AFC & NFC Championship Games: Who Is Heading To The Super Bowl?

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NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Philadelphia Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 29: An NFL Championship logo is painted on the field prior to the NFC Championship game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers at Lincoln Financial Field on January 29, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)
Chiefs @ Ravens, Lions @ 49ers. Who is heading to Vegas for the Super Bowl next month?

Just four teams remain in the NFL playoffs. Some were expected to be here; others were more surprising. In the AFC, the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs travel to the white-hot Baltimore Ravens. Meanwhile, the NFC sees the Detroit Lions attempt to make their first Super Bowl at the expense of the San Francisco 49ers. With both games scheduled for Sunday, HotNewHipHop has everything you need to know about the AFC & NFC Championship Games.

AFC: Chiefs @ Ravens

ORCHARD PARK, NY - JANUARY 21: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs warms up prior to an NFL divisional round playoff football game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium on January 21, 2024 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images)

When: January 28, 3:00 PM ET

Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore

Odds: Baltimore -4

The Chiefs enter their sixth consecutive AFC Championship Game under very different circumstances to the previous five. For one, they aren't hosting. And secondly, they are doing so after winning less than 12 games in the regular season. While the Chiefs still rule the AFC West, they don't look like the powerhouse team that has made two of the last three Super Bowls. It's not that the Chiefs are worse, it's simply that the rest of the conference is catching up.

And that's where their hosts, the Ravens, come in. After beginning the season unsure if Lamar Jackson would actually play, the team stormed to the league's best record. However, this marks new territory for the team. They appear in their first Conference Championship Game since 2012, the year they won the Super Bowl. But the newness cuts both ways. The Ravens will get to enjoy their home-field Conference Championship Game in franchise history.

Can Kansas City Slow Down Baltimore?

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, JANUARY 20: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens starts to run in the AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium on January 20, 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Texans 34-10. (Photo by Kirby Lee/Getty Images)

The big question heading into this matchup will be whether the Chiefs can slow down Baltimore enough to let Patrick Mahomes ball out. Kansas City allowed the second-fewest yards per game during the regular season (289.8). However, their defense must contend with the league's sixth-highest yardage team in Baltimore (370.4). There will be high expectations from the DT Chris Jones and CB Trent McDuffie, both All-Pro First Teamers for the Chiefs.

The key for Baltimore will be in the backfield. Unsurprisingly, given their prototypical dual-threat QB, Baltimore led the league in rushing yards per game this season (156.5). Conversely, the Chiefs allowed the 15th-most rushing yards during the regular season (113.2). If the Chiefs can't stop the run, it's going to be a long night for the red-and-white faithful.

Prediction: Ravens 20 - 17 Chiefs. Chiefs don't allow the Ravens to ever run away with the game but just don't have enough to neutralize the potency of Baltimore's ground game.

NFC: Lions @ 49ers

SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 20: Christian McCaffrey #23 of the San Francisco 49ers rushes for a 39-yard touchdown during the NFC Divisional Playoff game against the Green Bay Packers at Levi's Stadium on January 20, 2024 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

When: January 28, 6:30 PM PT

Where: Levi Stadium, Santa Clara

Odds: San Francisco -7.5

The 49ers were here a year ago, on the cusp of a Super Bowl appearance. However, a spate of injuries saw them steamrolled by the Eagles. They were here the year before that, when they were 15 minutes from the Super Bowl before allowing 13 fourth-quarter points to lose to the Rams. Now they stand 60 minutes from another Super Bowl, with a former Mr. Irrelevant at quarterback. The NFC has been weird this year, with no one emerging as a clear favorite. However, the Niners have been one of the conference's better teams. They are an offensive juggernaut (four offensive all-pro first-teamers) and are ready to flex that moniker all the way to a Lombardi.

However, they will have to overcome this year's scrappy underdog. In 2008, the Detroit Lions went 0-16. Since that infamous season, they have appeared in the playoffs just four times. And now they are one game away from their first-ever Super Bowl appearance. The last time the Lions were in this position, it was 1957 and they were playing for a chance to appear in the pre-Super Bowl NFL Championship. But head coach Dan Campbell, the epitome of "never give up, never surrender" has turned the Lions into a team that their fans can finally believe in.

Who Wins The Backfield Duel?

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - JANUARY 14: David Montgomery #5 of the Detroit Lions runs the ball during the third quarter against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs at Ford Field on January 14, 2024 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The running game will absolutely define the NFC Championship. The 49ers have the league's best running back in Christian McCaffery. McCaffery rushed for 1459 yards, nearly 300 more yards than the next best back in the league (Derrick Henry). However, the Lions have an elite backfield of their own. The two-pronged attack in Detroit begins with fifth-year back David Montgomery. After signing with the Lions ahead of the 2023 season, Montgomery rewarded the team with his first 1000-yard season since 2020. However, Montgomery isn't alone. Many people questioned Detroit's decision to take Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs 12th overall in the 2023 draft, especially after trading back from 6th overall. Well, Gibbs rushed for 945 yards in the regular season.

However, it's not just about the run game for these two teams, it's also about their run defense. The Lions and Niners are second and third respectively in run defense this season, with 0.9 yards per game separating them. Teams have simply not been able to drive out of the backfield against either team. This becomes a fascinating dynamic, however, when the opponent is someone with as prolific a run game as these two teams have. This means that whoever finds the edge in the backfield will hold the keys to this matchup.

Prediction: 49ers 30 - 23 Lions. This will likely be the game of the season. However, as much as the Lions deserve to be here and will keep it close, the Niners' overwhelming offense gives them the edge here.

AFC/NFC Championship Games: Who Wins?

However, let us know what you think! Is Kansas City headed to yet another Super Bowl? Do the Lions find a way to beat San Francisco? We'd love to hear your thoughts.

About The Author
Benjamin Mock (they/them) is a sports and culture writer working out of Philadelphia. Previously writing for the likes of Fixture, Dexerto, Fragster, and Jaxon, Ben has dedicated themselves to engaging and accessible articles about sports, esports, and internet culture. With a love for the weirder stories, you never quite know what to expect from their work.