By Marc Lawrence, Playbook Sports — And, finally, there were four. First up will be the top two defenses in the league matching up, each with a star quarterback. Later, it will be a talented transformed upstart vs. a franchise seeking the mantel of best postseason team in NFL history. Grab a cold one, sit back, and enjoy:
Kansas City over BALTIMORE by 1
Baltimore is hosting a conference championship game for the first time since 1971 against a team that plays at this stage every year. And the Ravens are favored. Think about that. Since becoming QB1 in 2018, Patrick Mahomes has led the Chiefs to the AFC championship game every year. Speaking of Mahomes, he threw two touchdown passes to Travis Kelce against the Bills last week, which marks the 15th and 16th time they’ve connected for a TD in the playoffs.
That moves them ahead of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski for the most scoring connections in NFL postseason history. And while you’re at it, check out his four career stats against the Ravens: 98 for 139, 1,253 yards, 12 TDs, and 2 INTs. All of which is good for a prodigious 122.1 Quarterback Rating. Not to mention Mahomes’ 9-3 SU and 12-1 ATS dog log in his NFL career. Enter the next MVP, Lamar Jackson, and the team most feel is the one to beat from this point forward, the Ravens. Baltimore’s three first-quarter points Saturday marked the first time the Ravens had scored in the opening period of a playoff game with Jackson at the helm.
Conversely, Mahomes has led the Chiefs to points on the opening drive in their last seven postseason outings. When it comes to experience, one team has it, while the other only wishes it did. The AFC Championship will be Patrick Mahomes’ 17th playoff game. With it, he has almost an entire regular season’s worth of experience. At 28, he has played in nearly as many playoff games (16) as Jared Goff, Lamar Jackson, and Brock Purdy combined (17). He is also 13-3 in his postseason career, including 4-0 SUATS versus .777 or greater foes and 4-0 SUATS against teams with an equal or better record.
Meanwhile, Jackson is 1-3 SU in his career against the Chiefs and 0-3 SUATS in the postseason, coming off a win of 24 or fewer points. And then there is Andy Reid and his 3-0 SUATS record in head-to-head games with John Harbaugh when Kansas City enters off a pair of outright wins, scoring 33-plus points in each contest. In closing, it should be noted the Ravens gave up the fewest points/game in the league this year (16.5), and the Chiefs gave up the second-fewest (17.3).
When a conference title game pairs the top two scoring defenses in the league, the winner has gone on to win the Super Bowl in five of five Super Bowls. Remember that in two weeks.
SAN FRANCISCO over Detroit by 11
It’s official. Detroit will no longer be among the quartet of NFL teams to never qualify for the Super Bowl. (The Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns, and Jacksonville Jaguars). The Lions have two postseason wins this year, which is more victories than they had in every other season combined in the Super Bowl era. From 1966 through 2022, they had one win. If you’re under 67 years old, you were not alive the last time the Detroit Lions won two playoff games in the same season, which happened in 1957. It’s when the Lions last won a road playoff game when they beat … San Francisco, in which they trailed by 20 points in the second half, aided by a defense that created four turnovers in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, the Lions haven’t won ANY road games against the 49ers since 1975. Over the past 48 years, they’ve played in San Francisco 13 times and lost all 13 games. Making history, though, is Jared Goff, who is just the third QB in history to lead multiple teams to 14 wins in a single season. The only quarterbacks to pull that off are Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. That’s some rather elite company. The well-Oiled Machine notes that NFL playoff dogs with the better win percentage (Lions) are 31-21-2 ATS since 1980 – but only 6-22 SU and 11-15-2 ATS when taking more than three points, featuring 0-15 SU and 3-11-1 ATS since 1996. What it means is that dog lovers need to lose their woodies immediately. On the other side of the field, the 49ers’ trip to the NFC title game will mark their 19th since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. That number is a record, and it’s four more than the next closest team in the NFC. It is also San Francisco’s third straight trip to the NFC title game and fourth in the past five seasons. Today’s win would give them an NFL-best 38th postseason win, one more than the Patriots and the Packers. For now, Frisco is 24-6 SU and 21-9 ATS from Game Ten out the past three seasons, while NFC No. 1 seeds in the championship round arriving off a in-no-cover are 10-5 SU and 9-5-1 ATS. And don’t forget that 49ers’ coach Kyle Shanahan is now 5-0 at home in the playoffs. The bottom line is that when you scope out the Kenny White Power Ratings, you’ll find the Niners a 12-point favorite in this contest. Who are we to fade a gap that large?