FOX sports betting analyst
The divisional round has come to an end. With only four teams in the NFL playoffs, how do I rank my favorites to win the Super Bowl?
Here are last week’s rankings. After a tumultuous weekend, many things have changed.
1: Cincinnati Bengals
I’m guilty, like most who cover the NFL, of not respecting the Bengals’ chances of returning to the AFC Championship game after winning the conference last season. But here they are, preparing to face Kansas City once again after dominating the Bills in Buffalo. The Bengals pounded the Bills in the trenches, even without three starting offensive linemen. I can’t explain why the Bengals offense continues to function without their starting offensive line. His running game was better today than last week. Joe Burrow is still Joe Cool. This guy makes every throw that is needed, avoids pressure in the pocket with ease, and is ready for any situation. Bengal’s defense continues to be criminally underrated. They pressured, hit and disrupted Josh Allen all game long. It was the Bills’ lowest output of the season.
The Bengals deserve to be the favorite in Kansas City this weekend. They have beaten the Chiefs three straight times, including last season in this exact game. This Bengals team is more complete, better on defense and special teams. The Bengals don’t make crippling mistakes, have terrible turnovers or bad penalties. That helps them against a Chiefs team that can be sloppy. If the Bengals get the Chiefs, I think you’re going to feel amazing about their chances of winning the Super Bowl this season.
2: Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles looked very good on Saturday against a Giants team that is under-talented at the moment. However, elite teams should be crushing weaker opposition at this stage of the season, so it just ticks one box for me. Even though Jalen Hurts has said he’s not 100 percent, it didn’t show Saturday night.
The Eagles’ offense, featuring right tackle Lane Johnson, tore through the Giants’ defensive line. The Eagles’ defense did its part, including a defensive line that barely met resistance. Things will be much more difficult this weekend against the 49ers, but Philadelphia’s offensive line and quarterback should give them an edge over San Francisco. The Linc is a tough place for the visiting team to win, and if the Eagles win, they won’t be facing a better defense in the Super Bowl. They are much better in the trenches than any other team left.
Jalen Hurts of the Eagles has three TDs in a blowout win over the Giants
Jalen Hurts showed his versatility as he accounted for three TDs and 188 total yards in the Philadelphia Eagles’ 38-7 victory over the New York Giants.
3: Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have the best offense left in the postseason, but their quarterback has an ankle injury. Mahomes injured his ankle late in the first quarter against Jacksonville, then sat out the second quarter before playing the entire second half. He looked good in the third quarter, but played well considering his limitations in the quarter. He will play against the Bengals, but how healthy will he be?
Can the Chiefs’ offense solve the Bengals’ defense, which seems to cast a spell on the high-powered group, shutting them down with a variety of coverages and quality passes?
The Chiefs defense has played better of late, with their younger secondary starting to show some skill as they gain experience. However, his inability to generate pressure with four pass rushers has worried me against the Bengals. Sitting in the zone and not allowing the big play can work for a while, but unless he forces negative plays, Burrow will just pick up the easy yards to keep his offense moving.
Also, the Chiefs’ special teams aren’t special. They rank 32nd for a reason. They gave Jacksonville short fields several times and that’s a brutal formula against the Bengals.
Finally, the Bengals have the Chiefs’ number. I can’t rank Kansas City ahead of Cincinnati until the Chiefs get past this iteration of the Bengals.
4: San Francisco 49ers
Joe Burrow, Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts…Brock Purdy. One is not like the others. And that’s what sets the 49ers apart. They are the most talented team in the final four left, but they have the worst quarterback. The Niners scored a touchdown Sunday, despite getting the ball at the Cowboys’ 21-yard line after a first down interception by Dak Prescott.
Brock Purdy is good when the offense is on schedule, running the ball, completing short passes and staying out of long third downs. But any negative play puts this offense in a bad position where Purdy doesn’t have much success. He doesn’t make the special plays that any of the three quarterbacks left in the postseason can.
‘We’re the best in the world:’ Fred Warner on 49ers defense
Fred Warner spoke with Erin Andrews after the San Francisco 49ers’ win over the Dallas Cowboys. He touched the defense by limiting the Cowboys offense to 12 points and was excited to play against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Now, can the Niners win with their defense doing all the work? May be. Could they hold the Eagles and then the Chiefs or Bengals to just 24 points? May be. Is possible. I just don’t bet on it.
Geoff Schwartz played eight seasons in the NFL for five different teams. He started at right tackle for the University of Oregon for three seasons and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection his freshman year. He is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @GeoffSchwartz.
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