Conference Championships: Bengals @ Chiefs, 49ers @ Rams – Jeff Reinebold gives his keys to both games | NFL News


Can San Francisco 49ers' star pass rusher Nick Bosa be the difference on Sunday as they try to reach a second Super Bowl in three years?

Can San Francisco 49ers’ star pass rusher Nick Bosa be the difference on Sunday as they try to reach a second Super Bowl in three years?

Championship Sunday in the NFL is almost here, with four teams set to be whittled down to our Super Bowl LVI finalists.

We can only hope there will be as much drama and entertainment provided as was the case on Divisional Weekend just gone, but where will each game be won and lost?

Sky Sports NFL’s Jeff Reinebold is here to break down the key battles that we can expect to see this Sunday…

Watch the NFL Conference Championship games live on Sky Sports NFL

Watch the NFL Conference Championship games live on Sky Sports NFL

Cincinnati Bengals @ Kansas City Chiefs

Sunday, live on Sky Sports NFL, 8pm

1) Chiefs must find an answer for Chase

The biggest thing is the Chiefs have got to find an answer for Ja’Marr Chase, because he went off in the Week 17 meeting between these two – 11 catches, 266 yards and three touchdowns! Joe Burrow had 446 yards passing in that game too as the Bengals won 34-31.

Watch every catch made by Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase from his 266-yard game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17.

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Watch every catch made by Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase from his 266-yard game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17.

Watch every catch made by Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase from his 266-yard game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17.

Kansas City can’t allow that to happen again. As good as Patrick Mahomes is, and as many dynamic weapons that they also have on offense, you don’t want to get into another shootout like they did last week against the Buffalo Bills – as this time you may come out on the wrong side of it.

Whether that means they have to double-team Chase, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is going to have to find a way to limit his big-play ability.

The Chiefs should win this game, they’re a better football team, but this Bengals side are playing with house money right now and that makes them really dangerous. They believe in themselves.

2) Can Cincinnati protect Burrow?

Burrow is unflappable. He got hit 13 times and sacked nine times against the Tennessee Titans last weekend. When you break that down, it’s nearly one out of every three offensive plays that he got hit.

Highlights of the Cincinnati Bengals' clash with the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round of the playoffs.

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Highlights of the Cincinnati Bengals’ clash with the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Highlights of the Cincinnati Bengals’ clash with the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round of the playoffs.

It’s hard to keep throwing strikes when you’re getting knocked around like that, but it didn’t seem to phase him. I look at Burrow and the stage is not too big for him. He won’t be scared.

Kansas City doesn’t have the same kind of pass rush that Tennessee has, but Frank Clark and Chris Jones are good rushers, and Melvin Ingram is probably the biggest reason as to why this Chiefs defense got better after he was brought in before the trade deadline. They became more aggressive and got physically tougher.

That offensive line for the Bengals is going to have to figure out a way to keep Burrow on his feet. They’re going to have to play much better than they did against Tennessee to have a chance.

3) Can Kansas City’s offense go again?

Kansas City must go out there and execute their offense. They are dynamic enough, that if Cincinnati scheme a way to take away Tyreek Hill then they can win with any number of other guys.

Alternatively, if you take away Travis Kelce on defense, then their other wide receivers are like a track team and they then come into play.

Highlights of the Buffalo Bills' epic clash with the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round of the playoffs.

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Highlights of the Buffalo Bills’ epic clash with the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Highlights of the Buffalo Bills’ epic clash with the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Mahomes’ play last week was absolutely phenomenal. To go out there and one-up Josh Allen, who himself had an unbelievable day, it was mind-blowing stuff. Mahomes had 177 yards in the final two minutes of the game alone!

The litmus test of every quarterback in the NFL is, what do you do when the game is on the line? Well, it was on the line about three or four times at the end of that game and Mahomes just kept bailing the Chiefs out and getting them back in front.

This Chiefs team, with Mahomes and all of their offensive talent, simply don’t know when they are beaten.

Ahead of this weekend's NFL Conference Championships, check out some of the best plays from the four remaining quarterbacks.

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Ahead of this weekend’s NFL Conference Championships, check out some of the best plays from the four remaining quarterbacks.

Ahead of this weekend’s NFL Conference Championships, check out some of the best plays from the four remaining quarterbacks.

San Francisco 49ers @ Los Angeles Rams

Sunday, live on Sky Sports NFL, 11.30pm

1) Do the Rams have a hard enough chin?

What I mean by that is, can the Rams withstand the barrage of punches that are going to come their way from this physical 49ers side? San Francisco have won six straight against the Rams by winning in the trenches.

A look back at San Francisco's two regular-season wins over Los Angeles ahead of their clash on Sunday in the NFC Championship game.

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A look back at San Francisco’s two regular-season wins over Los Angeles ahead of their clash on Sunday in the NFC Championship game.

A look back at San Francisco’s two regular-season wins over Los Angeles ahead of their clash on Sunday in the NFC Championship game.

If this was a boxing match, I’d equate it to Marvin Hagler versus Thomas Hearns from back in the 1980s, which was probably the best 12 minutes of boxing in history.

Hearns was flashy, had all the reach, 6 ft 2 and a pretty boxer – he’s like the Rams, with all of the hype – and Hagler was just a street brawler, much in the way the 49ers are built, throwing punches from the very start.

Hearns cut Hagler early, and they almost stopped the fight, but Hagler kept coming, kept pounding and pounding and eventually knocked Hearns out in the third round. That’s how San Francisco beat L.A. in Week 18, coming back from 17 points down, and I think they’ll need that spirit again this week.

The Rams are loaded with superstars but are they tough enough? San Francisco are going to test that – they run the ball, hit hard on defense, with an outstanding pass rush. Can L.A. hold up under that onslaught? That has been their problem previously.

2) Can 49ers secondary keep Rams weapons quiet?

That said, the 49ers can’t match up with the skill that L.A. have – they have too many weapons. And so how San Francisco look to counter the threat of L.A.’s star receivers will be fascinating.

The Niners are beat up in the secondary. Do they double up on Cooper Kupp? If they do, then who is looking after Odell Beckham Jr? And there’s also Van Jefferson and Tyler Higbee to worry about.

Odell Beckham Jr makes a toe-tapping catch for his first career touchdown in the playoffs as the Los Angeles Rams won their Wild Card clash with the Arizona Cardinals.

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Odell Beckham Jr makes a toe-tapping catch for his first career touchdown in the playoffs as the Los Angeles Rams won their Wild Card clash with the Arizona Cardinals.

Odell Beckham Jr makes a toe-tapping catch for his first career touchdown in the playoffs as the Los Angeles Rams won their Wild Card clash with the Arizona Cardinals.

I think we’re going to see a lot of what we call ‘three by one’ sets, where the Rams will put Jefferson, Higbee and Kupp all on the same side, with OBJ on the other. That will really stress the defense, and San Francisco will have to have an answer for it.

There’s not a guy on the 49ers team who can single-cover Beckham, but then if you put two back there to defend him, then they’ll have trouble stopping the run and with their matchups on the other side versus Kupp, Higbee and Jefferson.

It’s going to be a fascinating, tactical chess match on that side of the ball?

3) Can the 49ers pass rush unsettle Stafford?

Joe Noteboom stood in for Andrew Whitworth at left tackle last weekend, and did a great job against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But he is going to face a whole different set of pass rushers this week.

Highlights of the Los Angeles Rams' clash with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round of the playoffs.

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Highlights of the Los Angeles Rams’ clash with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Highlights of the Los Angeles Rams’ clash with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Nick Bosa is maybe as good as there is in the entire league, and San Francisco dress nine total defensive linemen for the game, so they are constantly rotating in fresh guys. That defensive front four for the 49ers really is key.

Will the Rams be able to run the ball? Because that sets up their ‘play action’ passes and all of the things they want to do with Matthew Stafford. And can they keep him protected?

Highlights of the San Francisco 49ers’ clash with the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs.

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Highlights of the San Francisco 49ers’ clash with the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Highlights of the San Francisco 49ers’ clash with the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Stafford, in my opinion, is going to have to play a very clean game because turnovers are what San Francisco are counting on. If they can force a fumble and an interception or two, those are bonus possessions, with good field position that they’ll be able to turn into points. They had four interceptions of Stafford over their two previous wins this season.

The Rams have got to play a clean game and a physical game in order to book their spot in Super Bowl LVI back at their home stadium.

The NFL playoffs continue this weekend when the Kansas City Chiefs host the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship game live on Sky Sports NFL from 8pm Sunday, followed immediately after by the San Francisco 49ers at the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship game at SoFi Stadium.





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