Sports

Picks and predictions for 2021 AFC and NFC Championships

It’s Championship Sunday of the 2021 NFL season, and three of the four quarterbacks are aiming for their first title. Then there’s Patrick Mahomes.

Matchup

Cincinnati Bengals

10-7

Kansas City Chiefs

12-5

Sunday, Jan. 30

3 p.m. ET

The Bengals belong in this game. Any narrative otherwise is nonsense. Joe Burrow is burgeoning into a top-five quarterback and his weapons are elite, led by Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. The defense has Trey Hendrickson, who earned Pro Bowl honors with 14 sacks. Head coach Zac Tylor, in only his third year, is a terrific young mind.

In short, Cincinnati is terrific and capable of winning this game.

Yet picking against Patrick Mahomes right now can be someone else’s move. Mahomes has been on an all-time heater in the playoffs, helping Kansas City score 42 points in each of their first two games.

The Chiefs are attempting to reach their third straight Super Bowl by way of their fourth consecutive AFC Championship Game at home. Can the Bengals go into Arrowhead and win? Yes. But betting against Mahomes and an offense operating at an all-time level isn’t the wise move.

Pick: Kansas City 38, Cincinnati 27

Matchup

San Francisco 49ers

10-7

Los Angeles Rams

12-5

Sunday, Jan. 30

6:40 p.m. ET

How do you pick against a team that has beaten its opponent six consecutive times over the past three seasons? The Niners have dismantled the Rams at every turn, beating them 31-7 in November and then rallying from a 17-0 deficit at Candlestick South in Week 18 to make the playoffs.

Last year, an injury-ravaged San Francisco team beat Los Angeles on the road with Nick Mullens under center. It’s an example that this isn’t necessarily about talent but style, and a coaching hex being placed on Sean McVay by good buddy, Kyle Shanahan.

So what happens this Sunday? If San Francisco has a healthy Trent Williams on the left side, that’s a massive help. Williams and his fellow offensive linemen are the key for the 49ers, as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo needs both good pockets and to stay ahead of the sticks.

However, Williams is dealing with an ankle sprain that might keep him out of Sunday’s tilt, or severely limit him. His health come the weekend might well determine the game.

Pick: Los Angeles 23, San Francisco 20

Last Week: 1-3
Playoffs: 7-3

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