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NFL Conference Championship predictions, open thread

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Championship Sunday!

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Conference Championship week is here. There Final Four consists of a couple teams expected to get this far in the postseason, and a couple that are surprises.

AFC Championship Game: Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs

  • Time: 3 p.m. ET
  • Location: Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City, Missouri)
  • TV: CBS
  • Odds: Chiefs -7, O/U 54.5

Joe Burrow vs. Patrick Mahomes. Will this be a shootout? The two squads played earlier this month on January 2, a game the Bengals won 34-31 in Cincinnati. Burrow was 30-of-39 for 449 yards and 4 touchdowns. Bengals wideout Jamarr Chase caught 11 of Burrow’s throws for an astounding 266 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Of course, this time around it’s the playoffs, and Arrowhead Stadium is considered one of the loudest venues in all of sports. Mahomes and the Chiefs offense have been nothing short of incredible the first two rounds of the playoffs, and they’re favorites for a reason. Even so, Burrow won a National Championship at LSU, he’s every bit the gamer and winner Mahomes is, and it’s hard to bet against him. I’m picking the Bengals in a close and exciting game. However, the Bengals offensive line must protect Burrow more than they did last week vs. the Titans.

NFC Championship Game: San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams

  • Time: 6:40 p.m. ET
  • Location: SoFi Stadium (Inglewood, CA)
  • TV: Fox
  • Odds: Rams -3.5, O/U 45.5

Rams head coach Sean McVay is 0-6 against his friend, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. At some point this record should even out, but it’s a stat that can’t be ignored. The Rams have the more talented roster. They have a great quarterback in Matthew Stafford, two of the best wideouts in the league in Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. Defensively, they have superstars like Von Miller, Aaron Donald, and Jalen Ramsey. The Rams are well-coached, their roster is stacked.

The 49ers have great players as well in receiver Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle, but they win by the seat of their pants. The Niners rarely win pretty. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has to play better than he has thus far in the playoffs — he has to throw with more accuracy, he can’t keep throwing interceptions. If the 49ers are going to stick around in this one they must run the ball at a productive clip. To Shanahan’s credit, he has some of the best run-play designs in all of football, which could keep this game close. However, Shanahan also can be one of the most frustrating coaches in the NFL in terms of second half mistakes in play-calling and overall decision-making.

The 49ers are a good team, but they’re also lucky to have gotten this far in the playoffs — I believe that luck will run out today and Matthew Stafford will be playing in the Super Bowl in Los Angeles next month.