The NFL is all the way down to the ultimate 4.
With the Divisional Spherical behind us, we now know what 4 groups nonetheless have an opportunity to make it to Tremendous Bowl LVII. On the AFC aspect of issues, a rematch of final yr’s AFC Championship Recreation is on faucet because the Cincinnati Bengals will return to Arrowhead Stadium to tackle the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs.
Over within the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles superior to the NFC Championship Recreation after defeating the New York Giants, and they’re going to host the San Francisco 49ers, who outlasted the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night.
Did this weekend change our considering right here at SB Nation? Effectively, maybe a proper ankle damage did…
Right here is how we view the ultimate 4 groups, as voted on by our employees.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles earned the highest seed within the NFC with their play throughout the common season.
And on Saturday evening, they reminded the soccer world simply how good they are often.
Coming off the bye week, the Eagles throttled the New York Giants by a last rating of 38-7, advancing to the NFC Championship Recreation for the primary time since their run to Tremendous Bowl LII. Quarterback Jalen Hurts shrugged off his lingering shoulder damage, finishing 16 of 24 passes for 154 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including one other 34 dashing yards and a landing within the victory. However one other participant who had been coping with an damage, proper sort out Lane Johnson, seemed stable within the win as effectively. Johnson suffered a torn adductor muscle on Christmas Eve, however shrugged off surgical procedure so he may return for the playoffs.
Then there was the Eagles’ protection, which slowed down the New York offense, sacked Daniel Jones 5 occasions and compelled an interception within the victory.
It was the sort of full efficiency that had many considering earlier within the yr that the Eagles would certainly be the crew to beat within the NFC. The damage to Hurts had some questioning if the trail to the Tremendous Bowl would run by way of a metropolis aside from Philadelphia, however the crew we noticed on Saturday evening definitely appears like a crew that might make a really deep run.
The subsequent step, nevertheless? Determining Brock Purdy.
— Mark Schofield
2. Kansas Metropolis Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes now has essentially the most scrutinized proper ankle within the NFL, if not past.
The Kansas Metropolis Chiefs superior to the AFC Championship Recreation with a 27-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. However the story for the following week would be the well being of their quarterback. Mahomes suffered a proper ankle damage early towards the Jaguars, and missed the remainder of the primary half on Saturday afternoon. He returned to the sport — throwing a landing go on only one leg — and completed the day having accomplished 22 of 30 passes for 195 and a pair of scores.
X-rays performed at halftime had been destructive, however Ian Rapoport of the NFL Community reported on Saturday evening that the quarterback suffered a excessive ankle sprain.
Given how Mahomes fought to stay within the recreation, and returned to the sphere after halftime, it’s arduous to think about that he could be out for Sunday. And his head coach appeared to agree after the sport: “He’s a tricky child,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid stated after the sport. “So, he needed to be in there. He needed to be competing. It’s a tribute to him and his competitiveness. Nonetheless, you bought to ensure he’s bodily OK the place he can shield himself. If he can’t then he can’t play, and now we have to go to the following man. However he’s a tricky nut. I inform you, he’s aggressive. He’s very, very aggressive.”
However how would possibly Mahomes take care of every week?
How the damage impacts him, and the Kansas Metropolis offense, is an enormous difficulty to trace over the approaching days.
So too would be the query of how the Chiefs will fare towards the Cincinnati Bengals. Mahomes and firm have misplaced three-straight to the Bengals, together with final yr’s AFC Championship Recreation.
— Mark Schofield
3. Cincinnati Bengals
Following the Bengals’ 27-10 victory over the Payments, quarterback Joe Burrow was requested in regards to the NFL’s plans to host a possible AFC Championship recreation at a impartial website between the Chiefs and Payments and the way that matter motivated him and his crew heading into the divisional spherical.
The third-year passer solely wanted 4 phrases to articulate his ideas: “Higher ship these refunds.”
After a posting a 2-3 document by way of the primary 5 weeks of the season, many believed the Bengals had been headed for some type of a Tremendous Bowl hangover. However finally, Cincinnati would go on to win 10 of their subsequent 11 video games and end the yr 12-4 en path to snatching the AFC North crown.
Now, they’re the winners of two playoff video games and are headed for his or her second consecutive AFC championship recreation the place they’ll journey to Kansas Metropolis to face the Chiefs for a rematch of final yr’s title tilt.
Whereas the high-octane offense has been the calling card of the Bengals over the previous two seasons, don’t sleep on defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo and the unbelievable job he’s carried out constructing his unit into a gaggle worthy of complementing the elite group on the opposite aspect of the ball.
— Michael Peterson
4. San Francisco 49ers
Full disclosure: I voted the 49ers at No. 1.
Why? This crew is stacked.
In the beginning of the playoffs, I predicted the playoffs in my thoughts and I had the 49ers beating Kansas Metropolis within the Tremendous Bowl. The primary two rounds of the playoffs, San Francisco wins over the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys, did nothing to sway my thoughts.
The largest purpose is that rookie Brock Purdy continues to indicate he’s a profit and never a determent to the 49ers. He’s not good, however the child is a good match for this crew.
So, quarterback just isn’t a problem in San Francisco. Mix that with a humiliation of offensive weapons, a powerful offensive line and a well timed, relentless protection and there’s nothing to not like about this crew’s probabilities of successful its sixth Tremendous Bowl in crew historical past and first in 28 years.
Sure, the NFL’s Last 4 is stacked, however don’t low cost this crew.
— Invoice Williamson