Two teams will punch their ticket to Super Bowl LVI on Sunday, January 30, 2022. The Kansas City Chiefs will host the Cincinnati Bengals in the first game, while the Los Angeles Rams will take on division rival San Francisco 49ers in the late game. Kansas City and San Francisco met in the Super Bowl two years ago, and the 49ers would love to get revenge after blowing a 10-point lead in the final seven minutes of the game. San Francisco has history with the other AFC team too, as the 49ers bested the Bengals in the Super Bowl twice in the 1980s.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cincinnati Bengals
We saw Kansas City and Cincinnati square off in Ohio four weeks ago. The Chiefs took an 11-point lead into halftime, but their offense couldn’t move the ball effectively in the second half while the defense couldn’t get off the field. That allowed the Bengals to come from behind and win as the Chiefs had just three points after halftime.
However, Patrick Mahomes has looked like an MVP in the playoffs. Mahomes was very good this year, but it felt like something was off during the regular season. He was a little more turnover prone than usual in the first part of the season, but he is back to being the wizard we have come to admire these last four seasons. Mahomes is completing 75.9% of his passes for 782 yards (9.4 YPA) with eight touchdowns and an interception in Kansas City’s two playoff wins. He is also the leading rusher on the team.
Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill are going to see a lot of passes from Mahomes, and rookie center Creed Humphrey has helped stabilize the offensive line. There are legitimate concerns about both the ground game and the defense though. Tyrann Mathieu is questionable to play with a concussion, and this secondary was torched by Josh Allen while he was out last weekend.
Cincinnati is in the middle of its best season in more than three decades. The Bengals snapped a 30-plus year drought with their win over Las Vegas in the Wild Card Round, and they won their first playoff road game last week against Tennessee. They were rather fortunate in that affair though, and it will be much tougher to beat the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium.
Joe Burrow has proven to be the real deal though. Burrow is completing 73.2% of his passes for 592 yards (8.3 YPA) with two touchdowns and an interception this postseason. His numbers aren’t as gaudy as those of Mahomes, but he is behind a much worse offensive line. Burrow was sacked nine times in the win over the Titans.
Los Angeles Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers
The Los Angeles Rams have not been able to beat the San Francisco 49ers since 2018. The Niners have won six straight games against the Rams, and they beat their NFC West rival in the season finale to make it to the playoffs.
Many observers are calling for the 49ers to pull off the upset too. The Rams won’t have much of a home field advantage as thousands of San Francisco fans are already in southern California or are expected to make the trek down I-5. Additionally, the Niners defense is playing very well and Nick Bosa and Fred Warner both looked like they hadn’t missed a step despite playing with injuries against Green Bay.
The big question for San Francisco is Jimmy Garoppolo. He is easily the least impressive quarterback left in the postseason, as he has thrown for just 303 yards and has yet to throw a touchdown pass. Garoppolo has thrown two interceptions, and he is struggling despite having two very talented players in Deebo Samuel and George Kittle.
There is more starpower on the Rams. Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey are two of the best defensive players in the league, and Donald wreaked havoc in last week’s win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This front seven should be able to stop San Francisco’s run game and make Jimmy G beat them through the air.
Matt Stafford is having a great postseason, but the lack of a strong ground game continues to hurt this offense. Cam Akers is averaging just 2.5 YPC after returning from injury, and that leads to Stafford relying on Cooper Kupp in the passing game.