams and 49ers case two times this season. So now let’s preview these games and see who will advance to Super Bowl LVI.
San Francisco 49ers (12-7) at Los Angeles Rams (14-5)
Last week the 49ers went to Lambeau Field and beat Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers 13-10 in the cold and snow. Rodgers is now 0-4 in his career in the playoffs against San Francisco. After allowing a Packers touchdown on the opening drive, the 49er’s defense clamped down and did not allow the Packers much more on the night. Their special teams blocked a punt and returned it for their only touchdown of the game. Robbie Gould kicked two field goals, including a 45 yarder as time expired to put the 49ers in the NFC Championship game for a record 17th time.
The Rams advanced to the conference title game by beating the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-27 at Raymond James Stadium. The Bucs rallied from a 27-3 deficit to tie it up at 27 with 42 seconds left. Matthew Stafford then hit Cooper Kupp for a 44 yard gain to set up the 30-yard game-winning field goal by Matt Gay. Stafford threw for 366 yards and two touchdowns, while Kupp had nine receptions for 183 yards and one touchdown. The Rams will now be making their second NFC Championship game.
The 49ers have already beat the Rams twice this season. This game will come down to whether or not the 49ers can run the ball. It is no secret they want to run the ball. They ran for 156 yards in the first matchup and forced two turnovers. They ran for 135 yards in the second game, while Jimmy Garappolo threw for 316 yards and a touchdown in the 49ers 27-24 victory they needed to make the playoffs.
Stafford threw four interceptions in those two games and was sacked five times in both games. He connected with Cooper Kupp for 18 receptions for 240 yards and one touchdown in those games. If the Rams can get their running game going in this one, that will be huge for them. The 49ers held them to 52 yards rushing in the first game and 64 yards in the second. Getting Sony Michel and now Cam Akers going in this game would be massive as San Francisco would have to contend with them while also dealing with Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr., Van Jefferson, and Tyler Higbee.
This game is going to be fun. Division rivals are going at it for the third time this season, with the winner going to the Super Bowl. Plus, you have Kyle Shanahan vs. Sean McVay. The 49ers have played well this postseason and are on a roll. But I think the Rams are due for a win and can’t see them losing to the 49ers for the third time in a season. I am taking the Rams, but I am rooting for the 49ers, and their winning would not surprise me.
Game Prediction: Rams 31 49ers 28
Cincinnati Bengals (12-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (14-5)
I talked about this game in another article titled AFC Championship Game Breakdown. But I will say a couple more things on this one. First, this game features two good offenses. This one could turn into a shootout like the Chiefs and Buffalo Bills game last week. The Chiefs averaged 29.7 points per game which were fourth in the NFL, while the Bengals were seventh with 26.6. Second, the Bengals are playing with house money as no one expected them to be here. They won their first playoff game since 1991 when they beat the Las Vegas Raiders in the Wild Card round. They are now playing in their first AFC Championship Game since 1988.
I think the Chiefs will win this one, but the Bengals have the offense that can match them point for point and score for score. They beat them earlier this season, even though it was in Cincinnati. However, winning at Arrowhead is a different story, especially in the playoffs. I have the Chiefs winning and advancing to their third straight Super Bowl, but I am rooting for the Bengals!