By NFL Correspondent D.Higgins
Divisional Round Recap
Last week, I made my Divisional Round predictions. Let’s see how (terribly) I did:
Prediction: Bengals 24 – Titans 21
Actual Score: Bengals 19 – Titans 16
Comment: This is the only game I got correct! Even though quarterback Joe Burrow was sacked nine times and threw one interception, he still threw for 348 yards on 28 of 37 passing and led the Cincinnati offense. Their defense did the rest, holding Tennessee to just 16 points, and forcing them to go just 1 for 8 on third down conversions.
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Prediction: Bills 38 – Chiefs 28
Actual Score: Chiefs 42 – Bills 36 (OT)
Comment: It was a high-scoring game, as I predicted, but the Chiefs simply out-dueled the Bills in one of the greatest NFL Playoff games of all time. This game was 26-21 in favor of the Chiefs with less than 2 minutes to go in the 4th quarter. In a final, insane flurry, both teams traded punches and spectacular plays (or was it defensive breakdowns?) until the score was tied 36-36 at the end of regulation. The Bills (whose 422 yards of total offense was still not enough) lost the coin toss to begin overtime, and QB Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs did their thing, taking just 8 plays in 4 minutes to march downfield and score the game-winning touchdown.
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Prediction: Packers 31 – Niners 24
Actual Score: Niners 13 – Packers 10
Comment: In a surprisingly low-scoring game, the San Francisco defense held the powerful Green Bay offense to just 263 total yards. The 49ers were even worse at just 212 yards on offense, but they ended up with the ball on the final possession, which ended on a Robbie Gould 45-yard field goal to win it after a 9 play, 44-yard drive. Quarterback Aaron Rogers and the Packers just never got going, leaving Rogers’ future as a Packer in doubt.
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Prediction: Buccaneers 27 – Rams 17
Actual Score: Rams 30 – Buccaneers 27
Comment: This was the third game that ended in a game-winning, walk-off field goal, as the Rams recovered to beat Tampa Bay after nearly blowing a 27-3 lead in the 3rd quarter. Teams know that they can’t give Tom Brady a second chance, because he will always take advantage of it. Brady threw the ball a startling 54 times, completing 30 of them for 329 yards. But Matthew Stafford outdid the GOAT, going 28 for 38 and 366 yards, throwing 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. His biggest pass was to Cooper Kupp with just enough time left to spike the ball and get a Matt Gay 30-yard field goal to secure a championship game for the Rams.
Overall, I went a lousy 1-3, but I am happy to have been wrong on the Rams, as we have an L.A. vs San Francisco match-up in the NFC to look forward to now.
*AFC and NFC Championship Games*
AFC: Bengals @ Chiefs
Sunday, Jan. 30, 12pm on CBS
Why does this feel like the Chiefs will beat the pants off the Bengals? Cincinnati has a similarly good defense (allowing 350.8 yds/game and 22.1 points/game vs the Chiefs 368.9 yds/game and 21.4 points/game); and their powerful offensive attack featuring QB Joe Burrow are not too far off either (Cincy averaged 361.5 yds/game and 27.1 points/game against 396.8 yds/game and 28.2 points/game for the Chiefs).
Still, as much as I like the Bengals’ underdog story and rooting for a player named Higgins, I think the experience of Kansas City wins out, especially combined with the versatility of their offense, led by QB Patrick Mahomes, WR Tyreek Hill, and TE Travis Kelce. Look for the Chiefs to win the AFC and play in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.
Prediction: Chiefs 35 – Bengals 24
NFC: 49ers @ Rams
Sunday, Jan. 30, 3:30pm on FOX
It’s time for L.A. vs San Francisco, again. Last time, the Dodgers beat the Giants in MLB’s 2021 NLDS. This time it’s the Rams’ turn to advance, but it won’t be easy. The Rams have not beaten the 49ers since 2018.
These teams are very familiar with each other, playing twice a year in the NFC West, yet they’ve only faced each other in the postseason once, in the 1990 NFC Championship Game that saw Joe Montana’s 49ers pound the Rams 30-3 (and then go on to whoop my Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV).
But that was decades ago. To show you how evenly matched they are today, San Francisco’s defense allowed 21.5 points/game during the regular season, while the Rams allowed 21.9. The Rams averaged 27.1 points/game on offense and SF averaged 25.1. It’s going to be a tough one.
Simply because I’m rooting for a) A Super Bowl home game for the Rams; and, b) The Los Angeles team to beat the SF team, I’m going with the Rams to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl LVI on February 13.
Prediction: Rams 31 – Niners 24
There you have it, more fearless predictions for this penultimate round of the NFL Playoffs. There’s no way these conference championship games will be as crazy as last weekend, right? We’ll see. I am predicting a Chiefs vs Rams Super Bowl on Feb. 13, so don’t be surprised when it’s the Bengals vs the 49ers. Until next time…