The 2023 NFL playoffs continue this weekend with the Conference Championships. No Cinderellas have managed to advance this far. These are the best of the best, and each remaining team is worthy of a Super Bowl victory. In the AFC the Kansas City Chiefs host the Cincinnati Bengals. In the NFC the Philadelphia Eagles host the San Francisco 49ers.
The Chiefs are very, very good. For much of this season the Chiefs looked like the best team in the AFC. Featuring the NFL’s best offense and the NFL’s best quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, the red hot Chiefs have won 11 of their last 12 games. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes suffered a high ankle sprain in last week’s victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. While he’s expected to start for the Chiefs on Sunday, it’s anybody’s guess how this will affect his mobility as well as his ability to plant and drive on his throws. Mahomes will likely be limited to some degree. How severe his limitations are will have a major impact on the game. In addition, Mahomes’ favorite target, Travis Kelce, popped up on the injury report on Friday. He is listed as questionable for the game. If Kelce is limited, or worse, out for the game, the Chiefs could be in serious trouble.
The Bengals have injury problems of their own, as they will be missing three of their five starters on the offensive line on Sunday. On the bright side, the Bengals were missing those three offensive linemen last week against the Buffalo Bills and the Bengals still dominated the game. On the not so bright side, the Bills had nobody in the same league as Chris Jones chasing Joe Burrow all day. The Bengals come into this game riding a 10 game winning streak. The way I see it the Bengals are one of the few teams in the NFL with the quarterback and offensive weapons to stay with the Chiefs. Throw in a hobbled Mahomes and Kelce and I’m taking the Bengals in this game. Of course, if Mahomes and Kelce play like they aren’t much bothered by their injuries they could make this pick look foolish.
In the NFC the Philadelphia Eagles looked like the best team in the conference, and probably in the NFL, until Jalen Hurts was injured late in the year. Coming off a blowout victory over the New York Giants last week Hurts looks like he’s put the injury behind him, and the Eagles once again look formidable. Blessed with the best offensive line and the best pass defense in the NFL, the Eagles are tough to beat. If anyone can do it, however, it might be the San Francisco 49ers.
The 49ers are the hottest team in the NFL, winners of 12 straight games. This is a deep and talented 49ers team with few weaknesses. The 49ers boast the best defense in the NFL, and an offense that has been as good as any in the NFL since they acquired Christian McCaffrey in a trade with the Carolina Panthers. The one major question mark for the 49ers is whether rookie Brock Purdy can continue his unlikely run of stellar play against the best pass defense in the NFL. The answer to that question will likely decide this game.
The 49ers have the best turnover differential in the NFL. Their defense has forced opponents into multiple turnovers in 9 of their last 10 games. The 49ers also protect the ball on offense, with 12 straight games with no more than one turnover. If Purdy can manage to protect the ball against the Eagles, turnovers could be the difference in this game. I’m taking the 49ers in a hard fought game against an outstanding Eagles team.
Embedded below are my picks for the Conference Championships on Sunday. These picks are just a simple who wins the game deal. Odds do not factor in. DISCLAIMER: This is just for fun. I make no claims to actually being any good at this. Anyone who chooses to bet according to my picks will likely prove the old maxim, a fool and his money are soon parted.
The predictions are embedded below in the widget provided by our partners at Tallysight, and the odds are provided by DraftKings Sportsbook.