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NFL Game of the Week: Conference Championships Edition

NFL Game of the Week: Conference Championships Edition

Inform your NFL predictions ahead of the biggest matches this season with Mark Taylor's Game of the Week. This week, the Philadelphia Eagles host the San Francisco 49’ers for the NFC Championship while the Kansas City Chiefs host the Cincinnati Bengals for the AFC title.

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The Championship Games

With the expansion of the number of postseason sides to 14, combined with knockout football, we might have expected an increase in playoff variance and a few more upsets.

But such was the difference in quality between the handful of truly playoff-worthy sides and the rest, that the cream has risen to the top.

The top two seeds made it to the NFC Championship game and the first and third seed progressed to the AFC Championship game.

Cincinnati Bengals (14-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (15-3): Odds at a glance


Cincinnati Bengals

Kansas City Chiefs

Money Line

1.892 (-112)*

2.000 (-100)*


-1.0 1.970 (-103)*

+1.0 1.917(-109)*

Total Team Points

Over 23.5 1.854 (-117)*

Over 22.5 1.813 (-123)*

Total Game Points

Over 47.5 2.030 (+103)*
Under 47.5 1.862 (-116)*

The Chiefs needed Cincinnati to beat Buffalo in the Divisional round to regain home field advantage in the AFC decider.

That duly happened, but they’ll be anxiously awaiting the injury status of Patrick Mahomes after the league’s undisputed star quarterback rolled an ankle after just a quarter played in their Divisional round win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Jump shots were replaced by hops and skips and passing variety was designed on the fly, as Mahomes’ favourite target, tight end Travis Kelce, lined up in a host of different starting positions.

Kelce was targeted 17 times, just one fewer than the remaining Kansas City receivers combined, for 14 catches, including shots by back-up quarterback Chad Henne, who replaced Mahomes for much of the second quarter.

It was an excellent team performance; Henne led a 98-yard touchdown drive, the defence forced four punts, and the team recovered a fumble and made an interception on Jacksonville’s 10 drives, but they’ll need Mahomes to regain some of the elusive mobility that sets him above other great passers.

The Cincinnati Bengals overcame the snowy Buffalo conditions that made passing difficult (although not for quarterback Joe Burrow), to renew a burgeoning rivalry with the Chiefs and set up a repeat of last year’s Championship game.

The Bengals moved the ball with prolonged passing drives, controlled their double-figure lead with Joe Mixon’s 20 carry, 105-yard game, and kept the Buffalo defence away from Burrow, even with a depleted line.

Burrow is quick enough to avoid trouble and has become smart enough to release the ball quickly, partly due to lesson’s learned from the numerous sacks he took earlier in his career.

They’ve also overcome a prolonged and extensive injury crisis and are on a 10-game winning streak, including a narrow home win over the Chiefs, their third win in roughly a calendar year against Sunday’s hosts.

There’s little between the teams based on scoring rates, so take Cincinnati to trouble a wounded Mahomes enough to win the game 27-24.


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San Francisco 49’ers (15-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (15-3): Odds at a glance


San Francisco 

Philadelphia Eagles

Money Line

2.250 (+125)*

1.709 (-141)*


+2.5 1.970 (-103)*

-2.5 1.917(-109)*

Total Team Points

Over 21.5 1.900 (-111)*

Over 23.5 1.800 (-125)*

Total Game Points

Over 46.5 1.961 (-104)*
Under 46.5 1.925 (-108)*

The Brock Purdy bandwagon rolls onto the NFC Championship game, but it’s only going to get tougher from now on.

He’ll be reacquainted with Jalen Hurts for the first time since they combined for 11 total touchdowns when Hurts’ Oklahoma defeated Purdy’s Iowa State 42-41 back when they were playing college football.

Last Sunday was the first game where Purdy has drawn a touchdown blank as a starter. Yards per attempt and pass completion rates were slightly below his seasonal averages and 2022’s final draft pick finally found it difficult to put points on the board.

33 points have been the bare minimum produced by Purdy in six of his previous seven career starts, but punts and field goals dominated during the 49’ers nine drives on Sunday.

It needed the typically dominant 49’ers defence, which stifled the running game and turned over Dallas’ Dak Prescott, to ensure that 19 offensive points were enough to progress.

The Philadelphia Eagles cruised to an easy win over their overachieving divisional rivals, the New York Giants. They led early, relying upon quarterback Jalen Hurts’ sparse but efficient and mistake-free passing, interspersed with drive-extending runs and a defence that confused and confounded the Giants’ passer.

That approach has served the Eagles well. They run the ball as often as they pass, contrary to the NFL’s usual pass-heavy approach, and they’ve been able to build a lead in the air and then manage the game on the ground.

Hurts is a seasoned campaigner compared to Purdy – three years in the league, already with postseason experience to lean on.

His completion rate of 66.5% this year, plus his eight yards per passing attempt and a steadily declining interception rate already has him marked for successful longevity.

He has a record of 38-7 as a starter, though he is flanked by an impressive array of receiving talent in A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert, plus he can rely on a versatile ground option (including Miles Sanders) and a defence that is very good against the pass.

San Francisco have the league’s standout defence, but the Eagles can also torment opposing passers – having made 17 interceptions in 2022 – and we may have seen Purdy reach his first-season ceiling, with some unsteady play and some near picks.

The teams’ defences will likely dominate this game, unlike the last meeting between Hurts and Purdy as college students, and while Purdy is surrounded by talent on both sides of the ball,a road Championship game may test this appealing narrative.

So take the hosts to reach the Super Bowl with a 23-16 victory.

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*Odds subject to change



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Mark Taylor
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