FOX Sports Betting Analyst
Divisional play is over. With only four teams left 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, a lot has 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, ready to face Kansas City again after Buffalo dominated the Bills. The Bengals beat the Bills in the trenches, even without three starting offensive linemen. I can’t explain why the Bengals’ offense continues to be effective without a starting offensive line. They had a better running game today than they did last week. Joe Burrow is still Joe Cool. That dude made every throw needed, avoided pocket pressure with ease, and was ready for every situation. The Bengals defense continues to be grossly underrated. They pressured, punched and interfered with Josh Allen throughout the game. This is the lowest score for the Bills this season.
The Bengals definitely deserve to be Kansas City’s title favorites this weekend. They have beaten the Chiefs three times in a row, including this game last season. This Bengals team is more complete, with better defense and special teams. The Bengals don’t make serious mistakes, don’t have horrible turnovers or bad penalties. That helps them against a potentially sloppy Chiefs. If the Bengals beat the Chiefs, I think you’d be pretty excited about their chances of winning a Super Bowl this season.
2: Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles looked great on Saturday against the Giants, who are currently under-talented. However, elite teams are supposed to beat weaker opponents at this stage of the season, so this just ticked a box for me. While Jalen Hurts said he wasn’t 100 percent, it didn’t show on Saturday night.
The Eagles’ offense, with right tackle Ryan Johnson knocking it down, shattered the Giants’ defense. The Eagles’ defense worked, including a line that met little resistance. It’s going to be tougher against the 49ers this weekend, but Philly’s offensive line and quarterback should give them an edge over San Francisco. Lincoln Field is a tough place for visiting teams to win, and if the Eagles do win, they won’t face a better defense in the Super Bowl. They’ve been better in the trenches than any other team.
Eagles’ Jalen Hurts throws up three touchdowns in rout over Giants
Jalen Hurts showed his versatility in the Philadelphia Eagles’ 38-7 win over the New York Giants, throwing up three touchdowns and 188 yards.
3: Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs had the best offense in the playoffs, but their quarterback suffered an ankle injury. Mahomes injured his ankle in the first quarter against Jacksonville, then sat out the second quarter and then played the full second half. He struggled in the third quarter, but played well given his limitations in the fourth quarter. He’ll play against the Bengals, but how healthy is he?
Can the Chiefs’ offense solve the problems of the Bengals defense, which seems to have cast a spell on this powerful team, stopping them with all kinds of coverage and high-quality pass rush?
The Chiefs’ defense has been better lately, and their young secondary players are starting to show some skill as they gain experience. However, their inability to generate pressure with four pass rushers worries me about the Bengals. Sitting in the zone and not allowing big moves can work for a while, but unless you force a passive play, Burrow will just take easy yardage to keep his offense going.
Bottom line, the Chiefs’ special teams aren’t special. There’s a reason they’re No. 32. They gave Jacksonville short games multiple times, which was 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 beat the Bengals.
4: San Francisco 49ers
Joe Burrow, Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts… Brock Purdy. One is not like the other. This is what sets the 49ers apart. They’re the most talented of the remaining Final Four teams, but have the worst quarterback. The Niners scored a touchdown on Sunday, despite getting the ball at the Cowboys’ 21-yard line after an early interception by Dak Prescott.
Brock Purdy was great when the offense was on schedule, running the ball, completing short passes and staying away from long 3s. But any negative performance would put this offense in a bad position, and Purdy hasn’t had much success. He didn’t do anything special that any of the three remaining quarterbacks in the playoffs could.
‘We’re the best in the world:’ Fred Warner on 49ers defense
Fred Warner spoke with Erin Andrews after the San Francisco 49ers’ victory over the Dallas Cowboys. He talked about the defense, limiting the Cowboys’ offense to 12 points and being excited to play against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Now, can the Niners win with their defense doing all the work? perhaps. Can they hold the Hawks, and then the Chiefs or Bengals to 24 points? perhaps. this is possible. I just don’t bet on it.
Geoff Schwartz played eight seasons in the NFL for five different teams. He played three seasons at right tackle at Oregon and was named to the All-Pac-12 second team his senior year. He is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports.Follow him on Twitter @GeoffSchwartz.
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