PREVIEW-NFL-Chiefs host Bengals, Rams face 49ers; Super Bowl trip at stake

Credit: REUTERS/USA Today Sports

By Frank Pingue

Jan 28 (Reuters) - The Kansas City Chiefs host the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend in a showdown of elite quarterbacks while the Los Angeles Rams hope to reverse their fortunes against the San Francisco 49ers in two games that will determine the Super Bowl matchup.

The Chiefs' offense, led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, has looked virtually unstoppable in reaching a fourth consecutive AFC Championship Game and they could be in for yet another high-scoring affair on Sunday.

The Bengals, appearing in the AFC Championship Game for the first time since 1989 and two wins away from a maiden Super Bowl triumph, know all too well the challenge that awaits.

"Obviously a really good team and if you want to do the things that we want to do that's the team you have to beat every single year," said Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. "The AFC has run through them for four straight years."

Sunday's game will be played one month after their regular season matchup where Burrows outdueled Mahomes and the Bengals overcame three 14-point deficits en route to a 34-31 victory that was secured on a last-second field goal.

After the loss, which snapped Kansas City's eight-game winning streak, Mahomes shared a brief on-field exchange with Burrows during which he said "see y'all in the playoffs."

Mahomes, who led his team to a Super Bowl win in February 2020 before losing last year's NFL championship game, struggled early in the season as defenses adjusted to his style. He has long since recovered, thanks largely to his teammates.

"I saw the persistence — and the championship swagger, I guess you would say — of the team that we have," said Mahomes.

"Guys didn't hang their heads. They just wanted to get better. Every single day, they came out to practice, and we learned how to execute against these looks that we were getting."

In Sunday's NFC Championship Game, the Rams have a chance to become only the second team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did it last year.

But first the Rams must beat the visiting 49ers, who have beaten them six straight times, including a thrilling comeback win to punch their ticket to the playoffs in the regular-season finale three weeks ago.

Sean McVay, 3-7 against the 49ers since taking over as Rams head coach, shot down any suggestion that the divisional rival has gotten in his head.

"What I do have is respect for these guys. They've done a great job," said McVay.

"Both teams are very familiar. There's good schemes, there's great players. It's why we're in this position. Let's go roll it out and see who plays the best in that three-and-a-half-hour window and gives themselves the chance to advance."

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by David Gregorio)

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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