The race for the NFL’s coveted Lombardi Trophy has narrowed to just four teams.
The playoff excitement continues on Sunday with the Conference Championships. First, Brock Purdy and the 49ers meet Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles. Later tonight Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals take on Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. All four teams are legitimate Super Bowl contenders with a chance to win it all.
Here’s what you need to know:
In the NFC it’s the 49ers and the Eagles.
Both teams have capable quarterbacks, well-rounded offensive units, and strong defenses. This game will be incredibly well coordinated and victory will not be easy for either side.
Despite struggling with injuries late in the regular season, Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts has been outstanding since the beginning of the postseason.
In last week’s Divisional round, he scored three total touchdowns en route to a 31-point blowout win over the Giants.
His greatest strength is his ability to break through defenses with deep throws. He leads the league in touchdown passes and is the only quarterback in the league to complete 50% of passes on throws over 25 air yards this season.
That part of his game could be the X-factor against the 49ers’ elite defense.
On the other hand, the 49ers’ defense can fight hurts with pressure. Despite the pressure, Hurts has completed 44.4% of passes for 527 yards this season, with four touchdowns and two interceptions.
While these numbers aren’t terrible, they do reflect the weakest part of Hurts’ game; If the 49ers are smart, increasing the pressure to stop him will be an important part of their plan.
While the 49ers can contain hurts, they can’t win this game on defense alone.
It’s up to rookie quarterback Brock Purdy to lead this team to victory. “Mr. Irrelevant” has won each of his first seven career starts. Last week, he became the first rookie quarterback to ever start in the divisional round and win.
A win this weekend would make him the first rookie quarterback to ever start and win a conference championship. It’s a tall order, but luckily for Purdy, he doesn’t have to do it alone. He has an arsenal of offensive weapons at his side. If he can get the ball to tight end George Kittle and wide receiver Deebo Samuel, the points will come.
To see which team makes it out of the NFC, tune in on Sunday at 3pm ET.
In the AFC, it’s the Bengals and Chiefs for the second straight season. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will seek revenge after last year’s crushing loss at Arrowhead Stadium. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow will be looking to repeat last year’s bottom line for his fourth straight win over Kansas City.
The Chiefs finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the AFC. They earned a week’s rest in the wild card phase, oversaw the Jaguars in the divisional round and are now exactly where they want to be.
The only problem is that their star quarterback isn’t 100% healthy.
Mahomes suffered a high ankle sprain in the Divisional round. There’s no doubt he’ll weather the pain, but any issues with his mobility will affect his playmaking ability.
Mahomes needs to get creative with how he moves the ball across the field. The pressure is also on the offensive linemen to protect Mahomes. If left unprotected, there is an increased risk of injury.
While the Bengals are the away team and bottom seed, it would be wrong to consider them underdogs.
In the Divisional round, they upset the Bills and made it look easy. If this game is any indicator of how things will go this weekend, the Chiefs should be up for a fight.
It is also worth noting that history favors the Bengalis. Burrow is 3-0 against Mahomes. And in all three games, Cincinnati was either tied or lagging early in the fourth quarter.
Even though the Chiefs get through early, the Bengals proved they can’t be counted until the final whistle. To top it off, Burrow is an even better quarterback than the last time these two met in an AFC title game. His numbers have improved across the board, and he’s gained more experience playing at a high level.
Ultimately, the Chiefs are an elite team with an MVP quarterback, injured or not. The Bengals are a young, talented team with history on their side. Only time will tell which team has what it takes to reach the next level.
To see how it all plays out, tune in Sunday at 6:00 p.m. ET.
Here’s how to catch these teams and others from across the league in action, no matter where you are.
Australia: NFL Game Pass, ESPN, 7Plus
Brazil: NFL Game Pass, ESPN
Canada: CTV, TSN, RDS, NFL Game Pass on DAZN
Germany: NFL Game Pass, ProSieben MAXX, DAZN
Mexico: NFL Game Pass, TUDN, ESPN, Fox Sports, Sky Sports
UK: NFL Game Pass, Sky Sports, ITV, Channel 5
US: NFL Game Pass, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, ESPN, Amazon Prime