NEW YORK– Will Jalen Hurts lead the Eagles to Super Bowl LVII? How about 49ers’ rookie quarterback Brock Purdy? Who will rise on top in the AFC title game between Bengals’ Joe Burrow and Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes?
All those questions, concerns, and more, will get answered on Championship Sunday January 29th.
As the NFL awaits Super Bowl LVII, the stakes only get higher from here – four teams remain, all, so close, yet, so far, from punching their ticket to Glendale, Arizona, for the potential to hoist a Vince Lombardi trophy and be deemed World Champions.
So, where to begin…
3:00 PM ET on FOX: #2 San Francisco 49ers @ #1 Philadelphia Eagles
NFC Championship Game – Lincoln Financial Field
Current Spread: Eagles -2.5
Total: O/U 46.5
No. 1 seed vs. No. 2 seed with a trip to #SBLVII on the line.
Doesn't get any better than this. 🗣️
— NFL (@NFL) January 27, 2023
There’s no better start than with 49ers’ QB Brock Purdy, 7-0 in his career as a starter (6-1 Against The Spread), marking the fifth rookie quarterback in NFL history to start a Conference Championship game, and first since Mark Sanchez in 2009.
Coming off back-to-back home playoff wins, the 23-year-old Iowa State University product threw for a combined 37/59, 546 yards, and three touchdowns with zero turnovers. A key component to winning January football as the margin for error increases with pressure reigning deep.
Besides San Francisco on a 12-game win streak (10-2 ATS), Purdy has a chance at more history on Sunday; no starting rookie QB has reached a Super Bowl.
Leading up to the 49ers trip to Philadelphia, Purdy expressed the importance of remaining poised by focusing on the little things; one example: communication.
“Everything in these kinds of games is all about communication,” Purdy said. “How can you operate smoothly, get in and out of the huddle, get the play off in the right way and make sure everyone is on the right page. So that’s definitely a big emphasis in practice this week.”
For Philadelphia this season, when Jalen Hurts is behind center, the Eagles are 15-1, (9-7 ATS), with their only loss coming in Week 10 vs. Washington. Though many doubted and questioned his potential, Hurts became just the third QB in NFL history to throw for 3,500+ yards, 20+ TD with 10+ rushing TD in a single season.
But, the 24-year-old, of Oklahoma University, isn’t concerned about doubters, or records and accolades. His focus is on Sunday and leading the Eagles to the promised land.
“As a team, we’ve come a very long way,” Hurts said this week. “The beautiful thing about everything is that we’ve continued to just try to climb.”
“I tell them all the time, ‘There’s no point where you’ll arrive; there’s only the journey’ and we just want to continue to live on that journey.”
— NFL (@NFL) January 23, 2023
Since returning from a Week 15 shoulder injury, Hurts (2-0, 1-1 ATS) appears comfortable in the pocket, taking advantage of what opposing defenses present, whether it caters to a pass or run option. In his last two games, he’s completed 36/59 passes for 383 yards, two TD, one INT – 18 rushes for 47 yards with one TD, one fumble.
PICK: Eagles -2.5, Under 46.5
6:30 PM ET on CBS: #3 Cincinnati Bengals @ #1 Kansas City Chiefs
AFC Championship Game – Arrowhead Stadium
Current Spread: Chiefs -2.0
Total: O/U 47.5
Here we are, once again with Bengals-Chiefs squaring off in an AFC Championship rematch headlined by two star-studded quarterbacks in Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes.
And get used to it, at their respective ages of 26, and 27, the rivalry between Burrow-Mahomes is here, and here to stay. Sunday’s AFC title game marks their fourth career matchup with Burrow leading 3-0. In those three games, the combined scores tallied out to 88-79, favoring Cincinnati.
It took overtime to crown last season's AFC champion.
Will the rematch be just as thrilling? 👀
— NFL (@NFL) January 24, 2023
On the Bengals side, Cincinnati stands undefeated since Halloween (Week 10), winning 10 straight games (8-1-1 ATS). Though, the momentum is riding high, and so is Burrow, compiling 451 passing yards with three TD this postseason, the Bengals anticipate the Chiefs being their toughest test yet…
“To me, they’re still the team to beat,” Burrow said about the Chiefs. “We’re coming for them, but we know it’s going to be tough. It’s going to be hard fought and we know the kind of players they have on that side.”
“We know them; they know us. It’s going to be a fun one.”
Regardless of familiarity with one another, the durability of Mahomes’ right-ankle is Sunday’s game-changing factor. The two-time All-Pro QB suffered a high-ankle sprain in last Saturday’s 27-20 Divisional Round victory over Jacksonville, however, is listed as a full-go for the AFC title game.
“I’m doing good, AFC Championship week, I’m ready to go,” Mahomes said. “Ankle is doing good. I’ve had a few days of treatment, a few days of rehab.”
“People will see where I’m at on Sunday.”
For Kansas City, it all depends on the production of Mahomes. In 12 playoff games for his career, Mahomes is 9-3 (7-5 ATS), combining for 3,576 passing yards, 30 TD with seven INT.
And to go further, when the pressure is on, he delivers – Mahomes’ career record at home in December or later: 20-3.
“Everytime I walk on that field, I don’t think I’m an underdog, especially at Arrowhead,” Mahomes said.
PICK: Chiefs -2.0, Over 47.5
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Robert Rizzo is a journalist and co-editor of Latino Sports.
Follow on Twitter: @RobertRiz994
Watch Sports with Rich live on Tuesday Nights at 8pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with host Rich Mancuso and cohost Robert Rizzo.
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