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Sports Take: NFL conference championship weekend picks

 

By Gio Gennero | Sports writer

With the NFL Conference Championship Weekend coming up, a few of us at the Baylor Lariat have been pitching our predictions for how the rest of the NFL postseason will unfold.

Gio Genenero | Sports writer

AFC Championship: Kansas City Chiefs

This is the second straight AFC Championship featuring two battle-tested teams led by two top under centers. As much as I love Joe Burrow and the Bengals, I can’t see Patrick Mahomes missing a Super Bowl appearance for the second year in a row. The Bengals got the better of them last season, but I think Mahomes will also fare well at 1-1 in the postseason, 3-1 overall against Burrow. I understand the former Texas Tech quarterback won’t be 100%, but that could serve as further motivation for a locked-in Mahomes.

NFC Championship: San Francisco 49ers

All year I believed that the 49ers had the most complete team in the league. They have the best defense in the league in my eyes and their offense has no shortage of weapons and combinations of skill players. Quarterback Brock Purdy may be a rookie, but he’s riding a wave of momentum this game and should be fine. San Francisco had one of the best rushing defenses in the league this year and will force the Eagles to play in the air. In return, the 49ers also own a stellar pass rush. I don’t see the 49ers losing except on their own initiative.

Super Bowl: Kansas City Chiefs

With two weeks off to get that ankle back, Mahomes should be in top form for the Super Bowl. This is far from the same 49ers team that the Chiefs beat in the 2020 Super Bowl, but Kansas City hasn’t won a ring since and I know they will be determined to get a win. This San Francisco team has come close before, but there’s a big difference in the experience you earn between the Super Bowl and winning it all. This experience will ultimately lead the leaders back to the promised land.

Michael Haag | Sports editor

AFC Championship: Cincinnati Bengals

Since Mahomes isn’t 100% healthy for this game, it’s a tough pick against a top team the Cincinnati Bengals. Cincinnati quarterback Burrow has been phenomenal thus far and is poised for another big game on the road. Mahomes won’t allow a blowout, especially at home, but the Bengals should come out on top with a win in this one.

NFC Championship: San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers roster is so talented that it doesn’t matter how good Purdy is. The fact that a third-string pitcher is able to put up solid numbers and help his team get to the NFC championship game is bad enough. The Eagles have had an incredible year, but San Francisco has playmakers too tough to contain, which should lead to a road win for the 49ers.

Super Bowl: San Francisco 49ers

As brutal as it is for Burrow and the Bengals, the 49ers will take home the Lombardi trophy. Cincinnati’s defense has played really well in the playoffs, but it won’t be able to slow down players like running back Christian McCaffrey, wide receiver Deebo Samuel or tight end George Kittle. Back-to-back Super Bowl losses are crushing for Burrow’s team, but John Elway has weathered even worse odds, so Burrow will be fine.

Pierson Luscy | LTVN reporter/anchor

AFC Championship: Kansas City Chiefs

Even though Mahomes has a high ankle sprain, I don’t think it will be a factor in his availability. The Bengals have had the Chiefs number in their last two matchups, but that changes this game. Cincinnati won’t have enough in its defensive playbook to stop Kansas City’s high-powered offense. The key matchup in this game to watch will be Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster against Bengals cornerback Eli Apple. Apple has had a hard time covering Buffalo Bills’ Stefon Diggs and won’t have the safety help he got last week due to Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce.

NFC Championship: San Francisco 49ers

Purdy will continue his incredible rookie season with a trip to the Super Bowl. He’s been put in a position where he doesn’t have to be the reason they win, but he also can’t be the reason they lose. Purdy will not have the opportunity to give away the game thanks to the athleticism of Samuel and McCaffery. The Eagles don’t have enough big plays to get past the very talented 49ers defense due to their amazing defensive players. The matchup to watch this game will be Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts and San Francisco linebacker Fred Warner.

Super Bowl: San Francisco 49ers

This will be a rematch of Super Bowl 2020, but the game will be anything but the same. Mahomes will still be the Chiefs quarterback, but Purdy will make a name for himself. In this game, he’s going to have to make a few plays to win the game, something defending starter Jimmy Garoppolo couldn’t do the last time they played in the big game. From what Purdy has done in the few games he’s played so far, he can beat a team like the Chiefs.

The matchup to watch will be Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones vs. 49ers left tackle Trent Williams due to Jones’ presence in the backfield and Williams’ talent at pass protection.

Nick Cook | Web editor

AFC Championship: Cincinnati Bengals

Kansas City and Mahomes will come out strong, but Burrow and the Bengals will be able to fight back after being defeated early. Burrow, former quarterback of Louisiana State University, will be able to remain undefeated against Mahomes in direct matches.

NFC Championship: San Francisco 49ers

Purdy’s magic will stay alive after a back-and-forth game against the Eagles, but the 49ers will be able to get the last laugh on a game-winning field goal.

Super Bowl: San Francisco 49ers

The Bengals will be unable to lift the demons and will lose a rematch of the 1982 and 1989 Super Bowls to go winless in their Super Bowl history.

Nicholas foster | Sports writer

AFC Championship: Kansas City Chiefs

Burrow and Cincinnati will be flying high when they enter Arrowhead Stadium after defeating the Bills. It’s hard to bet against Burrow after his recent success against the Chiefs, but it’s even harder to bet against Mahomes, even with an injured ankle. Mahomes will be less mobile and forced to sit in the pocket and make big plays.

As long as the Chiefs’ improved offensive line gives him time, there will be no slowing down the future two-time MVP. Even if Burrow is able to match it, Sunday’s game could be the first time his overconfidence has backfired, resulting in the team falling short of expectations.

The Bengals battling the Chiefs will be an anticipated playoff rivalry for years to come, but Kansas City ultimately wins this year to tie Burrow’s playoff record against Mahomes with one win apiece.

NFC Championship: Philadelphia Eagles

I’ll come out and say it: Purdy’s not that good. He is average and he does everything asked of him, nothing less and nothing more. While on paper the Eagles’ defense may not square up well with the 49ers’ explosive offense, veteran leadership and playoff experience will favor the Eagles. Coupled with a decent defense, the Eagles have an MVP-caliber quarterback in Hurts who can excel in big moments and close out games. Hurts will eventually make crucial plays and Philadelphia will control this game from the start.

The combination of great coaching on both sidelines and two solid defenses will result in a low scoring game, but the Eagles will control the pace and momentum from start to finish.

Super Bowl: Philly Eagles

Looks like this will be the Andy Reid Bowl. The Kansas City coach will battle his former team for a chance to be crowned champion once again. Only problem? Nick Sirianni and the Eagles will be well prepared, full of energy and for some reason underdogs.

Last time Philadelphia was in that position it got the job done and this time will be no different. Mahomes will still have limitations due to his injured ankle, and unlike the Bengals’ pass rush, the Eagles will be brutal, forcing quick shots and bad plays. This game will be fast, punchy, heavy, explosive and well-trained football will be the talk of the town after Philly defeats Mahomes. Meanwhile, Reid reflects on what went wrong as he tries to plan for next season.

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