Bold predictions for 2023 NFC, AFC championship games: Eagles torch 49ers; Burrow, Chase can’t be stopped

We’re now in the NFL’s Final Four, and by the end of today we’ll know what the Super Bowl LVII matchup in Arizona will be.

As usual, we expect some crazy things to happen when these conference championship games begin. So here we are again with our bold predictions: three for both the NFC and AFC title games.

NFC Championship Game: 49ers at Eagles

Brock Purdy tackles mightily, throws two interceptions

Brock Purdy pulled off a miracle: Going from the last pick of 2022 and the No. 3 quarterback to 7-0 as the San Francisco 49ers’ starting quarterback with a 116.0 passer rating in that Week 14 span, the highest in the NFL and the most -the best passer rating by a 49ers player in a seven-game stretch since Hall of Famer Steve Young in 1996-97. That’s remarkable. One of his most impressive traits is ball security with 14 touchdown passes and just two interceptions, none in the playoffs.

However, Purdy’s perfect performance will come crashing down as he goes up in flames Sunday in Philadelphia against the Eagles, the team with the most sacks in football this season, 75, including the playoffs (third most in single season in NFL history, including the postseason) and the second-highest rushing percentage in the NFL (39%). The rookie has performed well under pressure in his first six starts, registering a 121.2 passer rating when under pressure.

However, when facing Defensive Player of the Year finalist Micah Parsons and the Dallas Cowboys front, Purdy faded as he completed just three of his 11 passes when pressured for a 39.6 passer rating. The Eagles’ pass rush should be even more difficult for the 49ers’ offensive line because it’s not centered around primarily one player. Philadelphia has four players in double figures in sacks this season — linebacker Haason Reddick (16.0), linebacker Javon Hargrave (11.0), linebacker Josh Swat (11.0) and linebacker Brandon Graham (11.0) — the most in NFL history.

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Passing Yards/Att



Assessment of passers



* Eagles: 2nd-highest rushing percentage (39%) and most sacks (75) this season

When Purdy makes his eighth career start Sunday, he will become the fifth rookie quarterback to start a conference championship game, joining Sean King of the 1999 Buccaneers, Ben Roethlisberger of the 2004 Steelers, Joe Flacco of the 2008 Ravens and Mark Sanchez of the Jets since 2009. Those quarterbacks went a combined 0-4 while throwing four touchdowns and an interception. Purdy would run that record to 0-5 and add a few more interceptions to that cumulative box score.

Jalen Hurts has 4 total TDs totaling over 350 yards

The 49ers defense is the best in the NFL in scoring — 16.3 points allowed per game — and total yards — 300.6 total yards allowed per game — but much of what they do depends by NFL sack leader, defensive end Nick Bosa (18.5), creating pressure and racking up sacks. This defense will have a bit of whiplash after facing a Dallas Cowboys team a week ago that played mostly without its best running back (Tony Pollard) and quarterback in Dak Prescott, who only he had eyes for a wide receiverCeeDee Lamb.

Their challenge this week of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jaylen Hurts, one of three quarterbacks in NFL history with more than 3,500 passing yards and more than 750 yards in a season, presents a whole different set of problems for San Francisco’s vaunted defense as a true dual-threat . Plus, the Eagles can cushion the 49ers’ pass rush with the best offensive line in football.

Good luck to the Eagles offensive line this season

  • Individual offensive linemen have combined for the fewest sacks (14) and lowest pressure percentage (3.5%) allowed this season

  • Center Jason Kelce and right tackle Lane Johnson have allowed zero sacks between the two

  • 1st in passing and 3rd in blocking, according to Pro Football Focus

  • The entire offensive line was selected to the Pro Bowl or selected as an alternate

Hurts and the Eagles are one of the NFL’s most versatile offenses: They’ve had either over 300 passing yards or over 200 rushing yards in five of Jalen Hurts’ last six starts. In short, they pretty much alternated between beating teams in the air versus on the ground. This week it looks like movement will be in the air.

Eagles Yard at Hearts starts from Week 12

Week 12



Week 13



Week 14



Week 15



Week 18



Divisional round



Another reason Hurts was able to put up yards quickly on Sunday is that he led the NFL in completion percentage (50%), passing touchdowns and passer rating on throws of 25 or more yards this season. On the other hand, the 49ers are one of the worst deep pass defenses in the league, ranking 25th or worse in all of the aforementioned categories.

Passing 25+ yards on downs this season, including playoffs

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* Leads the NFL; ** 25th or worse in the NFL

Between a great front defense and a sensitive 49ers secondary, Jalen Hurts would rush the 49ers for four total touchdowns and over 350 total yards.

AJ Brown has nothing to complain about, 150+ yards receiving, TD

AJ Brown he looked visibly upset on the Eagles’ sideline in mid-Philadelphia, beating the New York Giants in the divisional round, 38-7. He had just three catches for 22 receiving yards in an intense approach tonight. However, it will be all smiles for Brown, whose 1,496 receiving yards this season set the Eagles’ single-season record as he faces the susceptible 49ers secondary mentioned above

He had seven receiving touchdowns of 25 or more yards this season, the second most by a player in a season since yards were first tracked in 2006. He will add to that total in a big way.

Most receiving TDs on 25+ yard downs since 2006


Davante Adams



AJ Brown



Mike Wallace



Randy Moss


In addition to a subpar deep pass defense this season, the 49ers have struggled to handle opposing wideouts all season as they rank 25th or worse in many categories, while Jalen Hurts is top 10 passer when throwing to receivers including Brown and DeVonta Smith, the first Eagles receiving duo to each top 1,000 receiving yards in the same season in team history.

NFL rankings targeting WRs this season

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the 10th

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Pass the TD



Despite being the league’s best scoring and total yardage defense, the 49ers have allowed their opponents’ top wide receiver to pass for 100 yards in three of their last four games. Brown will make this easy and pick up a touchdown or two.

100-yard receivers against the 49ers since Week 17

Week 17 at Raiders

Davante Adams


Wild-card round against the Seahawks

DK Metcalfe


Divisional Round vs. Cowboys

CeeDee Lamb


AFC Championship Game: Bengals at Chiefs

Travis Kelce sets a single-game postseason reception record

Everyone on Earth knows that when the 2022 First Team All-Pro Kansas City Chiefs have a football game, tight end Travis Kelce is going to catch a lot of passes. He led all tight ends in catches (110), receiving yards (1,338) and receiving touchdowns (12) this season and is on pace to become one of the most prolific postseason pass rushers in NFL history.

His 120 receptions in the playoffs are second most all-time behind only receiving GOAT Jerry Rice (120); his 1,389 playoff receiving yards are tied for third all-time with Rob Gronkowski; and his 14 receiving touchdowns are third most all-time, but he would jump into second place behind only Rice in that category with just two more.

Kelce caught 14 passes, the third-most in a playoff game all-time and one shy of tying the single-game record for 98 yards and two touchdowns a week ago in Kansas City’s divisional-round win against the Jacksonville Jaguars. With Mahomes less than 100%, he’ll have to rely even more on his security blanket since he won’t be able to use his shuffle magic to create as many passing lanes. In the end, Kelce threatened the NFL’s all-time record for catches in a single game with 20 receptions, one shy of former Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall’s 21, which he had against the Colts in Week 14 of the 2009 season.

Ja’Marr Chase ignites KC again (10 catches, 200 yards, 2 TDs)

Only one wide receiver has dominated the Chiefs like Ja’Marr Chase: Hall of Famer Lance Alworth. Bengals Joe Burrow’s Chase connection is one that Kansas City has yet to slow down in the teams’ last three meetings, all Cincinnati wins. Burrow has completed over 80 percent of his passes to his former college teammate for over 400 yards and four touchdowns in Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ Bengals’ three-game winning streak.

Joe Burrow targets Ja’Marr Chase against the Chiefs



Passing yards


Passing Yards/Att


Touchdown passes


Assessment of passers


* Most yards by any player in a 3-game span against the Chiefs since Lance Alworth in 1965-66

Chase’s three-game dominance of the No. 2 Chiefs was more prolific than what Hall of Famer John Stallworth could do in his best three-game streak against Kansas City, as well as the best wideout of the member of the Hall of Famer John Elway, Rod Smith, in their best three-game stretch against their AFC West rival.

Most receiving yards in a 3-game span against the Chiefs all-time*


Lance Alworth



Lance Alworth



Ja’Mar Chase



Rod Smith



John Stallworth


* Including playoffs

The Chiefs’ secondary allowed the most passing touchdowns (33) in the league this regular season and the second-highest red zone touchdown rate (67.3%), trailing only the Indianapolis Colts (67.9%). Facing one of the NFL’s most suspect secondaries, the Burrow-to-Chase connection will strike in a big way again and again and again on Sunday.

Burrow throws game-winning TD with less than 13 seconds left, doesn’t give Mahomes enough time

Last postseason, Patrick Mahomes did the seemingly impossible, marching Kansas City down the field to tie the AFC Divisional Round game against the Buffalo Bills after Josh Allen’s touchdown pass gave the Bills a 36-33 lead with 13 seconds left the end. Lightning doesn’t usually strike twice, and it won’t this postseason. The game would be tied late in the fourth quarter, just as it had been in each of the last three Bengals-Chiefs games, and Joe Burrow would throw a touchdown pass with 11 seconds left in the game to break the tie, giving the Bengals the edge by seven points. Mahomes was able to get Kansas City into field goal range in 13 seconds against Buffalo, but he won’t be able to go the length of the field in nearly the same amount of time. Thanks to Joe Cool, the Bengals will hoist the Lamar Hunt Trophy at Arrowhead Stadium for the second consecutive season.

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