2023 NFL Conference Championship Preview, RedState Style

AP Photo/Colin E. Braley

The NFL 2022-2023 season’s penultimate moment draws nigh, with the San Francisco 49ers visiting the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cincinnati Bengals paying a social call on the Kansas City Chiefs.


San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles — The 49ers have been a machine over the season’s second half, with rookie quarterback Brock Purdy making every other team’s scouting staff look foolish as he has bombed the opposition with aplomb. However, Purdy didn’t decimate the Cowboys in last week’s divisional playoff game, not that this has stopped the 49ers Faithful, among whom I work and live, from hailing him as Joe Montana And Steve Young Rolled Into One. Acquiring Christian McCaffrey hasn’t hurt either. Deebo Samuel remains a running and catching threat, while George Kittle is a top-notch tight end. Defensively, San Francisco is stout against both the run and the pass, more so against the run.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia isn’t the home team for nothing. Jalen Hurts made a tremendous leap forward this year, a threat with both his arm and legs. He may be suffering lingering effects from a late-season shoulder injury, but his performance against the Giants was anything but substandard. The Eagles are an excellent running team, and no slouches in the passing game. Defensively, Philadelphia was lights out against the pass, helped in no small part by one of the best pass rushes in NFL history. This will put even more emphasis on the 49ers’ ground attack. It should be a great game.

Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs — Someone forgot to tell the Bengals they were supposed to suffer from Super Bowl loser hangover, as they handled the favored Bills with relative ease to earn their second straight visit to Arrowhead, winner takes the conference. Joe Burrow, when given time to make plays, has again proved he is a pure stud, while Ja’Marr Chase is a defensive coordinator’s nightmare come to life. After an okay regular season, in the playoffs, Joe Mixon is making Cincinnati’s ground game something worth taking into account. Defensively the Bengals are average against the pass, good against the run.


Kansas City has something to prove in this, their fifth straight AFC Championship Game appearance. Patrick Mahomes deserves all the superlatives thrown his way and more. He is that rare kind of exceptional athlete who, even for the most casual fan, is an unbridled joy to watch. The Chiefs are somewhat below average running the ball, but it seldom matters with Mahomes at the helm. Defensively, Kansas City is decent against the pass and average against the run; not exactly the stuff of winning a lot of defensive struggles, but how often do they have one?

The biggest question entering the game is Mahomes’ health. He suffered a high ankle sprain against the Jaguars, and while he insists he’s good to go, it’s difficult to imagine the injury won’t have at least some impact on his game. So we shall see. This, like the 49ers and Eagles, should be a great game.

Predictions? Naah. Too close to call.


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