#3 KC (13-6) @ #1 BAL (14-4)
Sunday, January 28 | 3:00 PM ET | CBS
Baltimore has been the most dominant team in the NFL all season, and the defense—coming off a game in which they limited Houston to 213 yards of offense and just one field goal (the touchdown was a punt return)—probably isn’t getting the praise that it should. Of course, the Chiefs will be a different level of opponent with a battle-tested roster that has more playoff experience than anyone in recent years, but top cornerback Marlon Humphrey (calf) is set to return, which is key to contain rookie wideout Rashee Rice; and versus the run, you know Roquan Smith will have his guys ready to tackle Isiah Pacheco. The overall focus needs to be stopping those two and Travis Kelce, and I’m sure defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald knows that, so we’ll see if complementary options such as Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Marquez Valdes-Scanlting step up again for Kansas City. On the other side of the ball, Lamar Jackson showed he will do what’s needed as a runner to come out on top with 100 yards and two touchdowns in the Divisional Round, and he’s proven he can win a shootout over Patrick Mahomes with a 36-35 victory in the most recent meeting a couple of years ago. The combination of Jackson’s play and confidence in the Ravens getting a late-game stop when necessary gives Baltimore the edge.
Winner: Baltimore Ravens
#3 DET (14-5) @ #1 SF (13-5)
Sunday, January 28 | 6:30 PM ET | FOX
Not that it matters what the media says, but it’s been great to see the perception of Jared Goff change (at least a bit), and so far this postseason, he’s knocked off his former team in the Rams and a Tampa Bay squad with a quarterback in Baker Mayfield that many wanted to replace the former No. 1 overall pick a couple of years ago. Now, Goff has a chance to become the fifth quarterback in NFL history to take two franchises to a Super Bowl, and the 49ers are an opponent he knows well as a former NFC West rival—and he’s performed very well against them with a 16:5 touchdown-interception ratio in eight matchups since his rookie campaign. Detroit will play through David Montgomery, Jahmyr Gibbs, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Sam LaPorta as much as they can, but Jameson Williams is the X-factor for me on Sunday with an ability to strike on a downfield shot at any moment, and the cornerbacks behind Charvarius Ward are attackable for San Francisco. Unfortunately for the Lions, the same is true of their own perimeter players on the backend, and I would imagine Deebo Samuel (shoulder) will find a way to suit up to have Kyle Shanahan’s offense at full strength. Also, I am highly confident in Brock Purdy being a championship-caliber quarterback, and he made a couple of big-time throws last week despite some struggles. There is something special about Detroit this year, though, and they might be able to keep Christian McCaffrey from going off while Goff makes enough throws to pull off the upset.
Winner: Detroit Lions