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NFL playoffs: Bengals-Chiefs, Rams-49ers fight for Super Bowl berths

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NFL playoffs: Bengals-Chiefs, Rams-49ers fight for Super Bowl berths
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow throws against the Tennessee Titans during the second half of a divisional playoff game Saturday at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. Photo by David Tulis/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Two NFL teams will emerge Sunday night with invitations to Super Bowl LVI. The Kansas City Chiefs host the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC title game. The Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers follow with the NFC finale.

"I've been in some of these situations before," Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes told reporters Wednesday. "I've played in some big games and had to make some comebacks.

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"I know I have the teammates to do it. I know what it takes to find a way to win."

The Chiefs, the AFC's No. 2 seed, and the No. 4 Bengals launch championship weekend with a matchup at 3 p.m. EST Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. That game airs on CBS.

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The Rams, the NFC's No. 4 seed, then host the No. 6 49ers at 6:30 p.m. EST Sunday at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. That game airs on Fox.

"There ain't no better stage than this," Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald said Thursday. "This is the type of game you train for during the off-season.

"All that extra grind, all that extra film [study] is to play in big games like this. I feel like there's no better stage."

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Bengals at Chiefs

The Chiefs (12-5) are 7-point favorites to beat the Bengals (10-7) in the AFC Championship game, despite a 34-31 loss to the same team on Jan. 2 in Cincinnati.

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow exploded for 446 yards and four scores in that game. The win clinched the AFC North division title for the Bengals.

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The temperature is expected to be between 30 and 47 degrees Sunday night in Kansas City. More than 76,000 fans are expected to attend the game. Ticket prices as of Friday morning ranged from about $400 to more than $10,000 on the secondary market.

"We are expecting it to be very loud," Burrow told reporters Wednesday, when asked about Arrowhead Stadium.

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"We have to be great with our communication, [especially] our non-verbal communication, just like every other week on the road."

The Chiefs were the best offense in the playoffs through the divisional round, averaging a league-best 515 yards per game. They also led the field in passing yards and rushing yards per game.

The Bengals averaged the third-fewest yards per game, but logged the best turnover differential and allowed the fewest points per game among AFC teams.

The Chiefs had the AFC's best offense, and third-best in the NFL, with an average of nearly 400 yards per game in the regular season. They averaged the third-most passing yards and ranked 16th in rushing.

The Chiefs' defense struggled in the regular season, allowing the sixth-most yards in the NFL.

The Bengals ranked 13th overall on offense, with the seventh-most passing yards and 23rd-most rushing yards per game in the regular season. The Bengals' defense allowed the fifth-most passing yards, but ranked fifth-best against the run.

49ers at Rams

The Rams (12-5) are 3.5-point favorites to beat the 49ers (10-7) in what could be the first of two-consecutive playoff games held at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.

The 49ers beat the Rams twice during the regular season. They won 31-10 on Nov. 15 in Santa Clara, Calif. Their second NFC West division meeting resulted in a 27-24 overtime triumph Jan. 9 in Inglewood.

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"We knew what the tape was going to look like before we turned it on," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said of his preparations for the Rams.

"And they are the exact same way, so when you have something like that, I think it makes for a little bit more fun of a football game, because it's truly what it's about.

"It's just a football game and everyone's going to go out there and a lot is on the line. We're going to play as hard as we can. They're going to play as hard as they can and we are going to see who makes the most plays and who makes the least mistakes."

Weather will not be a factor in the NFC Championship game or at the Super Bowl, as both be held inside the Rams' roofed facility. More than 70,000 fans are expected at the stadium, which can expand to a capacity of 100,000 for larger events.

NFC Championship game ticket prices as of Friday morning ranged from about $500 to more than $30,000 on the secondary market.

The Rams, led by quarterback Matthew Stafford, averaged an NFC-best 401.5 offensive yards per game through two postseason games. The Rams have the third-best passing offense and fifth-best rushing offense in the NFL this postseason.

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The 49ers won their two postseason games with an offense that averaged the fourth-fewest yards, including the second-fewest passing yards. The 49ers' 137.5 rushing yards per game are the most this postseason among NFC teams.

The NFC Championship game should be a defensive showdown. The Rams allowed the second-fewest yards per game this postseason. The 49ers allowed the third-fewest yards in the playoffs.

"We got to make sure that we are cognizant of trying to make sure that we're taking care of the football while still being aggressive and taking our chances and our shots when we get those," Stafford said Thursday.

"It's a defense that the last few weeks has been really tough to move the ball against. So, we'll have our work cut out for us."

The 49ers and Rams ranked third and fourth, respectively, in passing yards allowed through two postseason games.

The Rams allowed just 56 rushing yards per game through the divisional round, the fewest in the NFL. The Rams totaled four takeaways and four giveaways. The 49ers totaled two giveaways and two takeaways.

Both NFC finalists were very balanced in the regular season. The 49ers owned the NFL's seventh-best offense and third-best defense. They ranked 14th in passing offense and seventh in rushing offense.

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They allowed the sixth-fewest passing yards and seventh-fewest rushing yards.

The Rams owned the ninth-best offense in the regular season. They ranked fifth in passing and 25th in rushing. The Rams defense ranked 17th overall. The Rams pass defense allowed the sixth-most passing yards, but surrendered the second-fewest touchdown passes.

The Rams rush defense allowed the sixth-fewest yards.

How to Watch

AFC Championship game: Bengals at Chiefs at 3 p.m. EST Sunday on CBS

NFC Championship game: 49ers at Rams at 6:30 p.m. EST Sunday on Fox

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