It’s all on the line in pro football this weekend. Win and you’re going to The Big Game. The stakes are sky-high, so we’re going all-out with the Championship Game Showstopper.
Uncover the news, angles, and hidden stats you should know before you place your bets for 49ers vs. Rams and Bengals vs. Chiefs.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Los Angeles Rams
Sunday, January 30 | TV: FOX
If you read the last couple of Showstopper editions, you realized how optimistic we were on the 49ers’ chances of upsetting the Cowboys and Packers to move into the Conference Championship round of the playoffs. Now we’re here, but the opponent gets much tougher as the Niners head to Los Angeles for a showdown with the Rams, who have consecutively scored 30-plus points to knock off the Cardinals and Bucs. The suffocating Rams D has also come to play, first by completely shutting down Kyler Murray, then sacking Tom Brady three times and holding him to a 72.2 passer rating. San Francisco has excelled on the strength of its top-notch defense, but the big question remains whether the 49ers D can stop QB Matthew Stafford, especially after two incredibly efficient passing games in the postseason.
That being said, the 49ers have supreme confidence on their side, having beat the Rams twice during the regular season, all while forcing Stafford into two interceptions in both of those wins. So, it does seem like their pass rush has found the secret sauce in knowing how to keep Stafford under wraps. San Francisco QB Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t been asked to throw much in the playoffs, with only 44 attempts over two games, and he was sacked four times versus the Packers. Doubts are still swirling in the air whether Jimmy G can avoid any big mistakes when the pressure is on. He did get sacked three times and was picked off twice at Los Angeles in Week 18.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, January 30 | TV: CBS
Despite being sacked a whopping nine times, QB Joe Burrow led the Bengals to a 19-16 victory over the Titans in the divisional round. That win had more to do with Tennessee’s costly turnovers than it did the offensive aptitude of Cincinnati’s offense, and Burrow actually tied the record for most times sacked in an NFL playoff game since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. The Bengals will have to do a lot better than 19 points against the Chiefs, who have scored 42 points in back-to-back games over the Steelers and Bills in the postseason, with QB Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce torching secondaries downfield.
Now here’s the twist: The Bengals actually beat the Chiefs 34-31 in Week 17, so there’s recent history that indicates the Bengals can hang toe-to-toe with the Chiefs’ electric offensive attack. However, that game was not at Arrowhead Stadium, and the Bengals went 5-3 on the road during the regular season. Plus, Mahomes proved in that matchup he can find his other targets if Kelce and wideout Tyreek Hill get locked down. On the injury front, Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu returned to practice on Thursday, which is great news as the All-Pro safety tries to clear the concussion protocol. Kansas City’s D will likely also get Rashad Fenton back after the cornerback missed the last two games with a back injury.