Super Bowl 2023: Predictions and Latest Odds Ahead of Conference Championships
The four best teams in the NFL will be participating on conference championship next weekend.
The Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles were the class of the AFC and NFC throughout the regular season, while the Cincinnati Bengals and San Francisco 49ers are worthy contenders to the top seeds.
Each of the four teams played to their strengths in the divisional round to reach what is a familiar stage for all of them.
Kansas City is playing in its fifth straight AFC Championship Game, and Cincinnati beat the Chiefs last year to win a place in the Super Bowl.
San Francisco is making its third NFC Championship Game appearance in four years. Philadelphia is in its first conference title game in five seasons, but it has the most appearances in the NFC over the last 20 years.
The biggest question going into the two games is the health of Patrick Mahomes. The Kansas City quarterback suffered an ankle injury on Saturday and was in clear distress for most of the win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Even with a healthy Mahomes on the field, Kansas City's odds to reach the Super Bowl are level with Cincinnati.
In fact, all four teams have similar odds to win the Lombardi Trophy on February 12, which is not often the case when the NFL reaches this stage of the postseason.
Super Bowl Odds
Kansas City (+260; bet $100 to win $260)
San Francisco (+310)
AFC Championship Game
The AFC Championship Game has a cloud hanging over it because of Patrick Mahomes' injury.
The 27-year-old suffered a high ankle sprain in Saturday's win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
The good news for Kansas City is that it has an extra day to rest and the AFC title clash happens in the prime-time window on Sunday. Every minute of recovery is valuable for the quarterback if the Chiefs are to dethrone the Bengals.
Each of the last three battles between Mahomes and Joe Burrow has been decided by three points, though all of the contests were won by the Bengals.
A healthy Mahomes can get involved in a high-scoring back-and-forth affair with the reigning AFC champion on his home field, just like last season's AFC title game that went to overtime.
However, if he was hindered in any capacity, it would be a disadvantage to the Chiefs, especially if the divisional-round version of Cincinnati shows up at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Bengals answered any questions about their injury-ravaged offensive line by running for 172 yards behind a 105-yard performance from Joe Mixon.
They have the edge at running back with Mixon compared to Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon. Kansas City can't win the game if it runs over 25 times with a hampered Mahomes or Chad Henne at quarterback.
Kansas City tried to use a strong ground attack to beat the Bengals in the regular season, but Cincinnati held Mahomes to 223 passing yards on 16 completions to take away some of the Chiefs' offensive balance.
Burrow outgained Mahomes through the air in two of their last three head-to-head-showdowns. The latter only had 25 more passing yards than the former in the other game.
Kansas City has not proved in any of those clashes that it can slow down the LSU product and contain the Cincinnati ground game, so even if Mahomes is at 100 percent, it will be hard for the Chiefs to slow down the Bengals offense.
The Chiefs do have home-field advantage, which is something they would not have had against the Buffalo Bills, but Mahomes being hurt in any capacity hurts what the Chiefs are capable of.
Prediction: Cincinnati over Kansas City
NFC Championship Game
The offensive stars on the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers will earn plenty of the headlines going into Sunday.
However, the defensive playmakers on each side will be the difference-makers in the clash at Lincoln Financial Field.
San Francisco shut down the Dallas Cowboys offense, as it limited Dak Prescott to 206 passing yards and the ground game to 76 yards on 22 carries.
The front seven, led by Nick Bosa and Fred Warner, can limit the impact Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders have on the ground.
The Philadelphia ground game thrived on Saturday against a leaky New York Giants defense.
Nick Sirianni's team contained the Giants by holding Daniel Jones to 135 passing yards. The Eagles had five sacks and four tackles for loss.
Philadelphia has a slight edge over San Francisco on defense because of its tenacious pass rush, led by Haason Reddick. The Eagles are also two-deep across the defensive line, which will help it deal with Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell.
The Eagles also own an edge in offensive depth. DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown are a better wideout combination compared to Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. Dallas Goedert, at his best, can be comparable to George Kittle.
San Francisco holds the edge at running back with McCaffrey, but that can be cancelled out by the Eagles rushing defense and Hurts' advantage over Brock Purdy at quarterback.
If the Eagles contain McCaffrey and get the best out of their offensive playmakers, they should be headed back to the Super Bowl for the first time in five seasons.
Prediction: Philadelphia over San Francisco
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