Eagles-49ers rushers, Bengals-Chiefs passers highlight AFC, NFC finales

Wide receiver DeVonta Smith is among the Philadelphia Eagles' best weapons. File Photo by Laurence Kesterson/UPI
Wide receiver DeVonta Smith is among the Philadelphia Eagles' best weapons. File Photo by Laurence Kesterson/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Four NFL playoff teams remain, with the Philadelphia Eagles first set to host the San Francisco 49ers in an NFC finale Sunday. The Kansas City Chiefs will then battle the Cincinnati Bengals in a rematch for the AFC crown.

Championship weekend will kick off at 3 p.m. EST at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. The NFC title game will air on Fox.


The Eagles and 49ers each boast elite offensive and defensive lines, while the Bengals-Chiefs matchup is expected to be a pass-heavy shootout.

"We are going to come in, play our game, do what we have done to get us here and continue to be us," Eagles linebacker T.J. Edwards told reporters Thursday. "We know that will be enough."


Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will host fellow star quarterback Joe Burrow and the Bengals at 6:30 p.m. at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. That game will air on CBS.

"To me, they are still the team to beat," Burrow said Wednesday. "We are coming for them, but we know it's going to be tough. ... We know them. They know us. It's going to be a fun one."

The Chiefs are 1-point betting favorites to beat the Bengals. The Eagles are favored by 2 1/2 to beat the 49ers. The winners will advance to Super Bowl LVII on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Ariz.

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"We've been tested a lot this year," 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa said this week. "I think this will be as big of a test as there is."

49ers at Eagles

The top-seeded Eagles, who crushed the New York Giants 38-7 in the divisional round, got off to an 8-0 start. They struggled with injuries later in the season, but managed to finish with the No. 3 offense and No. 2 defensive in the NFL.

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The Eagles' attack is led by the No. 5 rushing offense in the league. Quarterback Jalen Hurts remains one of the best playmakers in the game. He accounted for 35 touchdowns and threw just six interceptions this season.


From a pass rushing standpoint, the Eagles are well-stocked after logging an NFL-high 70 sacks this season.

The Eagles also boast the top pass defense in the NFL, but were average at stopping the run.

That subpar run defense could help the 49ers, who had the No. 8 rushing offense in the league. The 49ers also had the No. 2 rushing defense in the NFL and are more than capable of limiting the Eagles.

The 49ers have the No. 5 offense and No. 1 defense overall. They allowed the fewest points and yards in the league.

They will be tasked with stopping Eagles star pass catchers DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown, who totaled 95 and 88 catches, respectively, this season. Brown and Smith also ranked inside the Top 10 for receiving yards.

Running back Miles Sanders, who averaged 4.9 yards per carry this season, also will be among the Eagles players to watch.


The Eagles did not log excellent passing performances in most of their wins this season, with fewer than 300 passing yards in 11 of their 13 wins, including the playoffs. They totaled fewer than 100 rushing yards in each of their three losses.

The 49ers boast an arsenal of offensive weaponry, led by running back Christian McCaffrey, wide receiver Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle.

Seventh-round rookie Brock Purdy, who took over as the starting quarterback when Jimmy Garoppolo was injured in Week 13, has been one of the most surprising stories in the league.

The 49ers were 8-4 before Purdy assumed his current role. The rookie is 7-0 with 14 touchdowns and just two turnovers in the first seven starts, including the last two playoff games.

The 49ers averaged nearly 150 rushing yards per game in their 15 wins this season. They averaged fewer than 80 rushing yards per game in their last three losses.

The 49ers tied the New England Patriots for the most forced turnovers in the NFL. They led the league with 20 interceptions and a +13 turnover differential. They totaled a league-low 17 giveaways.

Bosa, who won Pro Football Writers Association Defensive Player of the Year honors Wednesday, led the NFL with 18.5 sacks this season. Linebacker Fred Warner and safety Talanoa Hufanga are among the other All-Pro players on the 49ers' defense. All-Pro tackle Trent Williams will anchor the 49ers' offensive line.


Right tackle Lane Johnson and center Jason Kelce, both All-Pros, headline the Eagles offensive line. Eagles edge rusher Haason Reddick and cornerback James Bradberry, both second-team All-Pro selections, will play big roles in the NFC finale.

The Eagles' 18 giveaways were tied for the fifth-fewest in the league. They tied for fourth with 27 takeaways.

Temperatures are expected to hover around the low 40s, with a slight chance of rain in the forecast, Sunday night in Philadelphia.

Ticket prices on the secondary market ranged from $530 to more than $10,000 as of Thursday afternoon.

Bengals at Chiefs

Joe Burrow and the Bengals will take on Mahomes' Chiefs in the second title game, which will feature two of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL.

Burrow's Bengals beat the Chiefs 27-24 in Week 13. They also beat the Chiefs in last year's AFC title game en route to the team's first Super Bowl appearance in more than three decades.


The Bengals also beat the Chiefs in Week 17 of 2021-22 to start their current three-game win streak over the AFC West franchise.

The Bengals got off to a 2-3 start, but are now on an AFC-best eight-game winning streak. They slipped by the Baltimore Ravens in the wild-card round, but dominated the second-seeded Buffalo Bills in the divisional round.

The 2022-23 Bengals had the No. 8 offense, and No. 4 passing attack, in the NFL this season. They also allowed the seventh-fewest rushing yards and sixth-fewest points.

Burrow most likely will look to exploit the Chiefs defense, which allowed the most passing touchdowns in the NFL. The Chiefs secondary also ranked No. 18 in passing yards allowed. Burrow will likely target wide receivers Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd with regularity.

The Chiefs run defense ranked No. 8 in yards allowed this season. Backup running back Samaje Perine totaled 155 yards from scrimmage on 27 touches in the Bengals' win over the Chiefs in December.

Mahomes, who won the Pro Football Writers Association MVP honors Wednesday, could feast on the Bengals' secondary. The 2018 NFL MVP led the league with 41 passing scores, and will face a defense that allowed the fourth-most passing scores Sunday in Kansas City.


The health of Mahomes' left ankle continues to be a major storyline entering the game. He sustained a high ankle sprain in the Chiefs' divisional-round win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He briefly left the game in the second quarter and returned for the second half, but was noticeably limping and slowed by the injury.

"I feel like I can still do a lot of things," Mahomes said Thursday. "We will see as we get closer and closer to the game. You can't fully do exactly what you will do in those moments.

"All I can do is prepare myself the best way possible. When we get in the game, we hope adrenaline takes over and you can make those throws when you need to."

Star tight end Travis Kelce likely will warrant the most attention from Bengals defenders. The Chiefs All-Pro pass catcher totaled just four catches for 56 yards and lost a fumble in their previous matchup.

Kelce found the end zone twice in the Chiefs' win over the Jaguars and most likely will want to redeem himself in this rematch.

The Bengals had the sixth-best turnover differential (+6) this season. They also totaled the fewest turnovers in the AFC. The Chiefs tied for the eighth-most giveaways and logged a -3 turnover differential.


The Chiefs should have an advantage from the pass rushing standpoint. They ranked second in sacks this season and will be going up against a patchwork Bengals offensive line, which was decimated by injuries in the second half of the season. All-Pro interior lineman Chris Jones figures to be a focal point of the Chiefs' pass rush.

The Bengals' pass rush lacked spark in the regular season, totaling the fourth-fewest sacks per game in the league. That could be an issue as they face a Chiefs offensive line that includes two second-team All-Pros in left guard Joe Thuney and center Creed Humphrey.

Temperatures below 15 degrees are expected Sunday night in Kansas City. A slight chance of snow also is forecast. Ticket prices on the secondary market ranged from $220 to more than $9,000 as of Thursday afternoon.

NFL playoffs

Times in EST


NFC Championship game: 49ers at Eagles at 3 p.m. on Fox

AFC Championship game: Bengals at Chiefs at 6:30 p.m. on CBS

Feb 12

Super Bowl LVII: TBD vs. TBD at 6:30 p.m. on Fox


This weekend in the National Football League

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy drops back to pass as he faces the Dallas Cowboys in an NFC divisional-round game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on January 22, 2023.The 49ers defeated the Cowboys 19-12 to move on to the NFC Championship against the Philadelphia Eagles. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

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