By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
We’re down to the NFL’s version of the “Final Four,” with tomorrow’s winners advancing to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles. ESPN Honolulu 92.7 FM/1420 AM) will bring you both games. First, the Kansas City Chiefs will host the Cincinnati Bengals at 10:00 a.m. Then, at 1:30 p.m., the Los Angeles Rams will square off against their division rivals, the San Francisco 49ers.
Here’s how I see each game playing out:
CINCINNATI @ KANSAS CITY: After the Chiefs started the season 3-4, many NFL observers wondered, “What’s wrong with Kansas City?” Then the Chiefs reeled off eight straight wins and reclaimed their spot atop the AFC West. What team ended KC’s winning streak? The Bengals. In Cincinnati’s wild 34-31 win over the Chiefs in Week 17, Joe Burrow outshined Patrick Mahomes by putting up 446 passing yards and four TDs. That contest was in Cincinnati, however. Tomorrow’s game will be different. Mahomes has been spectacular so far in the postseason, passing for 782 yards, eight TDs and just one interception. TE Travis Kelce and WR Tyreek Hill have accounted for 411 of those yards and half of the touchdowns. In other words, the Chiefs’ offense is rolling. For the Bengals, Burrow hasn’t exactly been shabby, throwing for 592 yards and two scores, but I have to wonder how the second-year QB will respond in the biggest game of his young career. The young and talented Bengals will be a team to be reckoned with for seasons to come, but this particular matchup may prove to be too much for them to handle. KC is favored by seven, and I think the final margin will be considerably wider. The time to oust the Chiefs was last week, but Buffalo couldn’t get it done. PREDICTION: CHIEFS 41, BENGALS 24.
SAN FRANCISCO @ L.A. RAMS: The Rams are 3.5-point favorites to handle their NFC West rival, but maybe it should be the other way around. The 49ers beat L.A. in both of their regular-season meetings (31-10 in San Francisco on Nov. 15, 27-24 in L.A. in the season finale), running their winning streak against the Rams to six. Could the Niners have L.A.’s number? Possibly, especially if 49ers edge rusher Nick Bosa and the rest of the team’s defensive line continue to dominate. San Francisco brought down Aaron Rodgers five times last week, and they also had a five-sack performance against the Rams and Matthew Stafford earlier in the season. The Rams’ ground attack was shaky at best last week, with Cam Akers coughing up the ball to the Bucs twice, and it will be important for L.A.’s o-line to protect Stafford. If they do that, I think Cooper Kupp and ODB Jr. will make big plays. Say what you will about Jimmy Garoppolo, but the oft-maligned QB has led the Niners to wins over the Cowboys and Packers in this postseason. He won’t put up spectacular numbers, but somehow he gets the job done. L.A. has the home field and better talent, but the 49ers seem to have destiny on their side. PREDICTION: 49ERS 20, RAMS 17