Image Courtesy of The 33rd Team
By Andrew Pertino
In a season unlike any other, Championship Weekend finally arrives in the National Football League, in which four teams remain to compete for the right to play in America’s spectacle of sport: the Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas. Familiar faces make an appearance as well as new ones.
The Chiefs of Kansas City, led by Head Coach Andy Reid, and Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, are back in the AFC title game for their 6th consecutive year. Earlier in the season, the Chiefs were just barely getting by, certainly falling beneath the eye test but still managing to find ways to win. Despite their underwhelming play to that point, They remained a favorite to return to the big stage with the reasoning being, “The Chiefs are still the Chiefs”. Three months have passed and here they are, one of the final four.
Waiting for them in Charm City is one of the newer faces to this stage: MVP front runner Lamar Jackson and his Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore has been the most dominant team in the second half of the season. They have stacked wins against numerous playoff teams including the Lions, 49ers, Dolphins, and the Rams. In fact, with the exception of the Rams, they beat each of those other three teams by double digits. The city of Baltimore expects to host a colossal matchup of heavyweights when the AFC Championship game returns to the city for the first time in more than fifty years.
In the NFC, it is a similar tale of old and new faces. The old crew is the San Francisco 49ers who are making their fourth Conference Championship in five years. Paying them a visit will be the gritty, hard nosed Lions of Detroit who are making just their second title game appearance in franchise history and their first since 1992.
The AFC Championship game sees the Kansas City Chiefs playing at the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, January 28 at 3 p.m. EST.
The first of the two championship games will be played for the right to hoist the Lamar Hunt Trophy. All eyes across America will be tuned in for what is arguably the game of the year. Stars like Taylor Swift and Jason Kelce will be commanding much attention by their mere presence in the stadium.
One matchup expected to be particularly exciting to watch is the one between Kansas City’s best Tight End Travis Kelce and Baltimore’s outstanding middle linebackers Patrick Queen and Roquan Smith. Since setting the league on fire when he burst onto the scene in 2018, Mahomes’ security blanket has always been his TE; however, they will have a tough game against some of the best middle backers in football that they will have to deal with this Sunday.
Speaking of tight ends, Baltimore’s fabulous tight end Mark Andrews could potentially return to the field this weekend as well. The key to this game on both sides is Baltimore’s run game, which is what Baltimore does best. If they can establish it early and often, they will bleed the clock, making it a fewer possession game and keeping Patrick Mahomes on the sideline. Unfortunately for Kansas City, they have already been proven vulnerable to the run game, with Buffalo rushing the ball 39 times for 4.7 yards a carry, which totaled to 182 yards on the ground. Fans can expect an outstanding back and forth game and as difficult as it is to play against Patrick Mahomes.
The NFC Championship will be Sunday as well at 6:30 p.m. featuring Detroit at San Francisco. Opening up as seven point underdogs in sports books across the nation, it is no surprise that San Francisco are the favorites. However, Dan Campbell and his Detroit Lions wouldn’t want to have it any other way and will be looking to rise to the challenge. The city of Detroit has always been counted out and this Lions club is the perfect embodiment of the character of their city: gritty, blue collar, and daring you to doubt them one more time. Detroit, however, are underdogs for a reason. They have a tall task waiting for them out in “The Bay.”
With a fearsome pass rush as well as an outstanding line backing core, anchored by Fred Warner, prove daunting to any opposing offense, coupled with the best running back in the NFL and with weapons littering the field from TE George Kittle to WR Brandon Aiyuk, all working in perfect symphony under HC Kyle Shanahan, it is clear why the Niners open as large favorites. However, star WR Deebo Samuel’s status is up in the air as the weekend approaches, as he is currently listed as questionable with a shoulder injury.
The Lions certainly will have plenty to deal with on Sunday night but their QB, Jared Goff, is not unfamiliar with the limelight. He and rookie sensation Jahmyr Gibbs as well as Amon-Ra St. Brown and TE Sam LaPorta will keep San Francisco’s defense on high alert but ultimately, the 49ers are the better team and will likely prove to be too much for Detroit.