And then there were four! The 2022-23 NFL season is drawing to a close as the world tunes in to watch the Philadelphia Eagles/San Francisco 49ers and the Cincinnati Bengals/Kansas City Chiefs battle it out to represent the NFC and AFC respectively, in one of the most watched sporting events in the world. With just hours left before the games, let’s take a look at which player will be the deciding factor in getting their team to Super Bowl 57.
Philadelphia Eagles: AJ Brown
The 49ers secondary gave up the sixth most receiving yard to wide receivers this year. While San Francisco might be one of the premier defenses in the league, that’s a flaw duty be exploited. AJ Brown has elevated the Eagles offense to a whole different level, giving Jalen Hurts a true number one option to rely on in tight situations. If Brown can play at the level we all know and expose his opponents today, we may very well see Philadelphia in their second Super Bowl in five years.
San Francisco 49ers: Trent Williams
The Philadelphia Eagles defensive line produced a historic 75 sacks in 18 games, ranking them as one of the best in NFL history. Today they face third-string rookie Brock Purdy, a quarterback who has taken the football world by storm after arriving and playing at an unexpectedly high level. Purdy has the ability to maneuver into the pocket and extend plays, but today it’s up to his blind tackle, Trent Williams, to guard his back as he searches for open receivers. Not to mention, Williams is a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame, so we all know he can pull it off. It’s up to him today to excel in his role as usual and help his quarterback lead the offense to rack up a lot of points.
Kansas City Chiefs: Trent McDuffie
Rookie cornerback Trent McDuffie has had success against All-Pro level wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase so far in his young career. Many people questioned the legitimacy of the Chiefs’ defense all year, commonly citing it as a downfall of the perennial championship contender. Whether it was a day off for Chase or McDuffie’s true ability to shut Chase down, tonight must be reciprocated. Closing the former LSU Tiger would be an absolute huge opening to a victory path for Kansas City, taking out Burrow’s top safety blanket. Lou Anarumo will be ready to neutralize the Kansas City offense to the best of his ability, so it’s up to the Chiefs defense to hold their own. McDuffie must be a huge aspect of it.
Cincinnati Bengals: Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson
One underrated feature of the Chiefs’ offense that is starting to enter the spotlight is their running game. Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon were a dynamic duo of production, raw talent and great playing ability. It’s a really important success factor for Kansas City and the Bengals defensive line needs to be aware of it. Patrick Mahomes is playing injured and it makes perfect sense for the Chiefs to rely on their running game a little more than usual. Similar to Week 13, Kansas City will not be throwing the ball directly to big DJ Reader, but instead to the outfield. Cincinnati defensive ends Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson need to be ready to fight him.