By luke Servello, Staff Writer
The divisional round of the NFL playoffs that took place last weekend provided one of the best rounds of football in playoff history.
Four instant classic games took place as the Bengals, Chiefs, Rams and 49ers advanced to Championship weekend. The hometown Bengals advanced to the AFC championship for the first time since 1988 with a 19-16 win over the No. 1 seeded Titans.
The two championship games shape up to be two more great games. The Bengals will have to do what the entire league has struggled to do since Patrick Mahomes has been the quarterback of the Chiefs, which is win at Arrowhead Stadium. Arrowhead is rightfully known to be one of the toughest places to play in the league and if the Bengals want to have a chance in this one, it starts with protecting Joe Burrow better. Burrow was sacked nine times by the Titans in the Divisional Round, but the Bengals were able to overcome it. A huge test awaits for the Bengals on the defensive side of the ball. The late game heroics of star players like Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Mahomes last week was yet another reminder of what they can do in the clutch.
The Chiefs got into field goal range in less than 13 seconds and kicked a game tying field goal to send the game to overtime in their win against the Bills. The Bengals defense was stout last week, but the level of difficulty will dramatically increase this week. I think the Bengals will compete in this game, but I think they are a year or two away from winning a road playoff game at a pace like Arrowhead. I like the Chiefs to win 34-24.
The NFC title game will be an interesting matchup between two teams who went on the road to pull off upsets in the Divisional Round. The Rams beat Tom Brady and the Bucs 30-27, and the 49ers knocked out Aaron Rodgers top seeded Packers 13-10. I think it’s going to be hard for Jimmy Garoppolo (who is playing through a thumb injury) to keep up with Matt Stafford, Cooper Kupp and company. For the 49ers to have any chance, their front seven needs to make Stafford uncomfortable. They’re certainly capable. I like the Rams 31-20.