Bengals vs Chiefs, 49ers vs Rams: AFC, NFC Championship Game previews
The Cincinnati Bengals face the Kansas City Chiefs for the first time ever in the NFL playoffs, while the San Francisco 49ers have won six in a row against the Los Angeles Rams.
After what was probably the best weekend in the history of the NFL playoffs, our attentions turn to the conference championship games - the final hurdle before Super Bowl LVI.
For the first time in the NFL’s rich history, the four games in the divisional round were all decided on the final play.
And that’s not all: Sunday was the first time that all four quarterbacks threw for more than 300 yards in a single day’s play in the divisional round.
Now, another two duels await that promise yet more drama and excitement, before leaving us with the two teams who will contest the NFL title at the Super Bowl, on 13 February at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.
Cincinnati Bengals vs Kansas City Chiefs
In Week 17 of the regular season, the Bengals sprang a surprise and ended the Chiefs’ eight-game winning run, claiming a 34-31 victory in Cincinnati.
In that game, Joe Burrow threw for 446 yards and four touchdowns, three of his TD passes finding rookie Ja’Marr Chase, who put in a monster performance with 11 receptions and 226 yards. Patrick Mahomes threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns.
The Chiefs were winning 28-14 with two minutes left in the first half, but Cincinnati then restricted Kansas City to a single field goal in the rest of the game.
The Bengals are 16-14 in their head-to-head series with the Chiefs and have won five of the teams’ last six meetings, going back to 2008.
This will be the first time the franchises have met in the playoffs.
The Chiefs, who are chasing their third straight appearance at the Super Bowl, are the bookmakers’ favourites.
The Bengals haven’t reached the Super Bowl since January 1989, when they lost 20-16 to the San Francisco 49ers.
San Francisco 49ers vs Los Angeles Rams
The 49ers have dominated the Rams in recent times, winning the last six meetings between the teams, including two games in the 2021 season, in Weeks 10 (31-10) and 18 (27-24).
In their matchup this month, San Francisco were 17-10 down halfway through the second quarter, drew level at 24-24 with 26 seconds left in regulation time and won the game in overtime, thanks to a Robbie Gould field goal from 24 yards.
The last time the Rams beat the 49ers was in 2018.
The NFC West division rivals have faced off in the postseason just once before.
That clash came in the 1989 NFC Championship Game, which saw the 49ers put in an almost perfect display to defeat the Rams 30-3 and advance to the Super Bowl for the second straight season.
Having taken a 3-0 lead, the Rams were seemingly about to score the first touchdown when Jim Everett sent a deep pass to Willie Anderson, but safety Ronnie Lott recovered his position and diverted the ball, and the game changed direction from that point on.
Joe Montana threw two touchdown passes, Roger Craig ran a yard to score a TD and the 49ers took a 21-3 advantage into the half-time break.
Miker Cofer then hit the mark with three field goals in the second half to complete the job.
Montana completed 26 out of 30 passes for 262 yards and San Francisco were dominant in the primary statistics, such as first and 10s (29-9), total yards (442-156) and possession time (39:48-20:12).
The Rams are out to become the second team in history to play the Super Bowl at their home stadium, after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did likewise last season.
If they’re to do that, they’ll need Matthew Stafford to keep up the form he’s shown so far.
In his first two postseason games with the Rams, Stafford has completed 74.5% of his passes for 568 yards, four touchdown passes, no interceptions and a passer rating of 131.5.
That might just be the reason why the Rams are being tipped by the bookmakers to return to the Super Bowl, three years on from their last appearance at the showpiece event.