The final four has officially been set, and I would say these four teams are indeed the best in the NFL. This Sunday, we get an AFC Championship Game rematch between the Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs. Joe Burrow appeared to reach a new level of superstardom with the upset win over the Buffalo Bills, and the Bengals defense impressed as well. Patrick Mahomes is dealing with a high ankle sprain heading into this matchup. Could he really lose his fourth straight game to Burrow?
As for the NFC side of things, it's Jalen Hurts vs. Brock Purdy, as the Philadelphia Eagles host the San Francisco 49ers. Both teams are so well-rounded, so what will the X factor be in a win? Will Purdy finally look like a rookie, or should we just stop asking ourselves that question every week?
Here's a look at what I'm thinking this week. As always, credit to the CBS Sports research team for making me sound smart.
All odds come courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.
Playoff ATS record: 6-4
Playoff straight up record: 9-1
Top five picks ATS record: 43-45-1
Overall ATS record: 135-129-7
Straight up record: 177-92-2
San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5)
Sunday, 3 p.m. ET (Fox, FuboTV)
Hurts and the Eagles erased any questions we may have had about them entering the postseason, as they blew out the New York Giants by 31 points. Hurts accounted for three total touchdowns, while Kenneth Gainwell and Miles Sanders combined for 202 rushing yards. The 49ers on the other hand inched by the Dallas Cowboys 19-12 thanks to a 10-3 run in the fourth quarter. San Francisco's offense didn't have their best outing, but George Kittle did catch five passes for 95 yards.
This matchup features an elite offense vs. an elite defense. The 49ers defense and the Eagles offense both ranked first among NFC teams in points per game and yards per game this season. Here's the thing, though: the Eagles had the No. 2 defense in the NFL this season, right behind the 49ers. They are statistically the more well-rounded team -- and have home-field advantage.
Hurts led the NFL in completion percentage, passing touchdowns and passer rating on throws 25 or more yards downfield this season. The 49ers defense ranks 25th or worse in all of those categories. Keep an eye on big plays Sunday. Defensively, no team has recorded more sacks than the Eagles this season (75). They also recorded the second-highest pressure rate in the NFL this season behind the Cowboys. While Dallas lost to San Francisco on Sunday, Purdy had a 39.6 passer rating vs. Cowboys pressure. Brandon Graham, Haason Reddick and the rest of the Eagles pass rushers know what they have to do.
With the number under a field goal, I'll take Philly. Purdy will become the fifth true rookie quarterback to start a conference championship game on Sunday..
The pick: Eagles -2.5
Projected score: Eagles 27-23
Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs (-1)
Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET (CBS, Paramount+)
I don't know about you, but I have a higher level of appreciation for Burrow after last week. The Bengals didn't just upset the Bills, they thrashed them. Joey Franchise made the Buffalo secondary look foolish, while the defense made Josh Allen look uncomfortable. Now, just like last year, the Bengals head to Arrowhead for the AFC Championship Game.
Burrow is 3-0 against Mahomes -- making him the only quarterback to defeat Mahomes three consecutive times. In all three games, the Bengals were either tied or trailing entering the fourth quarter. Burrow is averaging 327.3 passing yards per game against the Chiefs, and has accounted for nine total touchdowns compared to just one turnover. His 121 passer rating vs. Kansas City is Burrow's career best vs. any NFL opponent he's faced at least twice. Throw in the fact that Mahomes isn't 100 percent, and I don't know how I can bet against Burrow and the Bengals.
Burrow vs. Mahomes is going to be what everyone talks about this week, but more attention should be given to the defenses. It will be either the Chiefs defense or Bengals defense that decides the day. Cincy's defense really surprised me last week against Buffalo. This unit recorded 21 pressures on Allen, which were the most pressures recorded by any team in the divisional round. D.J. Reader tied a career-high with five pressures, and then Mike Hilton accounted for four pressures. Hilton in particular was running all over the field, and I guarantee you he will make an impact on Sunday.
I don't love the Eli Apple is , but I just can't bet against the Bengals right now.and that
The pick: Chiefs -1
Projected score: Bengals 28-26