After ranking the offensive and defensive lines of each team playing in the Conference Championship, here we break down the individual matchups and which teams will have an advantage in the trenches on Sunday.
This is as tight as it gets. These two teams have been at the top of my rankings since the beginning of the playoffs and have done everything they need to do to stay there. Last week’s San Francisco vs. Dallas matchup was a fun one for the trenches, and I expect this one to be even better. That said, the way the Eagles offensive line has competed against top defensive fronts such as Dallas give them an ever-so-slight edge in this matchup. Most offensive lines have a guy or two that bring attitude to the group, Philly has a full unit.
Eagles OL: LT: Jordan Mailata, LG: Landon Dickerson, C: Jason Kelce, RG: Isaac Seumalo, RT: Lane Johnson
49ers DIs: Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, Kevin Givens, Kerry Hyder Jr.
49ers Edges: Nick Bosa, Samson Ebukam, Charles Omenihu, Drake Jackson
Something to watch for when the Eagles are on offense: As I promised when I first started this, I will be honest with you. For this segment, I try to think about how I’d attack, either as an OC or DC, in a certain situation. Here we have my top offensive line matching up against my top defensive line. Given the opportunity, I don’t think I’d change anything I’m doing going into the game for either side. Each unit is likely to try to impose its will early on, and if either is caught out, I think their coaching staff earns their money with some in-game adjustments. Outside of that, I’ll be grabbing my popcorn and watching this heavyweight battle unfold.
49ers OL: LT: Trent Williams, LG: Aaron Banks, C: Jake Brendel, RG: Spencer Burford, RT: Mike McGlinchey
Eagles DL: Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Jordan Davis, Ndamukong Suh, Linval Joseph
Eagles Edges: Brandon Graham, Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, Robert Quinn
Something to watch for when the 49ers are on offense: I expect to see the 49ers trying to make the Eagles defensive front move laterally instead of vertically and find gaps between the tackles early on in the scripted portion of their gameplan. If they see success in those first 15 plays, expect to see it again and again throughout the night.
These units have been relatively close in the rankings throughout the playoffs, but if you asked me in past weeks, I would have given the edge to the Chiefs. However, coming off of last week, the Bengals have done enough to take a slight edge. If Cincy is able to display the same preparation on the field this week, it’ll go a long way towards putting them back into Super Bowl Sunday.
Chiefs OL: LT: Orlando Brown Jr., LG: Joe Thuney, C: Creed Humphrey, RG: Trey Smith, RT: Andrew Wylie
Bengals DIs: D.J. Reader, B.J. Hill, Josh Tupou, Zachary Carter
Bengals Edges: Trey Hendrickson, Sam Hubbard, Cameron Sample, Joseph Ossai
Something to watch for when the Chiefs are on offense: While the Chiefs won’t want to change their offensive identity too much, I do think they’ll look for ways to keep Patrick Mahomes from extending plays too frequently in the interest of keeping him healthy. As such, I expect a slight uptick in runs and short passes, something the Bengals have done well against. Given an advantage against the Bengals defense in the passing game, I do still expect they’ll pick their spots for some shots, perhaps with some max protection.
Bengals OL: LT: D’Ante Smith, LG: Cordell Volson, C: Ted Karras, RG: Max Scharping, RT: Hakeem Adeniji
Chiefs DIs: Chris Jones, Khalen Saunders, Derrick Nnadi, Brandon Williams
Chiefs Edges: Frank Clark, George Karlaftis, Carlos Dunlap, Mike Danna
Something to watch for when the Bengals are on offense: The Bengals have been one of the most pass-heavy teams in a neutral script this season, and I don’t expect them to change their stripes. However, if their offensive line can play the way they did last week, this is a phase of the game that they might have the advantage in. Seeing them run the ball at a slightly higher rate would not be surprising at all.