Super Bowl 2022: Date, Schedule and Predicting Teams for NFL Championship Game

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 25, 2022

Super Bowl 2022: Date, Schedule and Predicting Teams for NFL Championship Game

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    You know the old adage about how anything can happen on any given Sunday in the NFL?

    Well, the 2022 postseason has become the living embodiment of it.

    Neither No. 1 seed remains standing after a drama-packed, upset-heavy divisional round. In fact, the Kansas City Chiefs are the only top-three seed in either conference that still has a pulse.

    Both No. 4 seeds, the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams, secured road upsets this weekend. The sixth-seeded San Francisco 49ers engineered their second in as many weeks.

    The football has been fantastic, but it has also created some confusion. With so many favorites knocked out of the race, which teams should fans expect to see in Super Bowl LVI?

Super Bowl Schedule

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    Brett Carlsen/Associated Press

    What: Super Bowl LVI

    Who: AFC champion vs. NFC champion

    When: Sunday, Feb. 13

    Time: 6:30 p.m. ET

    Where: SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California

    TV: NBC

    Live Stream: Peacock and NBC Sports App

The AFC Champion Will Be...

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    ...the Kansas City Chiefs.

    That's no slight on Cincinnati, which has opened one eyeball after another this season. The Bengals are loaded with playmakers, and sophomore quarterback Joe Burrow is already big-time. He just survived being sacked nine times in his first road playoff game. If that didn't rattle him, he is officially rattle-proof.

    Still, it's the middle of winter, and this time of year belongs to Patrick Mahomes.

    This is his fourth year as an NFL starter and the fourth in which his Chiefs are hosting the AFC Championship Game. He has already booked two Super Bowl trips and secured a title. He owns an 8-2 postseason record and has tallied 25 touchdowns with only five interceptions in those contests.

    This might not be a one-player sport, but an elite signal-caller like Mahomes can make it seem that way. He has weapons around him, but his ability to improvise and execute means he's just as likely to weaponize Byron Pringle, Jerick McKinnon and Mecole Hardman as he is Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.

    Kansas City's defense is prone to leaks, and those will be tougher to plug if dynamic safety Tyrann Mathieu can't return from the concussion protocol. But Mahomes' magic will be enough to overcome some defensive generosity.

The NFC Champion Will Be...

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    ...the San Francisco 49ers.

    Is this prediction entirely based on the fact that the Niners swept the season series 2-0 and have won six straight over their NFC West rival Rams? Yes and no. No in the sense that past performance does not guarantee future results, but yes in that those contests exposed some advantages that San Francisco will enjoy in this tilt.

    The 49ers are more ferocious in the trenches. Their bully-ball approach can knock the Rams out of their finessed, precise approach. Pass-rushers Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead can make life miserable on Matthew Stafford and speed up his decision-making. Stafford was sacked seven times in the two regular-season matchups and threw two interceptions in each contest.

    San Francisco has also dominated the ground game in this series, which keeps L.A.'s offense off the field and its own defense fresh enough to play downhill. During those two games, the Niners rushed 75 times for 291 yards and two scores. The Rams, meanwhile, generated just 116 yards and zero scores on 37 attempts. With that kind of edge, Jimmy Garoppolo doesn't have to get into a throwing contest with Stafford, which might heavily favor the latter.

    San Francisco's formula of playing elite defense—keyed by an ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks without bringing extra blitzers—and establishing the running game to control the clock has long proved to be successful at this time of year. Los Angeles hasn't figured out how to counter it yet, so why would conference championship weekend be any different?