Our experts offer free NFL picks for the AFC and NFC Championship Games as the matchup for Super Bowl LVII will be decided on Sunday.
The NFL is down to the final four teams and fans should be treated to a pair of intriguing and exciting conference championship games on Sunday. In the NFC, it's the top two teams squaring off whereas the AFC is a rematch from the regular season as well as last season's conference title game.
Related: NFL Playoffs Schedule (Updated)
First up on Sunday is the NFC Championship Game between San Francisco and Philadelphia. The top two seeds have taken care of business to this point, especially the host Eagles, who dominated the Giants 38-7 last Saturday. Meanwhile, the 49ers held the Cowboys in check, picked off Dak Prescott twice, and made enough plays on offense to earn a hard-fought 19-12 victory at home. Besides being the top two teams in the NFC, this also is a matchup of the No. 1 and No. 2 defenses in the league in terms of yards allowed per game while both offenses finished in the top five in the same category during the regular season.
For Philadelphia, Jalen Hurts didn't show any ill effects from the shoulder injury that sidelined him for two games during December in the rout of the Giants, as the Eagles piled up 268 yards and three scores on the ground alone. On the other side, 49ers rookie quarterback Brock Purdy will face his toughest test yet against an Eagles defense that was the runaway leader in sacks during the regular season (70) and also has generated 28 total takeaways in 18 games. San Francisco's defense has fared even better in the turnover department (34 in 19 total games) and is led by All-Pro Nick Bosa, the NFL's sack leader (18.5) this season. This game also is the reason why the 49ers traded for Christian McCaffrey. He has 193 total yards from scrimmage (154 rushing) and two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) in his first two postseason games with San Francisco.
After that, it's another high-stakes showdown between the Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs. The Bengals are looking for back-to-back Super Bowl appearances and know what it takes to beat the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium, having done so in last year's AFC Championship Game (27-24 in overtime). In fact, Cincinnati has won three in a row over Kansas City, including a 27-24 victory at home in Week 13. The Bengals are riding high after last Sunday's convincing 27-10 road win over Buffalo while the Chiefs took care of the Jaguars 27-20. All eyes will be on the health of Patrick Mahomes, who suffered a high ankle sprain in that game. Mahomes was hurt early in the second quarter and went into the locker room for x-rays but was able to return and finish the job against Jacksonville, although he was clearly limited. Backup Chad Henne did his part by leading the team on a 98-yard touchdown drive, but Kansas City will need Mahomes, even if he's not at 100 percent, to beat Cincinnati. Even that may not be enough considering Joe Burrow is 3-0 against the Chiefs with eight touchdown passes and just one interception in those games. Last week against Buffalo, Burrow and the Bengals jumped on the Bills early as he improved his postseason record to 5-1.
With Mahomes expected to be hindered in some capacity, it puts more pressure on the running game to provide some of the offense. Rookie Isiah Pacheco has done a good job since taking on the lead role, including 95 yards on 12 carries last weekend. He'll be going against a Cincinnati defense that was seventh in the league against the run during the regular season and last Sunday held Buffalo to 3.3 yards per carry. The focus for Kansas City's defense will be to try and take advantage of a reshuffled Bengals offensive line while containing Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd — but that's easier said than done. Burrow made getting rid of the ball quickly a priority against the Bills, who managed just one sack. Also, Joe Mixon gashed Buffalo for 105 yards on 20 carries, so the Chiefs will have to try and limit his impact as well.
Kansas City is making its fifth straight appearance in the AFC Championship Game, aiming for a third trip to the Super Bowl in that span. Standing in the Chiefs' way, again, is a Bengals team that is one win away from back-to-back Super Sunday appearances of their own. What more could you ask for?
So which teams will advance to Super Bowl LVII? Athlon's own Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR), and Ben Weinrib (@benweinrib), along with AthlonSports.com contributor Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer), predict the winners for the two conference championship games.
NFL Conference Championship Games Predictions
*Indianapolis-Houston in Week 1 and Washington-New York Giants in Week 13 ended in ties, and the Week 17 Buffalo-Cincinnati game was ruled no-contest by the NFL after it was initially postponed following Bills safety Damar Hamlin's medical emergency during the first quarter.