2023 NFL Conference Championship Round Predictions

By Sam Morris

Sam Morris is from Madison Heights, Michigan, and is an undergraduate student at BGSU majoring in Sports Management. He has a passion for sports writing and journalism. In his free time, he volunteers in the strategic communications department at BGSU at various sporting events and he also performs, writes, and produces his own raps for the music industry club at BGSU.

January 28, 2023

Conference Championship Round Overview

After such a crazy NFL season with so many unique storylines, at the conference championship round, the teams remaining are surprisingly predictable. In fact, three out of the four teams remaining were in the conference championship round last season. In the NFC, the Niners are looking to avenge their disappointing loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Rams last season that was the result of a dropped interception by ex-Niner and current Philadelphia Eagle Jaquiski Tartt. On the other hand, the Eagles are looking for their second Super Bowl win in the last six years and will try to give the other three teams their second straight year of failing to win the Super Bowl after getting to the conference championship round. In the AFC, the Chiefs and Bengals meet in the AFC Championship for the second straight year. This is the Chiefs fifth straight AFC Championship game in a row. In their previous four they are 2-2, losing to the Patriots and Bengals but beating the Bills and Titans. The Bengals are attempting to get to the Super Bowl for the second straight season after upsetting the Bills in Buffalo in the divisional round. Below are my predictions for these conference championship matchups.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (15-3) VS. 2. San Francisco 49’ers (15-4) (Sunday, January 29th, 3:00)

Breakdown: Last week, I went 3-1 and my undefeated playoff prediction record was broken as the Eagles absolutely destroyed the Giants on Sunday afternoon. The Eagles proved to me and the rest of the NFL that their defense is able to dominate any offense on any given day as they not only got heavy pressure on Daniel Jones but also held Saquon Barkley to just 61 rushing yards and no touchdowns. Statistically, Jalen Hurts also looked back to full form last week despite his shoulder still obviously looking like it is bugging him. As he goes up against a much more formidable defense in San Francisco, as opposed to New York, helping heal his injury will become even more of an interesting focal point for the Eagles to focus on. Although Philadelphia gave up just 7 points last week, San Francisco’s defense was almost as impressive, only giving up 12 points to a more explosive offense in Dallas. Like the Eagles, the Niners’ pass rush got immense pressure on Dak Prescott, and they also got 2 interceptions to win the game. Overall, I think these are the two best overall teams in the NFL this season. They are both extremely talented and have depth in many facets of their respective rosters. On defense, I think they are very similar and equally talented so I will be looking to their offensives to make this prediction.

Jalen Hurts is an MVP candidate and more experienced than Brock Purdy which gives Philadelphia an advantage at the Quarterback position. Despite this, I think San Francisco has a better running back group because McCaffrey has clearly been a top-3 back since being traded midseason. Although the Eagles have a very talented group as well with Sanders, Scott, and Kenneth Gainwell, McCaffrey’s star power combined with the depth of Elijah Mitchell and rookie Jordan Mason gives the Niners this advantage. The Niners also have Deebo Samuel who can play both wide receiver and running back which gives San Francisco another unique advantage. As for the receiver group, A.J. Brown is the best pure pass catcher out of all the players on each team, but I think San Francisco’s group of Deebo, Aiyuk, Jennings, and Kittle is overall more talented and has more depth than Brown, DeVonta Smith, Watkins, and Goedert. I mainly think this because of Deebo’s unique skillset and Kittle who gives the Niners another level to their offense in the passing and blocking game that Goedert doesn’t give the Eagles. Kittle has 60 receptions, 765 yards, and 11 touchdowns whereas Goedert has 55 receptions, 702 yards, and only 3 touchdowns. With a skill group of McCaffrey, Deebo, and Kittle, the Niners don’t need an MVP level quarterback like the Eagles have in Hurts. It became clear when the Eagles lost Hurts for two games that they needed him to give them their offensive firepower. For these reasons, I think the Niners have a slightly more talented offense and will win this game based on their skill group and by exposing some of the weaknesses in the Eagles’ offense with their elite pass rush defense.    

Prediction: Eagles (21)   49’ers (24)

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (15-3)  VS. 3. Cincinnati Bengals (14-4)  (Sunday, January 29th, 6:30)

Breakdown: While I incorrectly guessed the Giants-Eagles game, I correctly predicted that this would be the AFC championship. One of the most interesting things when looking at this matchup is that the Bengals-Chiefs will be meeting in the AFC Championship for the second straight year. Joe Burrow and the Bengals have beaten Mahomes and the Chiefs by exactly three points three times in a row, 27-24 in this year’s regular season, 27-24 in last year’s AFC Championship, and 34-31 in last year’s regular season. Mahomes and the Chiefs will look to get revenge on Sunday Night Football, but to do so they will have to go through the hottest offense in the NFL. Although the Chiefs have a dominant passing attack, the Bengals pass defense should be able to at least contain them. The Bengals have one of the best secondaries in the NFL, ranking third in passing touchdowns allowed. While the Chiefs barely beat Jacksonville 27-20 last week, the Bengals beat the Bills 27-10 in Orchard Park, mostly because their pass defense held Josh Allen to a mediocre game. With this being said, Mahomes is not on Allen’s level right now as he is still recovering from his mid-game injury against Jacksonville.

On the other hand, the Bengals’ already weak offensive line has lost left tackle Jonah Williams and right tackle La’el Collins. This is not good news for Cincinnati as they go up against the Chiefs pass rush that has 55 sacks, which is second in the NFL behind the Eagles. Although the Chiefs definitely have this advantage on the line of scrimmage, the Bengals have the advantage in the rushing game with Joe Mixon, an advantage at quarterback with Mahomes being injured, and the advantage in the secondary. Because of these advantages, and the fact that the Bengals seem to have Mahomes’ number with 3 victories in a row, I think the Bengals will barely pull off the victory over the Chiefs and will face the Niners in what would be a very exciting Super Bowl.

Prediction:  Chiefs (28)   Bengals (31)

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