Wed. Feb 21st, 2024

Just like that, the NFL playoffs are down to four teams. Super Bowl LVIII is around the corner, set for a Feb. 11 broadcast by CBS, Nickelodeon and Paramount+, and only the conference championships remain before the ultimate showdown.

Now that this weekend’s action is officially in the books, with the 49ers surviving the Packers, the Ravens cruising past the Texans and the Chiefs and Lions winning Sunday, it’s time to look ahead to the AFC and NFC championship games, which will determine this year’s Super Bowl matchup. Below you’ll find all the details on how to tune in, plus early odds, key notes and game predictions:

AFC Championship

Chiefs at Ravens

Date: Sunday, Jan. 28 | Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: CBS | Stream: Paramount+
Opening odds: Ravens -3.5

The matchup: Call it a heavyweight showdown. The Ravens are making their 11th playoff appearance in 16 years under coach John Harbaugh, fresh off a cruise to the AFC’s top seed and quarterback Lamar Jackson’s second MVP bid in four seasons. The Chiefs, meanwhile, have advanced to their sixth straight conference title game, aiming for a fourth Super Bowl bid in six years.

The talent: Baltimore is as complete as they come, with Lamar Jackson adding improved passing efficiency to an already-electric rushing game under center. His weapons are shifty and speedy, but more impressive is his defensive support, courtesy of a Roquan Smith-led unit that surrendered the fewest points of any team in 2023. The Chiefs still have the game’s most clutch QB in Patrick Mahomes, alongside the physical duo of ball-carrier Isiah Pacheco and safety valve Travis Kelce. More than that, they’ve got one of their best defenses of the Andy Reid era, with Chris Jones, L’Jarius Sneed and Justin Reid headlining the stingy unit.

The journey: The Ravens went 13-4 to win the AFC North — and the AFC’s No. 1 seed — for the first time since 2019, then trounced the emergent Texans, 34-10, in the Divisional Round. The Chiefs finished 11-6, their worst mark in six years, but cruised past the Dolphins, 26-7, in the wild-card round before outlasting the Bills, 27-24, in Mahomes’ first-ever road playoff game.

Early prediction: Plenty of fans will be pulling for Baltimore just for the sake of watching someone other than the Chiefs fight for the Lombardi Trophy, and certainly the Ravens defense has the tools to keep things tight. But even with Lamar Jackson, Baltimore was uneven with the ball to open its game against Houston, and K.C.’s “D” under Steve Spagnuolo has been far stingier. Jackson’s play-making rivals that of Mahomes, but like Tom Brady in his prime, No. 15 can’t be written off. Pick: Chiefs 24, Ravens 20

NFC Championship

Lions at 49ers

Date: Sunday, Jan. 28 | Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: Fox | Stream: fubo
Opening odds: 49ers -7

The matchup: It’s top dog versus underdog, at least historically speaking. The 49ers have been an NFC powerhouse under Kyle Shanahan, advancing to their fourth conference title game in the last five years. The Lions, meanwhile, are making their first multi-game playoff run since 1991, also seeking their first-ever Super Bowl appearance.

The talent: Both the 49ers and Lions have been well-balanced in 2023, entering the playoffs with the NFL’s No. 2- and No. 3-ranked offenses, respectively. San Francisco has two MVP candidates in second-year quarterback Brock Purdy and star running back Christian McCaffrey, while also boasting an opportunistic all-star defense led by All-Pros Fred Warner and Charvarius Ward. Detroit has similarly leaned on both the run and play-action, with Jared Goff enjoying a career renaissance as the point guard for an attack featuring play-makers like Jahmyr Gibbs and Amon-Ra St. Brown.

The journey: The 49ers went 12-5 this year to secure the NFC’s No. 1 seed, then survived a comeback attempt by the upstart Packers in a 24-21 Divisional Round win. The Lions went 12-5 to win the NFC North for the first time since 1993, then edged the Rams in a 24-23 wild-card win before outlasting the Buccaneers, 31-23, to advance to the conference championship.

Early prediction: Detroit is a feel-good story, living up to preseason hype as a hard-nosed fighter, and if Goff gets run support while feeding St. Brown early and often, the Lions are capable of the upset. But Goff has also been significantly less effective on the road than at home, and the 49ers tend to take advantage of defensive opportunities. While Purdy and Shanahan proved vulnerable in their decision-making against the Packers, the superior talent is the safer bet. Pick: 49ers 27, Lions 23

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