Well, the Divisional Round was not great for my playoff prediction bracket.
I presented my bracket at the start of the postseason where I broke down how I thought each round would play out, which you can read here if you're interested:
While three of my four predicted teams have advanced to the Championship Round, my Super Bowl winner, Buffalo, was eliminated in surprising fashion by Cincinnati. I didn't like how the Bills looked against Miami in the first round, and I noted that they would be in danger of being eliminated by the Bengals if they didn't play better, particularly offensively. Credit to the Bengals, who have proven themselves as true contenders in the AFC, and may take over the role of conference favorites in years to come if they're able to knock off the Chiefs for the second conference championship, and fourth overall matchup, in a row.
I suppose that lead-in means I should start with the AFC Championship. The Bengals actually opened as 1.5-point favorites on the road. Many people believe that this was due to Patrick Mahomes' high ankle sprain that hobbled him significantly against Jacksonville. But after clips have made the rounds on the Internet of Mahomes appearing to move quite freely on his ankle, confidence has started to be restored in Kansas City.
While the line has only moved half a point toward the Chiefs, I actually like the Chiefs to win this game. As much as I like Joe Burrow and the Bengals, it's so hard to beat a team twice in the same season, four times in a row, and in back-to-back conference championships. Kansas City has been waiting for an entire year to get revenge on Cincinnati after they blew an 18-point lead in last year's championship game, and I think they get that revenge as long as Mahomes is near 100 percent. The last time Mahomes played hurt in a conference championship game was in 2021, when he threw for 325 yards and three TDs in a 38-24 win over the Bills.
You can never count out Joe Burrow, who seems to always win when it matters most, and it will be a different story if Lou Anarumo's defense is able to contain and swarm a partially immobilized Patrick Mahomes. But my gut's telling me to go with the Chiefs to redeem their early exit from a season ago.
Now to tackle the NFC Championship, which I'm very torn on.
Philadelphia is currently favored by 2.5 points as of Thursday, and it's hard to argue that spread given how impressive they've looked for the entirety of the season. They began their postseason run with a 38-7 win over the Giants, who appeared to be in the process of maturing into a real contender as the season came down the stretch. Unfortunately, New York ran into the buzzsaw that is the Philadelphia Eagles, who appear to be able to turn it on and blow out any opponent at any time.
It's tough because I loved the 49ers going into the postseason. I believed they had the best overall team going into the playoffs, with their only real question mark being the quarterback position. So far, Brock Purdy has at least played well enough to not lose a game, meaning he's at least taken care of the football and made just enough plays to allow their strong defense to carry them to victory.
Unfortunately, that's not going to work against the Eagles. The truth is that Purdy is going to have to make several plays to keep up with Philly's offense. Because while San Francisco's defense is elite, I don't see this being a game where the Niners can only score about 20 points and still win, like what happened against the Cowboys last week. For this reason, I'm picking the Eagles to win by a score of around 27-20.
So it's settled. Your 2023 Super Bowl will feature a loaded matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles. I can't wait to see if my predictions are correct, which would likely make for a thrilling Super Bowl matchup if it occurs.
Either way, I think this season is setting up for one of the best Super Bowls in recent memory, regardless of which two of the four teams advance.
Check back tomorrow when I'll give my favorite betting plays to earn you money this Championship Weekend.
Written by Nick Swatson
Expert Nick Swatson discusses all the news, predictions, and outcomes surrounding the NFL.