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NFL

Bengals vs Chiefs, 49ers vs Rams: preview, predictions, odds, stats

Sunday sees the Cincinnati Bengals take on the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game, before the San Francisco 49ers face the Los Angeles Rams for the NFC title.

Update:
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JANUARY 23: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates a touchdown scored by Tyreek Hill #10 against the Buffalo Bills during the fourth quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 23, 2
JAMIE SQUIREAFP

AFC Championship Game | Cincinnati Bengals vs Kansas City Chiefs: Sunday, Arrowhead Stadium, 3:05pm ET

The Kansas City Chiefs are the first organisation to host a Conference Championship Game in four consecutive seasons. If the Chiefs beat the Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium, they’ll be the fourth team to reach three straight Super Bowls.

The Bengals travel to Arrowhead Stadium for the third AFC Championship Game in their history. Cincinatti won their two previous appearances, against the San Diego Chargers in the 1981 season and the Buffalo Bills in 1988.

Joe Burrow will become the first quarterback picked at number one in the draft to start a Conference Championship Game inside his first two seasons in the NFL. Burrow comes into the game having completed 28 out of 37 passes (75.7%) for 348 yards in the Bengals’ Divisional Round win over the Tennessee Titans.

Since Week 7 of the regular season, the 25-year-old has been the best in the NFL in every metric when it comes to 10 to 19-yard passing.

Meanwhile, a win for the Chiefs will see Patrick Mahomes become the 13th quarterback to start in three or more Super Bowls, and only the sixth to do so before turning 30. Mahomes has a 7-1 record in eight career postseason games at Arrowhead, with 23 touchdown passes, one interception and a passer rating of 120.5.

Indeed, the QB has only lost games in the Playoffs to teams featuring Tom Brady. The seven-time Super Bowl winner is now out of the race for the 2021 title, so there may be many who feel the Chiefs’ name could well be on the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

While the Bengals and the Chiefs have never met in the postseason, they faced each other just four weeks ago, in Week 17 at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati overcame a 14-point deficit to defeat Kansas City 34-31 and claim the AFC North crown. The Bengals have a 2-1 record against the Chiefs since Reid took charge in Missouri in 2013. Only the Tennessee Titans (5-2, including the postseason) have a better record against the Chiefs in that period.

Favourites in the betting: Chiefs -7

Prediction: Bengals 21-30 Chiefs

Matthew Stafford (9) throws a pass during the Los Angeles Rams' win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Divisional Round.
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Matthew Stafford (9) throws a pass during the Los Angeles Rams' win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Divisional Round.Kim KlementUSA TODAY Sports

NFC Championship Game | San Francisco 49ers vs Los Angeles Rams: Sunday, SoFi Stadium, 6:40pm ET

Among the quartet still standing in the 2021/22 Playoffs, the San Francisco 49ers are the only team who didn’t win their division title this season. It’s the third consecutive campaign that the Conference Championships include a franchise that has had to make it all the way from the Wild Card Round. Last year, it was Brady’s Super Bowl-winning Buccaneers.

The Los Angeles Rams are the first team to host a Conference Championship Game at the stadium where that season’s Super Bowl will also be played.

The 49ers and the Rams have only met once before in the postseason: the 1989 NFC Championship Game, won 30-3 by San Francisco at Candlestick Park. The Niners then defeated the Denver Broncos at Super Bowl XXIV. This season, starting with their victory over the Rams in Week 10, the 49ers have won nine of their last 11 games.

Favourites in the betting: Rams -3.5

Prediction: this should be a tight one - 49ers 17-20 Rams

See also:

AFC and NFC Championship Games: more stats

In the last 13 seasons (2009-21), five teams have gone from bottom in their division to the Conference Championship Game the following year. With the Bengals and the 49ers through to this weekend’s conference title deciders, this is the fifth year since 1970 that more than one team has qualified for the Conference Championships within a season of finishing as their division’s basement dwellers.

If either the Bengals or the 49ers win this weekend, they’ll become the fifth franchise since 2000 to reach the Super Bowl after coming fourth in their division the previous season.

The Chiefs’ head coach, Andy Reid, whose career makes him seemingly a cert to be inducted in the Hall of Fame, is one win away from drawing level with the legendary Tom Landry (20) with the second-highest number of victories in the Playoffs. New England Patriots boss Bill Belichick leads the way with 31.

Reid’s opposite number on Sunday, Bengals chief Zac Taylor, can become the sixth coach in NFL history to win his first three postseason games, and the first to do so since the Philadelphia Eagles’ Doug Pederson in 2017.

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