Prisco’s NFL 2022 AFC, NFC championship picks: 49ers still own Rams, Chiefs survive Bengals

My performance in the playoffs so far hasn’t been quite as bad as losing a game after being ahead with 13 seconds left. But it’s close to being as bad as the Bills blowing their lead to the Chiefs in that classic game last Sunday night.

After a good regular season ATS, I am 3-7 in the playoffs. I went 1-3 straight up last week as well, dropping my playoff record to 7-3. The good news is that I went 4-1 with my Best Bets as part of the Pick Six podcast. That takes me to 65-59 on the season, including 6-5 in the playoffs.

That season mark would put me in first place in our contest, but, of course, Will Brinson changed the rules to separate the regular season and the playoffs since he was so bad in the regular season.

I don’t play that. So my 65-59 record leads the three-man group. Sorry, Brinson.

In the two title games this week, I feel like barking. Ruff, ruff.

Let’s take the puppies to cover.

Sunday, 3 p.m. ET (CBS, Paramount+)

Latest Odds:

Kansas City Chiefs

It was in Week 17 that we saw the Bengals beat the Chiefs, 34-31, in a classic offensive shootout that the Bengals won in the final seconds on a field goal by Evan McPherson. Sound familiar?

The Bengals lit up the Chiefs defense that day, as Ja’Marr Chase caught 11 passes for 266 yards. The Bengals destroyed the Kansas City blitz. The Chiefs got pressure that day against Joe Burrow, sacking him three times with Chris Jones getting two of those. But Burrow has been outstanding against the blitz all season — Kansas City’s main style of defense — and he has especially been good when he empties the backfield.

Coming off a nine-sack game last week against the Titans, that would seem risky this week. But that also leaves one-on-one situations outside for Chase and Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd in the slot.

As for the Bengals defense, they limited Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce to 11 catches for 65 yards and a touchdown in the last meeting. They would gladly take that again, but that’s unlikely. The Bengals have had issues against tight ends this season. The key will be the protection up front for the Chiefs in front of Mahomes. It was good last week against the Bills, but the Bengals have better edge rushers. The matchup featuring left tackle Orlando Brown vs. Trey Hendrickson will be the big one to watch. Brown didn’t play in the last game.

This will be another game about the two quarterbacks. Both will have success throwing it and both will roll up big numbers. In the end, the Chiefs are the better team, but it will be close. It will go down to the wire, but Kansas City will be moving on.

Pick: Chiefs 34, Bengals 32

Which NFL conference title game picks can you make with confidence, and which Super Bowl contender will go down hard? Visit SportsLine now to see which teams win and cover the spread, all from a proven computer model that’s up over $7,500 for $100 players on top-rated NFL picks since its inception.

Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET (Fox)

Latest Odds:

Los Angeles Rams

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and Rams coach Sean McVay are good friends who have worked together in their careers. But since becoming head coaches, Shanahan has gotten the better of McVay. He is 7-3 in 10 games against him, winning six straight, including two this year. In Week 18, the 49ers beat the Rams on the road to earn a spot in the playoffs. Here we are three weeks later, and they are back in the same building meeting for a chance to get to the Super Bowl.

In the last meeting, the 49ers rallied from a 17-0 deficit to win the game, 27-24. The 49ers defensive line dominated the Rams offensive line in that game. In two games against the Rams, the 49ers have seven sacks and 21 pressures without doing a lot of blitzing, which is something Matthew Stafford has killed this season.

The Rams love to run the ball in their zone scheme, but the 49ers have run it better in the two games, getting an average of 87.5 yards more per game on the ground. That’s where this game will be won. The team that runs it best will win. The 49ers need to run it take the pressure off Jimmy Garoppolo, while the Rams key their offense off that wide-zone scheme.

As for attacking the 49ers defense, it’s simple. Block them against the pass and you will beat them. That’s something the Rams have not done. I don’t think they will do it here, either.

The Rams are the star-studded team, but the 49ers are the more physical team. The last time a team won three games, including a conference title game on the road, against the same team in the same season came in 1999. That year, the Jacksonville Jaguars were the star-studded team, but it was the Tennessee Titans that were the more physical team. The Titans won the championship game to get to the Super Bowl on the Jaguars’ field.

That will happen here as well. The 49ers will continue their run to a title with a tough, physical victory.

Pick: 49ers 24, Rams 21

Christin Hakim

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