For decades, NFL franchises and individual players have cemented and cemented their legacies during conference championship games. How will history remember this week’s featured events and players?
Sunday features the AFC and NFC Championship Games presented by Intuit TurboTax. Will someone unexpectedly rise to the occasion with a pivotal performance that sends their team to Super Bowl LVII? Will a wiser superstar write another chapter in post-season lore? Or how about Option C: All of the above?
In any case, no one questions the quality of the championship matches. No surprise teams this season. In fact, this is the first time that the Final Four has at least 14 wins, including the post-season.
In the next decade, NFL fans can look forward to an exciting future. The four expected to start this week — Cincinnati’s Joe Burrows, Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts, Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and San Francisco’s Brock Purdy — represent the youngest group of quarterbacks in a conference championship since They introduced conference championships in 1970. Average age on Sunday is 25 years and 98 days. Prior to this, the youngest foursome was in the 1996 conference championship, when the starting four averaged 25 years and 231 days.
NFL Championship Game Schedule:
Sunday 29 January
San Francisco 49ers (15-4) and Philadelphia Eagles (15-3)
3.00 p.m. new York time
Fox, Fox Deportes
Cincinnati Bengals (14-4) and Kansas City Chiefs (15-3)
6:30 pm new York time
The starting 4 entering the 2022 championship game…
1. Burrow-Mahomes, Episode IV. Joe Burrows and Patrick Mahomes are expected to meet for the fourth time this week when the Cincinnati Bengals (14-4) visit the Kansas City Chiefs (15-3) on Sunday night (6:30 p.m. ET, CBS, Paramount+). When was the last time two quarterbacks started back-to-back championship games against each other before the age of 28? It was between 1986 and 1987, when Hall of Famer John Elway guided the Broncos under Bernie Kosar and the Cleveland Browns to back-to-back Super Bowl berths.
Mahomes has led the Chiefs to five consecutive conference championship games. Since the 1970 merger, the only other quarterbacks to start five straight conference title games are Tom Brady (five from 2003–07 and eight from 2011–18) and Hall of Famer Ken Stabler (five from 1973–77). Mahomes is the first person to accomplish this feat before his 28th birthday.
Prior to Burrow’s arrival, Mahomes and the Chiefs had a 45–10 win over Cincinnati in 2018. Mahomes had 92 NFL starts, including the postseason. He is 1-3 (.250) against the Bengals and 72-16 (.818) against the rest of the league. Mahomes has never lost to any other franchise more than twice in a row.
Burrow’s career three starts against Kansas City, including the postseason, is 3–0 with 982 passing yards, eight TD passes, one interception, and a 121.0 passer rating. Burrow is also 3–0 overall in post-season road games.
Burrow expected to become the first quarterback selected No. 1 overall to start two conference championship games in his first three NFL seasons. He could join Russell Wilson as one of two quarterbacks to win six games in the post-season in his first three NFL seasons.
Burrow improved to 5-1 in the postseason last week as the starting quarterback. Before they drafted him with the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Bengals had a total of five postseason wins as a franchise.
2. Under the Spotlight – Team Match. Don’t expect too many yards in Sunday’s NFC Championship game. That’s because the 49ers (300.6 yards allowed per game) and Eagles (301.5) ranked first and second, respectively, among NFL safeties during the regular season. Sunday allowed only the third time the NFL’s top two defenses have met in a conference championship game, the first since Pittsburgh beat Baltimore 23–14 in the 2008 AFC title game. The only other instance since the 1970 merger was Dallas’ 28–0 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in the 1978 NFC Championship Game.
San Francisco’s defensive coordinator Demeko Ryan ended his playing career with the Eagles. Philadelphia acquired Ryan in a 2012 trade that included three draft picks, one of which selected Eagles quarterback Nick Foles.
Philadelphia’s 32 rushing touchdowns in 2022 tied for the second most in a single season, trailing only Pittsburgh’s 33 in 1976. Five times this season, including last week’s postseason win, an Eagles player has reached 100 rushing yards. San Francisco has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 32 straight games, including the post-season.
The NFC West has represented the conference in three of the last four Super Bowls, and six of the last 10 dating back to when San Francisco lost to Baltimore in Super Bowl XLVII.
San Francisco started this year with Trey Lance, Jimmy Garoppolo and Brock Purdy. With a win on Sunday, the 49ers would be the first team to start with three quarterbacks during the regular season and advance to the Super Bowl since the 2016 New England Patriots (Tom Brady, Jacoby Brissett and Garoppolo).
3. Streams that speak. Including San Francisco (12 straight wins) and Cincinnati (10) this week, 14 teams have entered a conference championship game with win streaks of at least 10 games since the 1970 merger. However, this is only the second time that two teams have entered conference championship week with win streaks of at least 10 games. This last happened in 1976, when both the Oakland Raiders (11) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (10) did so.
Including post-season games, the 49ers (12) are bringing the NFL’s longest winning streak into the conference championship game since New England entered the 2007 AFC title contest with 17 straight wins.
Kansas City (2018–22) would become the third team since 1970 to play in five straight conference championship games. The New England Patriots (eight straight from 2011–18) and the Oakland Raiders (five from 1973–77) also accomplished the feat.
4. And last, but not the least. The Bengals and Chiefs are playing for the conference championship for the second year in a row, a rare occurrence in NFL history. Since the 1970 merger, the same two teams have met in back-to-back conference championships just six times. Dallas beat San Francisco in both 1970 and 1971, the Steelers took two of three from the Raiders (1974–76), the Steelers took two in a row over the Houston Oilers from 1978–79, the Broncos took the back- Topped the Cleveland Browns in a two-back series (1986). -87), Dallas took two of three from San Francisco (1992–94), and the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots split two back-to-back AFC title games in 2011–12.