NFL Game Previews: Conference Championship Matchups

NFL Game Previews: Conference Championship Matchups

This article is part of our NFL Game Previews series.

San Francisco (+2.5) at Philadelphia, o/u 46.5 - Sunday, 3 p.m. EST

Both these matchups seemed kind of inevitable, didn't they? On the NFC side, the hottest team of the second half takes on the hottest team of the first half. The 49ers' offense stalled a bit last week against the first strong defense Brock Purdy has faced, but the kid wasn't really the problem with a 65.5 percent completion rate and 7.4 YPA. Instead, a banged-up backfield that managed less than 3.6 yards a carry between Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell prevented San Francisco from getting into its usual groove. Patrick Mahomes' ankle is the biggest injury concern Sunday, but McCaffrey's calf is a close second. If he isn't close to peak form, this game could turn into another slog for the Niners, though there's always the possibility they use Deebo Samuel as a runner more often to compensate, not that he is 100 percent healthy either. Maybe it'll be Jordan Mason time? Statistically, Philly has the worst run defense of the teams still playing, though none of the four qualified as actually bad during the regular season. The Niners might not need a lot of points to come out of top anyway — their defense has generated multiple takeaways in five consecutive games and nine of the last 10, and allowed more than 20 points only twice in that stretch. There's a reason they haven't lost since late October, and much as he's been a fantastic story,

San Francisco (+2.5) at Philadelphia, o/u 46.5 - Sunday, 3 p.m. EST

Both these matchups seemed kind of inevitable, didn't they? On the NFC side, the hottest team of the second half takes on the hottest team of the first half. The 49ers' offense stalled a bit last week against the first strong defense Brock Purdy has faced, but the kid wasn't really the problem with a 65.5 percent completion rate and 7.4 YPA. Instead, a banged-up backfield that managed less than 3.6 yards a carry between Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell prevented San Francisco from getting into its usual groove. Patrick Mahomes' ankle is the biggest injury concern Sunday, but McCaffrey's calf is a close second. If he isn't close to peak form, this game could turn into another slog for the Niners, though there's always the possibility they use Deebo Samuel as a runner more often to compensate, not that he is 100 percent healthy either. Maybe it'll be Jordan Mason time? Statistically, Philly has the worst run defense of the teams still playing, though none of the four qualified as actually bad during the regular season. The Niners might not need a lot of points to come out of top anyway — their defense has generated multiple takeaways in five consecutive games and nine of the last 10, and allowed more than 20 points only twice in that stretch. There's a reason they haven't lost since late October, and much as he's been a fantastic story, it's not Purdy. It's defensive coordinator and future head coach of ... hmm, let's say the Texans, DeMeco Ryans.

The Eagles had absolutely no trouble dispatching the Giants last week (ahem), and I don't think it should be overlooked that Philly's only lost once all season with Jalen Hurts under center. In retrospect, I doubt even the Commanders could tell you how they pulled that upset. Hurts' shoulder looked just fine as he tossed two TDs and ran for one more, and while he didn't throw for much yardage, his team was up 28-0 at halftime so that was basically two quarters worth of production. Philly's defense was the real star, though, piling up five sacks, a forced fumble and an interception. It hasn't been quite as stingy or opportunistic as San Francisco's unit down the stretch, but the Eagles have allowed 20 points or less in five of their last seven and brought down the opposition QB at least five times in six of those games, with the only exception being Week 18 when they probably weren't trying that hard. The Cowboys only sacked Purdy twice last week, but it wasn't for lack of trying. Whether Fletcher Cox, Josh Sweat, Haason Reddick and company can get to the rookie more often than Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence did could end up being the difference in this game.

The Skinny

SF injuries: QB Jimmy Garoppolo (doubtful, foot), RB McCaffrey (questionable, calf), RB Mitchell (questionable, groin), WR Samuel (questionable, ankle)
PHI injuries: although he's not listed on the report, A.J. Brown is playing through a hip issue

SF DFS targets: none
PHI DFS targets: Quez Watkins $3,100 DK / $4,800 FD (SF 30th in DVOA vs. WR3)

SF DFS fades: Purdy $5,300 DK / $6,900 FD (PHI first in passing DVOA, first in passing yards per game allowed, fourth in YPA allowed), Samuel $5,700 DK / $7,000 FD (PHI second in DVOA vs. WR1), Brandon Aiyuk $4,400 DK / $6,000 FD (PHI fourth in DVOA vs. WR2)
PHI DFS fades: Miles Sanders $5,200 DK / $6,200 FD (SF second in rushing DVOA, second in rushing yards per game allowed, first in YPC allowed, first in passing DVOA vs. RB), DeVonta Smith $6,800 DK / $7,700 FD (SF fourth in DVOA vs. WR1)

Key stat: SF sixth in third-down conversions at 45.0 percent; PHI 14th in third-down defense at 38.6 percent

Weather notes: 9-10 mph wind, 1-5 percent chance of rain

The Scoop: McCaffrey guts out 70 scrimmage yards and a TD, while Samuel also runs in a score. Purdy throws for 220 yards and a touchdown to George Kittle. Sanders is held to 50 yards. Hurts throws for 250 yards and TDs to Smith and Watkins. 49ers 21-20

Cincinnati (+1) at Kansas City, o/u 47.5 – Sunday, 6:30 p.m. EST

In the immortal words of Portrait (or, if you prefer, the Hives. Maybe DMX? Paramore? The Isley Brothers? I don't know your life), here we go again. Last year's AFC championship meeting between these teams went to overtime, and while it got overshadowed by the utterly ridiculous Kansas City-Buffalo all-timer from the week before, it was a pretty great tilt too. Joe Burrow is 3-0 in his career against Mahomes, which is wild all on its own, and Cincy's the team coming into this one with a little more momentum, having not lost since Halloween. (To be fair, Kansas City's won six straight itself.) Burrow's actually been fairly quiet the last few games, as it's — stop me if you've heard this one before — the Bengals defense that took the lead down the stretch. The unit has given up more than 18 points only once in its last six games, and the last time it allowed more than 24 was way back in Week 11. Joe Mixon, meanwhile, broke out of a late-season fade to run for 105 yards and a TD against a normally stingy Bills front seven last week. The expectation is that the two young gunslingers are going to meet outside the saloon at high noon, but Burrow seems just as happy letting his teammates get some shine if that's the best way to get back to the Super Bowl.

How effective will Mahomes be with a heavily taped ankle? Last week's win over the Jaguars didn't offer a particularly encouraging picture — yeah, he was still pretty efficient throwing the ball, and "forcing" Andy Reid to call plays that get rid of the ball even quicker than usual isn't exactly playing away from the strength of this offense, but part of the reason the team made wholesale changes in the receiving corps last summer is that Kansas City couldn't attack downfield anymore with any consistency. (Last season's game was highlighted by, and effectively ended on, a Vonn Bell INT of a bomb intended for Tyreek Hill.) If that's now a self-imposed limitation, it's hard to have a lot of confidence in Mahomes' ability to avenge that loss from a year ago. Kansas City's defense played well down the stretch and came up big last week against Trevor Lawrence, but it still doesn't quite seem to be at the level of the other defenses still playing. I hate picking against Mahomes at the best of times, and especially when he's got something to prove, but it's possible Burrow just has his number.

The Skinny

CIN injuries: no fantasy-relevant injuries
KC injuries: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (IR-R, ankle), WR Mecole Hardman (questionable, pelvis). Plus, y'know, Mahomes

CIN DFS targets: Ja'Marr Chase $7,600 DK / $8,600 FD (KC 31st in DVOA vs. WR1)
KC DFS targets: Marquez Valdes-Scantling $3,600 DK / $5,100 FD (CIN 31st in DVOA vs. WR2) 

CIN DFS fades: Bengals DST $2,300 DK / $4,000 FD (29th in sacks, KC third in sacks allowed)
KC DFS fades: Jerick McKinnon $5,400 DK / $6,500 FD (CIN second in passing DVOA vs. RB)

Key stat: CIN fifth in red-zone conversions at 64.9 percent; KC 31st in red-zone defense at 67.3 percent

Weather notes: temperature in the low 20s, 10-11 mph wind, 1-5 percent chance of snow

The Scoop: Mixon rumbles for 90 yards and a score. Burrow throws for 240 yards and a touchdown to Chase while running in a TD of his own. Isiah Pacheco leads the KC backfield with 70 yards. Mahomes throws for 220 yards and two touchdowns, finding Travis Kelce and MVS, but his attempt to put together a game-winning drive ends on a JuJu Smith-Schuster fumble. Bengals 24-20
 
2022 playoff record: 9-1, 7-3 ATS, 2-8 o/u
2022 regular-season record: 156-113-2, 122-142-7 ATS, 140-128-3 o/u
2021 regular-season record: 174-97-1, 146-125-1 ATS, 125-143-4 o/u
Lifetime record: 1444-882-9, 1127-1134-74 ATS, 875-915-33 o/u (o/u not tracked in 2015)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Erik Siegrist
Erik Siegrist is an FSWA award-winning columnist who covers all four major North American sports (that means the NHL, not NASCAR) and whose beat extends back to the days when the Nationals were the Expos and the Thunder were the Sonics. He was the inaugural champion of Rotowire's Staff Keeper baseball league. His work has also appeared at Baseball Prospectus.
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