Three games are left in the 2022-23 NFL season, which means we will soon have our Super Bowl champion. All four teams have been to a Super Bowl in the last five years, and two — Philadelphia and Kansas City — have won the Lombardi Trophy during that time. But it is as simple as it sounds: Of these four teams, only two can advance to Super Bowl LVII, and those will be decided in the matchups in two conference title games. You play to win the game, of course — and to win the game, the little things matter just as much as the bigger things do. So here are some key matchups to keep your eye on that could decide the outcomes of the AFC and NFC conference championship games.
Brock Purdy vs. Eagles Defense
Brock Purdy has continually proved himself every single week since he took over at quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. Purdy has played against several different defenses that tested his abilities, and he passed those tests. However, the Philadelphia Eagles have a defense that is in comparison to the 49ers as one of the best in the league. The Eagles like to apply pressure on the quarterback, recording the third-highest number of sacks of all time in an NFL season. Purdy will be under duress the entire game, and his ability to make smart decisions with that pressure will be the biggest factor in who wins this game.
Eagles' Offensive Line vs. 49ers' Defensive Line
The Eagles' offensive line is the best in the NFL and one of the best position groups in the NFL. And on Sunday, they will take on a tough task against the 49ers' defensive line, led by Defensive Player of the Year nominee Nick Bosa. Jalen Hurts is a mobile quarterback, but giving him time to make throws across the middle of the field will be important for this offense to move the ball throughout the game. Lane Johnson has not allowed a sack in over two years, and he will have that streak tested all game long Sunday.
Travis Kelce vs. Bengals' Pass Defense
The Cincinnati Bengals have won three straight games against the Kansas City Chiefs, and one of the biggest reasons has been the overall game plan of not allowing tight end Travis Kelce to get too involved the Chiefs' offensive game plan. Kelce is the best tight end in the NFL; but in four non-playoff career games against the Bengals, he has only one touchdown and averaged 56 yards per game. If the Bengals can continue keeping Kelce limited or shut him down completely, they should have no issues winning this game. But if Kelce goes off, especially in the red zone, they will be scrambling to find solutions — as they did last year, when Kelce had 10 receptions for 95 yards and one touchdown.
Bengals' Rushing Attack vs. Chiefs' Front Seven
Joe Burrow and his wide receivers are the flashy headliners of this Bengals offense, but they owe a lot of thanks to their run game, which is led by the underrated backfield duo of Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine. Mixon played in 14 games, rushed for 814 yards and seven touchdowns, while Perine chipped in another 394 yards and two touchdowns. Both players average four yards a carry, which means second- and third-and-long situations are not likely. The Chiefs' defense will need to limit first-down runs and make the Bengals' run game obsolete.
Joe Burrow vs. Patrick Mahomes
This is a new era of the NFL. Aside from their first years — injury for Burrow and backup for Patrick Mahomes — both Burrow and Mahomes have been in the AFC title game each year since joining the league. Head to head, Burrow has won all three matchups, which has led Bengals fans and players calling Arrowhead Stadium "Burrowhead," as all three games have been won in Kansas City. This game gives us all the feelings of Tom Brady versus Peyton Manning, as a new quarterback rivalry has emerged. Can Burrow make it four straight and get the Bengals back to the Super Bowl? Or will Mahomes pick up his first win against Burrow and get the Chiefs to Super Bowl LVII?
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