The National Football League just completed their most intriguing weekend of football in their history, but what is in store this Sunday? Will it follow up with equal excitement a weekend that saw all four Divisional Round contests decided on the last play of the game?
Well, to start, the matchups offer all the interest for rivals and revenge one could hope for.
Let’s start at the end, the potential Super Bowl matchups.
If the Cincinnati Bengals upset the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium to advance to Super Bowl LVI, what team do you think they will be privately rooting for to win the NFC Championship Game between the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams?
Do you really think they’d like to meet San Francisco?
In their only two previous Super Bowl appearances the Bengals lined up opposite the 49ers and it didn’t end well for them. San Francisco won their first of five Super Bowl titles against Cincinnati to complete the 1981 season, 26-21, in Super Bowl XVI. Eight years later, in Super Bowl XXIII, the Bengals advanced to their second Super Bowl and again waiting for them was Joe Montana and his Niners.
In their first victory, eight years earlier, Montana was a young quarterback leading Bill Walsh’s first foray into the big game. Now, in the 1988 season, Montana was looking for his third Super Bowl win and leading the team that dominated the 1980’s. It was in that contest that Montana led the historic final drive of the game to edge the Bengals again, this time by the score of 20-16.
So, would the Bengals like another shot at San Francisco or hope to face a different team if they advance to their third franchise Super Bowl?
The 49ers and Rams will decide the NFC Champion in their third meeting of the season.
In November, the 49ers were reeling having lost five of their previous six games including a key showdown against the Arizona Cardinals before the Rams visited Levi’s Stadium. Even though San Francisco had beaten the Rams in their prior four meetings, Los Angeles was a road favorite for the Monday Night Football matchup.
The 49ers saved their season with a victory over the Rams that included a punishing rushing game that made it look like Los Angeles forgot their defense in the baggage section of San Francisco International. The 31-10 home triumph ignited a run that has now seen San Francisco win nine of their most recent 11 games. That run includes road conquests the last three weeks beginning with another victory over the Rams on the final day of the regular season to earn a playoff spot, and postseason triumphs over the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers.
The Rams have been favored in all three games against the 49ers this year, and San Francisco has stretched their winning streak over Sean McVay’s squad to six games.
Is that about as far as this win streak can stretch before it snaps back with a 49ers loss?
I’d be interested in what the Bengals are privately hoping for, while knowing their full attention is on what they have at hand right now … a return meeting against the defending AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs.
These two teams met four weeks ago at Paul Brown Stadium. In that game, the Bengals notched a victory for the home fans that will long be remembered. In a back and forth battle between the young and talented Joe Burrow and his quarterback opponent Patrick Mahomes, the two teams didn’t disappoint the national television audience or sold out stadium.
Fireworks from start to finish with the upstart Bengals beating Mahomes and company, 34-31, that both had the home team capture the AFC North Division title and drive a dagger into the Chiefs hopes of earning the AFC top seed and first round bye.
It is easy to root for Burrow, he is everything a franchise wants in a quarterback. Talented, bright and controversy free, the Bengals have the man that should guide them to a number of Super Bowls in his career. The first might be this Sunday when he looks for a second straight win over the Chiefs quarterback who also checks all the boxes for being a franchise quarterback.
Oh yeah, the NFL has a lot in store for us in their final two games leading to Super Bowl LVI. All the distractions from the games have been eliminated, and the best four teams in football are left to vie for a shot at winning it all.