The championship round of the AFC and NFC playoffs will be looking a little different this year.
For the first time since 2010, both No. 1 seeds were eliminated, with the Titans losing to the Bengals and the Packers falling to the 49ers on Saturday, both on walk-off field goals. The next day, the No. 2 Buccaneers were eliminated on a walk-off field goal by the Rams despite making an improbable comeback from down 27-3 to tie the game. The only game of the weekend that didn’t end on a field goal was the overtime thriller between the Chiefs and Bills that featured 25 combined points in the final two minutes of regulation. It ended with the Chiefs scoring a touchdown on the opening drive of OT.
Cincinnati will now head to Kansas City to decide the AFC’s representative in Super Bowl 56, while it will be an in-state battle with San Francisco taking on Los Angeles in the NFC title matchup.
Patrick Mahomes outlasted Josh Allen and the Bills in the divisional round. Now, he’ll have to face off with Joe Burrow and the Bengals to advance to the Super Bowl for the third straight year.
These teams met in Cincinnati on Jan. 2, with the Bengals outscoring the Chiefs 17-3 in the second half to win 34-31 and clinch the AFC North title. Mahomes threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns while Burrow passed for 446 yards and four touchdowns. Rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase had a record-setting afternoon with 11 catches for 266 yards and three touchdowns.
It is no surprise that these offenses ranked among the best in passing in the NFL during the regular season. The Chiefs finished the 2021 campaign fourth with 4,791 passing yards, while the Bengals had the seventh-most at 4,403. Neither team was particularly great at defending the pass, however; the Chiefs allowed the sixth-most passing yards (4,273) and Cincinnati allowed the seventh-most (4,222). This has the potential to be a back-and-forth offensive showdown.
No. 4 Rams vs. No. 6 49ers
The NFC West sent three of its four teams to the playoffs in the 2021 season, so it seems fitting that the conference will be represented by one of them in the Super Bowl.
The 49ers punched their ticket to the NFC championship — their second trip in three years — by beating the Packers 13-10 at a snowy Lambeau Field on Saturday. The Rams will be in their second conference title game in four years after avoiding a complete meltdown against the Buccaneers in a 30-27 win Sunday. San Francisco has owned Los Angeles in recent years, having won each of the past six matchups, including on the final week of the 2021 campaign to punch its ticket to the playoffs.
While Matthew Stafford and the Rams finished the season with the eighth-most total yards (6,325) and tied for the seventh-most points (460), they’ll have to contend with a red-hot defense that has stifled the Cowboys and Packers in the first two rounds of the playoffs. San Francisco finished the season having allowed the third-fewest total yards (5,270) and was tied for the ninth-fewest points allowed (365).