NFL 2023 Championship Week Preview & Predictions

Not the grand prize yet, but 2 teams will leave the weekend with a ‘ship, and it won’t be easy. The Hunt and Halas trophies aren’t quite a luxury yacht, but some of us still respect the hard work and passion it takes to bring home a paddle steamer.

Last week’s predictions did markedly better than SUPER Wildcard Weekend, which didn’t take much. After the Saturday games I thought I might have actually had a crystal ball somewhere nearby when I wrote that article, and I held out that hope as Cincinnati won a much lower scoring affair than the shootout foresaw.

But then the Cowboys, my one solid wildcard prediction, decided to crap the bed in so many ways. Even before Tony Pollard’s injury, which I firmly believe was the turning point of the game, they were using him sparingly and, idk, weirdly?

It’s no secret I think Mike McCarthy is a great coach, but sometimes he reminds me of the kid who gets a cool new toy for Christmas but doesn’t know how to use it so he plays with the box. On to the games!

Sunday, January 29

San Francisco 49ers @ Philadelphia Eagles, 2:00 pm

Prediction: 21-18 Eagles

There will be a moment in this game with a wrinkle, something someone saw from hours upon hours of film study, watching for any edge. They may not have even recognized it at the time as something to exploit, but then they’ll line up, look up, and know exactly what the other team is about to do. Out of all the stars in this game, I think that moment will be delivered by Jalen Hurts. He’ll step back from the line, yell out a shocking audible, and deliver a huge play that will be the difference in this game. He may switch a running play to a deep throw, or a screen to an RPO, but it will be the blow needed to win.

As for Brock Purdy, even after a struggle against Cowboys, he came out with no turnovers and a win. His star continues to shine, and the votes say the fans still want him starting week 1 next year.

I figured a lackluster performance in a win would have him running about even, but it seems between 9 days, no turnovers, and an NFC Championship berth, fans want Purdy more than ever. He’s facing a tough pass defense this week, and each decision will be crucial. Assuming like all QBs that he’ll make some mistakes, rookie or otherwise, it won’t be about what those mistakes are so much as when they happen.

Working in Purdy’s favor this week is that, oddly enough, there’s really no history between these teams. Some people are trying to make a rivalry out of some obscure Purdy-Hurts college connection, which I’ll link to if you’re interested, but I feel like it’s stretching to find something. Even with a Super Bowl berth on the line, there’s almost no bragging rights or rivalry-type pressure on the line. It’s actually a bit strange given that both teams have had relative historical success and a slew of Hall-of-Famers. For all we know, we could be watching the start of a new rivalry unfold.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Kansas City Chiefs, 5:30 pm

Prediction: 38-31 Bengals

It can’t be a surprise that this game gets primetime, especially after what I just laid about about lack of a significant rivalry in the early game. This one isn’t a deep or historical rivalry, but one that we’ve watched grow the past few years under 2 fantastic coaching staffs and 2 generational QBs.

Both defenses are solid units with some great players, but eventually there’s a breaking point where you can’t cover everyone. Don’t be surprised to see another 10-15 catches for Kelce. I know everyone is demanding he receive more focus by the defense after he went off last week, but where would you want that focus to come from? You only get 11 players, and someone needs to account for MVS over the top, JuJu across the middle, Pacheco and McKinnon out of the backfield, and Toney from literally anywhere. I

f I’m playing against that offense, Kelce can have all the 7 yard underneath catches he wants. That was Jacksonville’s plan, and they almost pulled off the upset. As much as everyone complained that they let Kelce roam free, his 14 catches didn’t even get 100 yards… meanwhile, no one else had more than 36 yards, and Toney and JuJu were the only other players with more than 1 catch. I’ll take that every time.

If I had to switch gears and play against the Bengals defense, I’d first pitch out any idea that I can stop Joe Burrow with mind games. If your goal is to rattle him, just give up now. This dude was sacked 7 times in the Super Bowl, which he spent awkwardly trying to introduce himself to the guys who were sacking him.

I see a shootout coming, and I see the Bengals getting the ball last, ideally leaving single digit seconds left with their final score. Alternate ending: Evan McPherson wins it from 60+.

Thanks for reading. As always, may your teams win or your coaches be fired.

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