Thursday, May 26, 2022

Bold predictions for AFC, NFC Championship: Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow erupt for a combined 800 yards passing

The NFL is down to its final four teams, and a trip to Super Bowl LVI is on the line when Championship Weekend kicks off on Sunday. It was an absolutely wild divisional round slate during which every single game was determined on the final play of the game. Now, the Chiefs and Bengals remain in the AFC, while it’ll be the 49ers and Rams duking it out for the NFC title. 

As we’ve seen throughout just these playoffs, anything is on the table once the game gets rolling, so it’s best to keep your head on a swivel. On that note, let’s dive into a trio of bold predictions as these final four teams are knocking on the door of a Super Bowl appearance. 

Mahomes, Burrow combine for 800 yards passing

We’re admittedly still coming down from that wild affair at Arrowhead in the divisional round between the Bills and Chiefs, but we have another quarterback slugfest on deck this weekend between Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes. In fact, this game could very well put Super Bowl LII in its crosshairs for the most combined passing yards in a single playoff game (881). 

Both Burrow and Mahomes can throw it all around the field as we’ve seen over the course of their careers, including when they squared off in Week 17. In that game, these quarterbacks combined for 705 yards passing with Burrow leading the way in that aerial attack with 446 yards on his own. His near-perfect showing in that regular season meetup was what propelled the Bengals to a win. For them to advance to the Super Bowl and pull off another win over K.C., he’ll need to once again uncork it. 

As we saw last week against the Bills, Mahomes has no problem getting into a track meet and matching his opponent throw-for-throw. In his playoff career, Mahomes is averaging 310.6 yards passing per game. During this postseason run alone, he is averaging 391 yards a game. If he sticks in that ballpark and Burrow comes in guns blazing, we’ll be in for another high-flying showdown.

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Travis Kelce ties Jerry Rice’s playoff record

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce enters this AFC Championship with seven-career playoff games of 100 or more receiving yards. That ranks No. 2 all-time by a pass catcher and trails Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice by just one for the NFL postseason record. So far, Kelce has been enjoying a strong playoff run, as he’s caught 13 of his 16 targets for 204 yards and two touchdowns over the last two weeks. 

He now faces a Bengals team that has been very friendly to opposing tight ends, particularly those who are considered to be elite. Back in Week 11, Raiders tight end Darren Waller hauled in 116 yards receiving against the Bengals, San Francisco’s George Kittle totaled 151 yards in Week 14, and Mark Andrews of the Ravens posted 125 yards against this defense in Week 16. 

Kelce had a rather quiet showing against the Bengals (25 yards receiving) in their regular season matchup in Week 17, but we don’t expect that to happen twice. Instead, he should find himself knotted with Rice by the time this AFC Championship ends. 

49ers upset Rams

The Rams enter the NFC Championship as a 3.5-point favorite at home, but the 49ers have had their number as of late. San Francisco comes into this matchup winning six straight games against the Rams, including a sweep of their regular season series. 

A large part of that success has been the Niners’ ability to gash L.A. on the ground. In two games this season, the 49ers rushed for 291 yards and two touchdowns. Moving the ball via the running game will also keep the high-powered Rams offense off the field. Meanwhile, Kyle Shanahan’s defense has also been able to give Matthew Stafford fits, as he had just as many interceptions as he did touchdowns against San Francisco during the regular season. 

The 49ers also have an intriguing trend that points in their favor in this rare intra-divisional conference title game. Dating back to 1985, division rivals have met in either the NFC or AFC Championship game eight times. Of those prior matchups, the team that won the most recent game (like the Niners did) has gone on to win the playoff rematch six times.

It should also be noted that the previous three winners in intra-divisional conference championship games (post-2002 realignment) have gone on to win the Super Bowl, but that’s a bold prediction for a different day. 

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