The Torch’s NFL Conference Championship Predictions


Quarterbacks (from left) Jimmy Garappolo (49ers), Matthew Stafford (Rams), Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs), and Joe Burrow (Bengals) will be leading their teams into Sunday’s NFL Conference Championship games to determine which two will advance to the Super Bowl.

And then there were four… NFL fans will argue that the divisional round was the greatest weekend of football maybe ever, as every game came down to the final play. The Bengals, Chiefs, 49ers, and Rams made it out alive, and each is now just one win away from the Big Game. Here’s how co-sports editors Mason Silverstein and Brayden Schultz see Sunday’s NFL Conference Championship games playing out.

(4) Cincinnati Bengals @ (2) Kansas City Chiefs (Sun., Jan. 30, 3:00pm) Line: KC -7

Mason: Joe Burrow comes off a win in Tennessee in the divisional round where star wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase had 109 yards receiving. Along with this, wide receiver Tee Higgins had 96 receiving yards, and tight end C.J. Uzomah had 71 receiving yards. On the other side of the ball, Patrick Mahomes advances to play the Bengals in the AFC Championship after barely coming away with a win against Buffalo. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are the main threats of this offense, who Buffalo had a very difficult time stopping them last week with Hill and Kelce combining for a total of 246 yards and 2 touchdowns. This game should be a high-scoring shootout with two teams who are led by their powerhouse offenses.  Prediction: Chiefs 37 Bengals 31 

Brayden: The Bengals did not play their best football on Saturday in Tennessee, but they were able to squeak by an even-worse-looking Titans team. The game was low-scoring, as I expected it would be, but the Bengals, specifically DJ Reader, did a phenomenal job containing Derrick Henry, which was instrumental in the win. Cincinnati now goes into a harsh environment in Kansas City where the Chiefs are surely exhausted after that intense matchup with the Buffalo Bills. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes threw for 177 yards and two TDs after the fourth quarter two-minute warning, leading his team to an overtime victory in an instant NFL-playoff classic. In this game, I’m expecting more of the same from Mahomes in what might be another shootout. These two teams just played less than a month ago in week 17 with the Bengals winning via a game-winning field goal in Cincinnati. This time in Kansas City, expect Joe Burrow’s luck to run out and the Chiefs to make their third straight Super Bowl appearance. Prediction: Chiefs 31 Bengals 27

(6) San Francisco 49ers @ (4) Los Angeles Rams (Sun., Jan. 30, 6:30pm) Line: LAR -3.5

Mason: The Forty Niners have made it to the NFC championship, but without scoring any points on offense in the divisional round? Robbie Gould got them 7 points last week, and the special teams added a touchdown from a blocked punt. If they play like this again this week, it might lead to trouble. The Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp duo is unstoppable, as Kupp had nine catches for 183 yards and a touchdown in the divisional round against Tampa Bay. The key for the Rams is to protect Stafford from the pass rush of the Niners, which includes Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead. The Niners need to run the ball with Elijah Mitchell, which will open up the pass game downfield with Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. I think the Rams will take this win and head to the Super Bowl. Prediction: Rams 27 49ers 17

Brayden: The San Francisco 49ers have not scored an offensive touchdown in five quarters of football, yet they still find themselves playing in the NFC championship game. In the snowy conditions in Green Bay, offenses were a non-factor, and it was the 49ers’ special teams who won that game for them. For the Rams, many thought it was over when they went into the halftime locker room leading 20-3 in Tampa Bay. However, anything is possible with Tom Brady, as we saw in Super Bowl LI, when he led the Patriots to victory after being down 28-3 late in the third quarter. So, naturally, with what I can only describe as divine intervention, he did it again, and the game was tied with 40 seconds left. Then, Cooper Kupp got loose behind the Tampa Bay defense, and Matthew Stafford found him for a 44 yard gain that set up the game-winning field goal. The Rams went 0-2 against the 49ers in the regular season, including a game they lost in overtime after being up big at halftime. Should the Rams win this game, they would be the second team in NFL history and the second team in a row to be playing a Super Bowl in their home stadium, making a win against the division-rival 49ers in the playoffs even more emotional for them. The 49ers got themselves a little banged up in Green Bay, but everyone appears to be on track to play Sunday. The Rams were my pick to win it all at the beginning of the season, and sticking with them has yet to be a mistake. I believe they’ll handle business this weekend. Prediction: Rams 25  49ers 19