The Bowl is set!

The past week in the NFC has been insane. I break down both the games and the recent events that followed both before and after the conference championships.


The updated playoff bracket after the conference championship games.

Maddox Greenberg, Staff Writer

Well.  Hate to say it!—nah!—just kidding—I love to say it: I was right!  In my last article I predicted the Bengals and the Rams to advance to the Super Bowl.  I got it right!


This past week as a football fan has been the craziest.  Minutes before the AFC Championship game, the Raiders announced that they’ve hired former Patriots offensive coordinator (OC) Josh McDaniels as their next coach.  He is rejoining former Patriots general manager Dave Zeigler on the Raiders.


Then came the games.  And, on Tuesday afternoon, quarterback Thomas Edward Patrick Brady, Jr. announced that he officially will retire as being the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) and possibly the most successful player in football history and the star of the greatest underdog story in all of sports.  He was picked 199th overall in the 2000 draft, got his first start in 2001 when Drew Bledsoe got injured.  After that, he won seven Super Bowls (the Patriots and Steelers have six, the most among franchises) and he was first in: Super Bowl wins (seven), appearances (10), MVPs (five); quarterback wins (243), passing attempts (11,317), passing completions (7,263), passing yards (84,520), passing touchdowns (624), playoff wins (35), and conference championship appearances (14)—just to name a few.


But let us now focus on the reason why you are reading this: the championship games.


At 3 p.m. in Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, the 4-seeded Bengals battled the 2-seeded, and highly favored, Chiefs.  Bettors had the Chiefs win (69.6%) and by seven points.  The first half was a slaughter by the Chiefs onto the Bengals, quickly being able to score three touchdowns to three different receivers (Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Mecole Hardman).  The Bengals quickly took charge in the second half, scoring 14 unanswered points (two field goals by rookie kicker Evan McPherson and a touchdown to Ja’Marr Chase—plus a successful two-yard catch by Trent Taylor for the extra two-points after the Chase touchdown).  The defense also held Mahomes at a QBR of 98.0 in the first half, but it quickly changed to a 1.4 QBR in the second half and overtime.


The two star-studded young quarterbacks put on a show for the fans in attendance—and watching/listening across the country—with Joe Burrow throwing for 250 yards on 23 attempts and two touchdown passes; and Patrick Mahomes throwing for 275 yards on 26 attempts for three touchdowns.


But the stars of the show were the equally dominant defenses.  The Bengals had four total sacks and had two interceptions; while the Chiefs had only one sack and one interception.  The Bengals did what I told them to: have the best offensive line you could possibly have (which was the case, except Burrow still was sacked once, but Burrow mainly ran several times throughout the game), held Mahomes at 66.6% completion and held the Chiefs’ electric offense at 5.6 yards per play.  However, they still had running back Joe Mixon rush 21 times and only getting 88 yards because of it.  In the end, safety Vonn Bell made the crucial interception in overtime to send the Bengals offense onto the field.  With this, McPherson was able to drill a 31-yard field goal after the three drives by Burrow and Bengals.  The Bengals won 27-24 and advanced to their first-ever Super Bowl since 1988 (Dr. Fever would be thrilled).


The next game was on 6:30 p.m. in Sofi Stadium in Los Angeles.  The 6-seeded 49ers duked it out against the 4-seeded Rams.  This game has some significance.  In Week 18, the 49ers came back and won in overtime to advance to the playoffs, defeating the Rams.  The 49ers also held the Rams in overall recent wins—6-0.  But this time, it was different compared to the last time these two faced each other.


In Week 18’s matchup, the 49ers won 27-24 in overtime.  The 49ers came back being down 17 in the first, and then again when down by seven.  In the NFC Championship, the Rams came back being down 10 in the third.


In Week 18’s matchup, the 49ers had a total of 449 yards while the Rams had a total of 265 yards.  In the NFC Championship, the 49ers had 282 yards while the Rams had 396 yards.


In Week 18’s matchup, the 49ers had five sacks, two interceptions, wide receiver Deebo Samuel caught four catches for 95 yards and Garoppolo was 1:2 on touchdown-interception ratio.  The Rams had three sacks, two interceptions, wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. caught two catches for 18 yards and Stafford was 3:2 on touchdown-interception ratio.  In the NFC Championship, the 49ers had two sacks, one interception (one almost a game-winner by safety Jaquiski Tartt, but he dropped the ball—literally), Deebo Samuel caught four catches for 72 yards and Garoppolo was 2:1 on touchdown-interception ratio.  The Rams had no sacks, one interception that set up the game-winner by Travon Howard, Odell had nine catches for 113 yards and Stafford was 2:1 on touchdown-interception ratio.


With Travon Howard’s interception, the Rams ended up winning 20-17.  With this the Rams will be the second-ever team to host the Super Bowl in the stadium they play in (first being the Buccaneers last year, and they won).  However, they will be the away team because the NFL sets up the Super Bowl format every year differently (last year the Bucs—the NFC team—were home.  This year, the Rams—the NFC team—will be away.  Next year and NFC team will be the home team again).


Now onto the Super Bowl.  The 56th ever Super Bowl.  The Bengals were, prior to the season, favored to win the Super Bowl at 125-1 odds, favored to win 2-5 games by “analysts.”  But Joey Franchise and the whole Bengals clan had other intentions.


This Bengals-Rams Super Bowl features the lowest seeding matchup ever (with both teams at the 4th seed), the youngest head coaching matchup in the history of the Super Bowl (Rams head coach Sean McVay is 36-years-old and Bengals head coach Zac Taylor is 38-years-old).  This is the Rams’ second appearance in McVay’s five years of coaching the Rams.  The Rams silenced the haters when they chose to sign quarterback Matt Stafford (from the Lions) and traded for linebacker Von Miller (from the Broncos) and wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. (from the Browns).


Say what you will, but both of these teams deserve to be here.  The Bengals and the Rams both played against each other before in London two years ago, in which the Rams won 24-10.  But times have changed.  New faces and a new atmosphere and environment have since come.


I will talk more about the Super Bowl and my predictions next week.  Thank you for reading.