With the days before Super Bowl 58 waning, only four teams remain standing. Both championship games have every bit of drama that is to be desired in playoff football. Can Lamar finally make the jump? Will Mahomes prove he is undoubtedly the most talented quarterback ever? Is the Lions’ run a fluke, or are they here to stay for at least the immediate future? Is Brock Purdy good enough to push his team forward?
Starting in Baltimore, the AFC Championship pits the red-hot Ravens and the always challenging Chiefs. What’s most important to know about the Ravens is QB Lamar Jackson will likely be securing his second MVP in his career. Despite not filling the stat-sheet with eye-popping stats, Jackson was integral to his team's success. Lamar took his largest jump as a passer, on top of his already unreal outside-of-the-pocket and improvisational skills. Not only did Jackson have a great season, middle linebacker Roquan Smith also earned his third first-team All-Pro. The Ravens RPO offense is one of, if not the most efficient offenses in the NFL, posing a serious threat to the Chiefs weak run defense.
The Chiefs, on the other hand, will have to rely on the superhuman Patrick Mahomes. Although the Ravens don’t have any elite lockdown corners, they haven’t had to rely on them. The Chiefs will need to find a way to operate outside of the middle of this Ravens defense. The four of the Ravens five best defenders sit in the middle of the field. The Chiefs will need Rashee Rice or any of their other serviceable wideouts to have the game of their lives. RB Isiah Pacheco will also have to take pressure off Mahomes so he’s not dropping back 35-plus times. With that being said, I think the Ravens win 24-20.
Moving to cloudy San Francisco, the 49ers take on the Lions for the NFC Championship. Starting with the 49ers, the power behind the team is their stars. The 49ers had a ridiculous nine Pro Bowl selections. Despite all this stardom, the most important player in this matchup is Brock Purdy. Purdy has had his ability in question ever since his rise to stardom began. If Brock wants to continue to prove doubters wrong he needs to be able to execute against a porous Detroit secondary. Having weapons like Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle certainly helps, but he has to find them.
The Lions have been arguably the most exciting and unexpected team of 2023. Many picked the Vikings to win the division, and of those who picked the Lions to win the division, it wasn’t expected of them to win a playoff game, let alone make the NFC Championship. Success story aside, can the Lions beat the star-studded 49ers? If they want to win they have to be able to move the ball on the ground, keeping the momentum off of the 49ers sideline. If the Lions are able to operate in their classic play-action offense and don’t ask Jared Goff to try and play hero ball, they can pull off the upset. With that being said, I expect the 49ers to overcome an early and late surge from the Lions and win 28-24.
Both games have the potential to be remembered for Decades.