Prisco’s 2023 NFL Conference Championship Picks: Joe Burrow Leads Bengals Back to Super Bowl, Eagles Join Them

The hot start to picking playoff games quickly cooled last weekend. It wasn’t a bad weekend, but it wasn’t great either.

I went 2-2 straight up, 2-2 against the spread in our expert panel and 2-3 with my best bets as part of the Pick Six Podcast.

It was not what I expected. I picked the New York Giants to cover against the Philadelphia Eagles, which was a terrible pick. I also picked the Dallas Cowboys to cover against the San Francisco 49ers, a game I thought Dallas would win and it appeared to be a push until a late field goal by the 49ers. Oh good. I was gifted the late field goal by Jacksonville against the Chiefs to cover it up.

It all evens out. But after a 4-2 ATS week on Super Wild Card Weekend, I’m now 6-4 heading into the postseason. Last week I took all the ‘dogs. Not this week.

So let’s hope for a championship game to ensure a winning record in the postseason.

San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles

Sunday at 3 PM ET (Fox, FuboTV)

Featured game | Philadelphia Eagles vs. San Francisco 49ers

This is a game between two physical teams that have good running games and good defensive fronts. This means that it will be decided in advance, regardless of how many offensive playmakers are on the field.

The Eagles impressed last week by blowing out the Giants, while the 49ers won a close one at home against Dallas. The San Francisco offense struggled somewhat in that game, but Brock Purdy got it going after a slow start to win his seventh straight as a starter. This is a bigger challenge, though, because it’s against a better team on the road, his first road playoff start. Not only that, he faces a defense that led the NFL in sacks with 70, two shy of the record. They also come from everywhere with four players who had 10 or more sacks. Look for the Eagles to attack the right side of the 49ers offensive line, the weak side.

The Eagles offense had another big rushing day against the Giants, which is the foundation of their offense. Jalen Hurts can throw it, but they have to be able to run it here. That’s why their top-rated offensive line is key. They need to boost the run game and keep Nick Bosa and the gang away from Hurts when they throw. The 49ers linebackers can run and cover, which is a must against the Eagles offense. Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw are special. They will have to be in this one.

But I’m looking for Hurts to outperform Purdy and lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl. The Eagles offensive line and pass rush will decide this game.

Pick: Eagles 30, 49ers 21

Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET (CBS, Paramount+)

Featured game | Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cincinnati Bengals

The big issue here is the health of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. After suffering a high ankle sprain last week against Jacksonville, will he be able to move? If not, what does it mean for the Chiefs offense since he does so much damage off the scheme and outside the pocket?

The Kansas City offense did some nice things in his return against Jacksonville from the injury, but he certainly looked limited in terms of mobility. That will mean something against a Bengals defense that has so many moving parts and can blitz from anywhere. They’ve done a great job against him late in games in the last three times they’ve played. The Jaguars didn’t go after Mahomes enough after he hurt his ankle, but you can bet the Bengals will, even if it’s not the strategy they used to beat him in the title game last year. They came after Josh Allen a lot last week in their upset win.

In that game, Joe Burrow and the offense had success moving the football. An offensive line that was down three starters played well as the Bengals ran it with Joe Mixon and Burrow hitting some big shots in the passing game. Mixon didn’t play in the regular season game between these teams this season, but he will be big in this one. The Chiefs could go after the quarterback after recording 55 sacks this season, which will put a premium on running the ball and protecting the Bengals, who could have some of those offensive linemen back.

The Bengals have beaten the Chiefs three straight, including the AFC Championship game last January and a regular season game this season. Burrow seems to enjoy the big moments. I expect him to play well here while Mahomes’ limited mobility will come into play. That matters, and that’s why the Bengals are going to their second straight Super Bowl.

Pick: Bengals 27, Chiefs 24

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