NFL Conference Finals


Pike Temple, Sports Reporter

The divisional round of the NFL Playoffs has been decided and only 4 teams remain. In the NFC, the San Francisco 49ers will play the LA Rams in LA, for a second time in the month of January and the third this season. On the AFC side, the Cincinnati Bengals will travel to Arrowhead Stadium to play the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Titans fell to Joe Shiesty’s Bengals at home. Burrow outplayed Ryan Tannehill. Although the Cincinnati quarterback did not record a touchdown, the NFL sophomore threw for over 300 yards. Burrow managed to lead the Bengals to a 16-13 win over Tennessee. While Burrow got sacked 9 times, Tannehill had the more hellish outing. He forced balls into small windows and got picked off three times. Rookie kicker Evan McPherson kicked a 52 yard field goal to end the game. Derrick Henry was minimized and the Titans offense had trouble finding any rhythm. Young wide receiver A. J. Brown had himself a game, but Tennessee couldn’t overcome the turnover deficit and lost to a sneaky Bengals team that hasn’t even played their best football yet.

The 49ers came to Green Bay, prepared to play in sub-zero temperatures and left a red-hot winner. Although the temperature never dipped very far below zero, the effects of the cold were evident. Frankly, both teams lacked any offensive prowess for most of the game. The Packers looked dominant on their first drive of the game, feeding Devante Adams and ending the drive with an A.J. Dillon touchdown. After that drive, Green Bay was held to 3 points for the rest of the game. Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t find much statistical success, but the offense did enough. In the end, the Packer’s poor special teams cost them the game. A blocked field goal at the end of the first half and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown by the Niners ended Green Bay’s playoff run. Rodgers is 0-4 against San Francisco in the playoffs. Since winning the Super Bowl, Rodgers lost his last 10 Playoff games to the following quarterbacks: Jimmy Garoppolo, Brady, Garoppolo again, Matt Ryan, Carson Palmer, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick two years in a row, and Eli Manning. Not a great track record. It appears that the Aaron Rodgers era in Green Bay is coming to an end unless Davante Adams returns, if so, likely by franchise tag. Rodgers would have better chances of winning a Super Bowl elsewhere. With former offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett taking the head coaching job in Denver, Rodgers will definitely consider his options and then force a trade.

The Buccaneers lost to the Rams at home in Tampa Bay. The Bucs were down 20-3 at halftime, and Tom Brady pulled his team out of the gutter to tie the Rams in the final minutes of the 4th quarter. Both quarterbacks finished the game with over 300 yards, but Matthew Stafford was the better quarterback in this one. Stafford threw for 2 touchdowns to 0 interceptions. Although the Bucs came back late in the 4th quarter, lo and behold, Cooper Kupp saved the day. Kupp beat the corner off the line of scrimmage, ran a deep post, and Stafford threw a perfect ball to hit Kupp in stride and the triple crown winner never looked back. This play got Los Angeles into field goal range within the few final seconds of the second half. After the game, rumors of a Tom Brady retirement arose, but nothing conclusive has surfaced. 

Easily the best game of the weekend, the Bills came to Kansas City with a great shot at beating the Chiefs. Both quarterbacks, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, carried their respective teams through the first round of the playoffs. Sunday’s night game was one to watch, likely the game of the season. In the final 2 minutes of regulation, 25 points were scored. Allen did most of his damage through the air by means of receiver Gabriel Davis. Davis finished a career night with 8 receptions, 200 yards, and 4 touchdowns, setting the record for most receiving touchdowns in a playoff game. On the other side of the ball, both defenses struggled to sack the quarterback and ultimately slow down the two high powered offenses. For Kansas City, Tyreek Hill racked up 11 receptions, 150 yards, and a touchdown. Cheetah’s counterpart from the slot, Travis Kelce, also had a productive game; reeling in 8 catches for just short of 100 yards and a touchdown, Kelce is undeniably the best tight end in the NFL and continues to make his case for the greatest pass-catching TE in NFL history.


The Bengals will play the Chiefs in Kansas City. Joe Burrow has gotten the Bengals this far, but the Chiefs are a formidable foe. While the Bengals have yet to utilize rookie star Ja’Marr Chase, Burrow will need to get Chase involved if the Bengals want a shot at reaching the Super Bowl. On the other side of the ball, Cincinnati’s defense will have their hands full with one of the most explosive offenses of the past few years. Although the Bengals beat the former 1 seed in the Tennessee Titans, this is Zac Taylor’s first rodeo and Cincinnati hasn’t faced a team with as much firepower as KC. The Bengals will likely be a familiar face in the playoffs now that Burrow has made his mark on the league, but the Burrow Dynasty is just beginning. I believe the Chief’s potent offense will send Kansas City to their third Super Bowl with Mahomes under center. 

The magical Niners playoff run sends San Francisco to LA for a matchup against a Rams team on a mission. Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t been great, but thus far, coach Kyle Shanahan hasn’t needed Jimmy G to put up 300 yards on offense to win a playoff game. This won’t change against the LA Rams. Jimmy will need to, once again, play well enough in order for San Francisco to beat a Los Angeles team playing their best ball in late January. Ultimately, the Niners should stick to what they do best, run the football and dominate time of possession. The 49ers have proven that they can take down top seeds, and I think that stars Deebo Samuel and George Kittle will pose a problem for the Rams defense.  Kittle will be an easy outlet for Garoppolo in the middle of the field and Deebo will occasionally slip into the backfield and avoid many one-on-one coverage scenarios with LA’s stud cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Niners coach Kyle Shanahan will be able to outduel opposing coach Sean McVay, just like in the week 18 matchup between the two common opponents. The San Francisco 49ers won’t let their division rival ruin their Super Bowl run.


AFC/NFC Championship Predictions:

Bengals vs. Chiefs – Chiefs

49ers vs. Rams – 49ers