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NFL Championship Sunday Expert Game Picks, Predictions

Experts from The 33rd Team weigh in with their picks and predictions for Championship Sunday in the NFL.

NFC Championship

San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles

Ronde Barber: Eagles 21, 49ers 20

I wouldn’t be surprised if either of these teams wins. Give me the Eagles by a point.

Matt Cassel: Eagles 24, 49ers 21

Philadelphia, they're riding high. I love how Jalen Hurts is playing right now and that defense as well. In Philadelphia, it's going to be a challenging environment for San Francisco to win this game, going from the West Coast to the East Coast. I think the Eagles squeak it out at the end, but they do win this game and advance to the Super Bowl.

Jeff Diamond: 49ers 23, Eagles 20

What a great matchup in the NFC Championship. It should be a slugfest with the league's top two defenses trying to slow two top-5 offenses. I think the 49ers win a close game in Philly as their defense will contain Jalen Hurts and the Eagles' offense, while the 49ers' offense will do just enough to get the win. I see Robbie Gould kicking the winning field goal. Makes sense: He's perfect in his playoff career (29 of 29 field goals and 38 of 38 PATs after making all five of his kicks in the win last week over Dallas).

Rich Gannon: Eagles 21, 49ers 17

I like Philly at home. I think this is a team that has the deepest and most talented roster in all of football when you look at every position, and maybe the most improved player in the NFL in Hurts. I think this is going to be a low-scoring game, as we have two very good defenses.

Marvin Lewis: Eagles 27, 49ers 21

Brock Purdy hasn't had that rookie day yet; when is that gonna come? I think Philadelphia gives the 49ers some different looks and does a good job of game-planning and trying to get some pressure on him. Conversely, we know San Francisco — with their seven-, eight-, nine-man protections on first and second down — make it hard on you. You've got to go one man above in order to get pressure off an edge. I just think this is going to come down to the quarterback who plays the most efficient game.

T.J. McCreight: 49ers 28, Eagles 16

The 49ers have not lost since Oct. 23 against the Chiefs, reeling off 12 wins in a row. They are hitting on all cylinders with the play of Purdy and a strong group of playmakers on both sides of the football. Their offense is difficult to defend because they keep you off-balance and can hit you from so many different angles. As good as the Eagles are, they hit their peak earlier in the season, and facing a team like the 49ers will put stress on them that they have not felt yet.

Marty Mornhinweg: Eagles 28, 49ers 13

I'm biased. I'm biased toward Hurts and the Eagles. In Philadelphia, there's no doubt about it; the Eagles are going to the Super Bowl. It may just be too much for Brock Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers.

Chuck Pagano: Eagles 21, 49ers 17

If anything can force Brock Purdy into making poor decisions and costly turnovers, it's this Philadelphia defense. The Eagles finished with 70 sacks in the regular season and had four guys with double-digit sack totals. They have the size depth up front, especially inside with Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Ndamukong Suh, and Linval Joseph to slow down and contain Christian McCaffrey and company for this Kyle Shanahan rush offense, and they can force San Francisco into third-and-long situations, which will give this vaunted Eagles pass rush opportunities to hunt Purdy.

Hurts will make enough plays both with his legs and arm to move the ball on the league's No. 1 overall defense. Nick Bosa and the boys will have to do a much better job than the Giants did vs. the zone read and RPO game for the Eagles. If San Francisco can’t control the run, and they allow Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell to pick up chunks on the ground, it will only open up things down the field for A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert.

The edge goes to a healthy Hurts-run Philly offense, relentless defense, and a Philly home crowd that will make things very difficult for this rookie third-string QB to operate.

Mitchell Schwartz: Eagles 34, 49ers 20

The Eagles' offensive line will handle the 49ers' defensive line well enough to allow the run game and downfield passing attack to make hay. The Eagles' pass defense and pass rush will limit the 49ers' passing game and force a couple of errors from Purdy.

Rick Spielman: Eagles 24, 49ers 20

Philadelphia will win if the defense can control San Francisco's running game. The Eagles are built to get a lead and then unleash their pass rushers. Dallas had a chance last week until Dak Prescott threw two critical interceptions in the first half. I don't see Hurts turning the ball over, which is the Eagles will win.

Joe Thomas: Eagles 27, 49ers 24

It’s just a bad matchup for the 49ers defense, which is the best defense in the NFL. But the 49ers' biggest strength is their pass rush and the Eagles have the best offensive line in the NFL. They can protect, and they can run the football. They neutralize where the 49ers have been getting after everybody else in the NFL.

Mike Tannenbaum: 49ers 28, Eagles 24

The 49ers' defense carries the day, and their offense does just enough to win the game. Nick Bosa creates enough havoc to make a meaningful difference.

Dave Wannstedt: Eagles 24, 49ers 10

The 49ers are traveling across the country, and who knows what the weather will be like? Probably not good in Philly. But the reason I like the Eagles is Jalen Hurts. He's been in big games at Oklahoma, Alabama and everywhere from junior high and up. He's found a way to elevate not just his play but everyone around him. And with that extra week off — and they didn't even have to finish the game last week against the Giants — they got a lot of extra rest for the guys who were banged up and those older players.

Mike Zimmer: Eagles 27, 49ers 17

I was really impressed when I started watching the Philadelphia defense and the San Francisco offense and said, 'These guys look like offensive linemen.' So I think I think the key to this game is going to be in the trenches with Philly's defensive line and their number of sacks against San Francisco's offensive line, and vice versa.

Consensus: Eagles 23, 49ers 20

AFC Championship

Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs

  • WHERE: GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City)
  • WHEN: 6:30 p.m. ET | CBS
  • MONEYLINE: Bengals: +100 | Chiefs: -120
  • SPREAD: Bengals +1.0O/U: 47

Ronde Barber: Bengals 28, Chiefs 24

Going into the playoffs, I thought these were the two best from their conference. Again, I wouldn't be surprised if either wins, but I'm going with the Bengals.

Matt Cassel: Bengals 27, Chiefs 24

I think because of the Patrick Mahomes injury and because we don't know what that offense is going to look like, it could be tough for Kansas City. If Mahomes cannot create those incredible plays he can usually make, I think that is a massive advantage for the Bengals. On top of that, Cincinnati has won its last three meetings with the Chiefs. So I'm going with the Bengals to once again advance to the Super Bowl.

Jeff Diamond: Bengals 30, Chiefs 27

Joe Burrow has moved up to No. 2 in the NFL quarterback pecking order, in my view, and he's pushing Mahomes for the top spot. Burrow is 3-0 against Mahomes and the Chiefs, including last year's AFC title game and a Week 13 win this season, both in Kansas City by the identical 27-24 score. With Mahomes dealing with a sprained ankle and facing an underrated defense that played great in Buffalo, I'm picking Burrow and the Bengals.

Rich Gannon: Chiefs 24, Bengals 21

I think we're looking at a game where both quarterbacks play really well. Even with limited mobility though, Patrick Mahomes can find ways to hurt you. This season Mahomes led the NFL with 32 touchdowns from inside the pocket.

Marvin Lewis: Bengals 34, Chiefs 28

I still have some ties to those Bengals, and they're pretty good. I know it's hard to beat a team three times in a row. This would be a fourth, and I know it's gonna be hard. But Joe Burrow and those guys on offense, as well as they're playing and how they're flying around on defense, it's hard to pick against the Bengals.

T.J. McCreight: Bengals 31, Chiefs 27

The ankle injury to Mahomes will be a significant factor in this game. A big part of his game will be taken away, and he will be forced to make all of his plays from the pocket. The Bengals are playing at a high level and with a great deal of confidence. Cincinnati showed off its toughness and grit against Buffalo, taking the crowd out of the game early. Even dealing with injuries, Cincinnati should be able to both run and pass the ball against Kansas City.

Marty Mornhinweg: Chiefs 30, Bengals 24 (OT)

Here's what I got in the AFC Championship game. Imagine this: Regulation comes to end, and the score is 24-24. We go into overtime. Mahomes limps, hops and throws a touchdown pass for the Chiefs and adds a little tomahawk chop. The Chiefs will play the Eagles in the Super Bowl.

Chuck Pagano: Chiefs 28, Bengals 24

Past performance is not always indicative of future results. But in this case, one can’t ignore Joe Cool's 3-0 record vs. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. The storyline in the Buffalo game was the Cincinnati offensive line missing three starters, and how would they open up holes and be able to protect Burrow vs. a Buffalo defense that, even without Von Miller, was able to play well. In what some considered a surprise, all Cincinnati did was dominate on both sides of the ball and get out of Buffalo with a decisive 17-point win in a game that was never close. Look for defensive coordinator Steve “Spags” Spagnuolo and this Chiefs' defense to do what it must to stop Joe Mixon and the Bengals' run game along with containing Ja'Marr Chase. Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd will have to come up big and make plays in the pass game as Chase will likely attract double coverage in throwing situations.

The other big factor will be the mobility of Mahomes. Even though he finished the season ranked No. 1 in most QB stat categories when throwing from the pocket, he is most dangerous when outside the pocket and on the move. Look for defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo to check Mahomes' oil early to see just how mobile he is. Having said that, it will be up to this Bengals defense to continue to tackle well, eliminate the RAC and YAC yards and figure out a way to keep Travis Kelce in check. Easier said than done. Cincy will expect to win this game because of their recent success, not only vs. the Chiefs but also while riding a 10-game win streak. But I still like the Chiefs.

Mitchell Schwartz: Chiefs 27, Bengals 21

The Bengals won the other matchups with a healthy Mahomes, so maybe this is what the Chiefs need to get over the hump. The Bengals' offensive line has looked decent the last couple of weeks, but I don't think they are as good as people think, and I feel like the Chiefs' defensive line can slow them down just enough.

Rick Spielman: Bengals 24, Chiefs 20

Cincinnati patched together an offensive line and dominated Buffalo up front last week. Burrow thrives in the underdog role. Lou Anarumo is one of the best defensive minds in the game. He will be able to pressure Mahomes, whose mobility will be limited due to his ankle injury, and figure out a way to limit Travis Kelce. The Bengals can't let Kelce take over the game.

Mike Tannenbaum: Bengals 35, Chiefs 21

Burrow's mastery continues, and Cincinnati makes it four in a row over Kansas City. Cincinnati's defense will test the Chiefs' offense, with Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard each getting a sack to carry the day.

Joe Thomas: Bengals 24, Chiefs 17

Patrick Mahomes' immobility is going to figure largely in this game. You're gonna see a lot of internal pressure, trying to get him off of his spot, trying to get him to throw the football quickly. We're not gonna see the same Patrick Mahomes. With as hot as Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals have been, I think it's going to be a good game, but I think the Bengals eke it out in the end.

Dave Wannstedt: Bengals 28, Chiefs 17

Yes, Joe Burrow and company had a great day against the Bills. They just picked apart that Buffalo zone coverage last week, but my reason for picking Cincinnati to beat the Chiefs by two scores is because of the running game. Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine will make the difference.

Mike Zimmer: Bengals 22, Chiefs 21

The Bengals always have a chance with Burrow in there with the things he can do and with the receivers they have. With those three offensive linemen out last week, I thought they did a great job filling in for those guys that were injured. I watched the game the week before, and those two guys played well. I do think Cincinnati's defense might be a little bit better than Kansas City's overall, so I'm going to go with Cincinnati.

Consensus: Bengals 27, Chiefs 25