The Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs didn’t go as I expected. I predicted the top-seeded Titans and Packers to win, but unfortunately for me, both lost embarrassingly. The Titans had every opportunity to win, but thanks to three interceptions and questionable playcalling, the Titans are going home early. On the other hand, the Packers scored just ten points against a wounded 49ers team that has no business competing in the NFC Championship game. As of now, I am 8/10 on my playoff predictions. So, with two games remaining, I’m hoping to bring my total to 10/12 and keep it looking respectable!

Nonetheless, the NFC and AFC Championship games are finally here. The Bengals will go to Arrowhead Stadium to take on the reigning 2x AFC champion Chiefs, while the 49ers will travel to SoFi Stadium to face a Rams team desperate to host a home Super Bowl. The Chiefs have been here and done that, while the Bengals, who beat them in the regular season, still smell like Similac. The Rams went all-in when they traded for Matthew Stafford, Von Miller, and Odell Beckham Jr. but haven’t been able to topple Mt. Kyle Shanahan as of late. Both the Rams and Chiefs are in danger of being upset if they don’t take their opponents seriously.

In the end, however, I’m predicting a Super Bowl 54 rematch between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers.

Bengals vs Chiefs

Three weeks ago, Joe Burrow led the Bengals on a game-winning drive to beat the Chiefs. As impressive as it was to topple the regular-season juggernauts, this team is a different animal in the playoffs. The Chiefs scored 40 or more points three times in 17 games during the regular season. But in the playoffs, the Chiefs have scored 42 points in back-to-back games. Neither Mike Tomlin’s defense nor the #1 ranked total defense of the Buffalo Bills could stop Patrick Mahomes. Even with 13 seconds left on the clock, the Bills defense couldn’t stop Mahomes from driving his team into field goal range and eventually winning the game on their first overtime drive.

Like the Cardinals, most thought that the Bengals were a year away. Their quick turnaround is truly a sight to behold, and I believe that barring health, Joe Burrow will one day lead the Bengals to a Super Bowl. This Sunday, however, their fairytale season comes to an end.

Keys to a Chiefs Win

The Three-Headed Monster

As long as the three-headed monster of Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and Patrick Mahomes is on the field, I don’t see how the Chiefs lose. The chemistry they’ve built together rivals that of Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams.

The threat of their passing game will open up room for their running game and will even provide Mahomes the opportunity to scramble. Against the Bills, Mahomes ran for 69 yards, which led his team and gave the Bills one more reason to worry. As long as the Chiefs can keep the Bengals guessing, it’ll expose their inexperience and allow the Chiefs to score in bunches.

Protect Mahomes, Get After Burrow

Against the Bills, Patrick Mahomes basically came away untouched. He was sacked twice and hit a total of four times. The Chief’s offensive line went through some growing pains throughout the season but is finally clicking at the right time. As long as Mahomes has time to throw, he can dissect any defense the NFL throws his way. If the playoff-tested #1 defense of the Bills couldn’t stop playoff Mahomes, how will the #17 Bengals defense fare?

While the Chiefs protect Mahomes, their pass rush needs to disrupt Burrow. The Bengals receiving core is lethal, and Joe Burrow is more than capable of getting the ball to all three of his top weapons. The Chiefs will need excellent games from Chris Jones, Frank Clark, Melvin Ingram, and their secondary must play better than it did against Buffalo. Getting Tyrann Mathieu back from concussion protocol would be huge for this defense.

Andy Reid vs Zac Taylor

In the end, I’m going to take Andy Reid over Zac Taylor. What Taylor’s done with the Bengals this season is phenomenal. He’s overachieved and has earned the right to coach this team another year. However, in a game such as the AFC Championship, I’m taking experience over youth. There aren’t many experienced offensive minds that can dial it up as Andy Reid can.

From my perspective, the combination of Reid, Eric Bienemy, Patrick Mahomes, and all the weapons at their disposal will be too much for the Bengals to overcome.

49ers vs Rams

The pressure is on for the Rams as they look to follow in the Buccaneer’s footsteps. Last season, the Bucs became the first team to host and win a home Super Bowl. With SoFi Stadium hosting it this year, the Rams are desperate to do the same. So much so that the Rams restricted ticket sales to keep 49er fans out. Something that 49er’s star wide receiver, Deebo Samuel, took issue with on Twitter.

Needless to say, the 49ers are playing with house money. Not many predicted the 49ers to even make the playoffs, let alone the NFC Championship game, after the way their season started. They’ve battled injuries all season, and of course, they’ve dealt with quarterback controversy all season. After drafting Trey Lance third overall, everyone and their grandmother knew it was only a matter of time until fans started calling for the rookie. Due to Jimmy Garoppolo’s injuries, Lance wound up starting two games, going 1-1. Yet, Jimmy G has remained the 49ers starter.

Whether you like him or not, for whatever reason, Jimmy G wins football games with Kyle Shanahan, especially when it comes to facing the Rams. A trend I expect to continue as the 49ers go to their second Super Bowl in three seasons.

Keys to a 49ers Win

Kyle Shanahan versus Sean McVay

In ten games, Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers are 7-3, including a six-game winning streak versus Sean McVay’s Rams. In week 18 of the NFL season, the Rams held a 17-3 lead entering the half against the 49ers. In Sean McVay’s career, he had never lost a game in which he entered halftime with a lead until Kyle Shanahan blew the doors down. In the battle of young offensive minds, Shanahan owns McVay.

There’s no doubt the Rams have more stars on their roster. Unfortunately, when facing Shanahan’s 49ers, the stars don’t seem to matter. For one reason or another, the 49ers have the Rams number. Come this Sunday, and I expect another Niners win.

Force Turnovers

In their two regular-season meetings, Matthew Stafford threw four total interceptions. His two interceptions are the primary reason Sean McVay’s half-time-lead streak ended. The secondary of the 49ers is the weakness of their defense, but thanks to the ferociousness of their front seven, they force Stafford to make rushed decisions. If the 49ers can continue the trend and give their offense short-fields, this game could get out of hand quickly as it did in their first meeting.

Stafford avoided turnovers in each of the LA’s first two playoff games. But for someone who, during the regular season, averaged more than turnover a game, he’s due for one of those games. And if anyone can force him into one of those games, it’s Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers.

To Recap…

I’ve got the Chiefs going to their third-straight Super Bowl to face the 49ers in a rematch of Super Bowl 54. I think that the Chief’s experience in the NFL playoffs combined with their firepower on offense will be too much for the youthful Bengals to handle. Whereas with the 49ers, I expect them to continue their dominance over the Rams despite Jimmy Garoppolo’s injuries. No matter the outcomes, however, the championship round is sure to be one to remember. Just as this entire NFL season will be one to remember.

Follow me on Twitter @KENDRlCKS and check out more NFL-related articles by the Belly Up Sports team

About Author

Kendrick Lindsay

Growing up in a single-parent household came with its perks and downsides. Perk, I became very close to my mother. The downside, she wasn't a sports watcher. It wasn't until I was 15 years old that I was introduced to the world of sports/sports media. That's when I truly fell in love with it all. And it wasn't the X's and O's that won me over, it was the deep-rooted stories of the business, the athletes, and the ever so changing nature of sports that intrigued me. As a recent college graduate and Communications major, I hope to put my imprint on the sports media world.

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