January 25th, 2024
The NFL playoffs have been whittled down from 12 to just four teams. In the AFC, the top-seed Baltimore Ravens will face off against the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs. Over in the NFC, the San Francisco 49ers will battle it out with an underdog Detroit Lions side set on ending decades of hurt. But what can we expect to see in the two heavyweight encounters?
The Reigning Champions Flex Their Championship-winning Pedigree
Throughout the 2023 season, the Kansas City Chiefs looked to be the favorites for a fourth consecutive Super Bowl appearance in five years. They dropped a shocking 20-19 defeat to the Detroit Lions on the opening day of the campaign, however, they put that firmly in the rearview mirror by winning their next six to power themselves to the top of the AFC West standings.
Unfortunately, throughout the second half of the campaign, the champs were uncharacteristically inconsistent. They won just half of their final ten games and as such, online football betting sites dropped them as a frontrunner.
Instead, sportsbooks preferred the Baltimore Ravens, who secured top-seed status in the AFC with an impressive 13-3 record. But even though Patrick Mahomes and Co. were unfancied, they didn't let that bother them. They knocked off the Miami Dolphins' highly-powered offense in the wildcard round before defeating a Buffalo Bills side that was much fancied to progress at their expense. Now they will face off against the Ravens and for the first time in six years, the conference championship game won't be held at Arrowhead Stadium.
Rather, it will be held at M&T Bank Stadium. But while the Chiefs have become battle-hardened with their two recent victories, the hosts have cruised into the AFC Championship game. They secured a bye to the Divisional Round and there they comfortably dispatched the Houston Texans. Now, they will need to be at their very best, as Mahomes is firing on all cylinders and the Chiefs look to be on the prowl once more.
Can the 49ers Live Up To Their Billing?
In the absence of the Chiefs at the top of the betting odds list, the San Francisco 49ers have been the outright favorite for the Lombardi throughout the entirety of the second half of the season. They secured victories against the two strongest teams in their conference throughout the regular season, namely the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys, and they did so in a dominant fashion. However, they have only known pain throughout the latter stages of the playoffs.
They've lost four of their last six NFC Championship games, most recently last season when they were knocked off by the aforementioned Eagles. Of the two games they won, they ultimately lost the Super Bowl, firstly to the Ravens in 2013 and the Chiefs in 2020. Their opponents however are the polar opposite.
Prior to this season, the Detroit Lions hadn't won a postseason game since 1992. They'd lost their last eight playoff games in the very first round and they had only reached the playoffs three times since the turn of the millennium. However, they have already knocked off both the 2020 champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the 2021 champions, the Los Angeles Rams. Do they have one last victory in them to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history?
Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/official_PFH