Athletic broadcasts live Crows vs bosses in it AFC Championship Game.
We are among the four finalists.
The NFL conference championship games begin at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday in Baltimore, where the Ravens host the Kansas City Chiefs with the AFC title on the line. Then, at 6:30 pm ET, the San Francisco 49ers host the Detroit Lions for the NFC Championship Game.
The mission is simple: win and you’ll be in, that is, in the Super Bowl. Baltimore is a 3 1/2-point favorite, while San Francisco is a one-touchdown favorite.
Vic’s Picks, conference championships: 49ers and Ravens headed to Super Bowl rematch
The Ravens and 49ers are the first classified; the Chiefs and Lions are both No. 3 seeds. Will the top seeds make the Super Bowl or will one or both of the underdogs prevail? Kansas City and Philadelphia entered the big game last year as No. 1 seeds. But that was only the 14th time since the NFL instituted the rankings in 1975 that both No. 1s advanced to the Super Bowl.
Here’s a look at some of the key figures most at stake on Sunday.
Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens
For the Chiefs, seeking their fourth Super Bowl appearance in the last five seasons…
• Andy Reid already put himself in elite company last season when he became just the 14th coach in NFL history to win multiple Lombardi Trophies. But with a win on Sunday, he would become just the fifth head coach in history with five Super Bowl appearances. He would also position himself for a shot at an even more exclusive club, because only four coaches – Bill Belichick (six), Chuck Noll (four), Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs (three) – have won at least three Super Bowls. Reid would also have the opportunity to become the seventh coach in league history to win consecutive Super Bowls.
• Quarterback Patrick Mahomes seeks greatness as he plays for his sixth straight conference championship. Starter in his sixth year, he don’t even know what he is No play in this game. He is trying to reach his fourth Super Bowl and join Bart Starr, Bob Griese, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, John Elway and Tom Brady as the only quarterbacks to win consecutive Super Bowls. Only Aikman (three), Montana and Bradshaw (four) and Brady (seven) have at least three Super Bowl rings, and Mahomes desperately wants to join that club before he even turns 29.
• Tight end Travis Kelce and Mahomes just broke Brady and Rob Gronkowski’s record for most playoff touchdown connections in league history, and Kelce now needs just seven receptions to pass Jerry Rice (151) in the most postseason receptions in history. Kelce has recorded at least six receptions and 70 yards in each of his five career games against Baltimore.
NFL Playoffs: Key matchups to watch in Ravens-Chiefs AFC Championship Game
For the Ravens, who are hosting the AFC Championship Game for the first time and seeking their third Super Bowl appearance…
• Coach John Harbaugh is coaching in his second AFC Championship Game and looking for his second Super Bowl appearance and victory since winning it all in the 2012 season.
• Quarterback Lamar Jackson is playing in his first AFC title game and wants to cap what is expected to be the second MVP season of his career with his first Super Bowl victory. A victory on Sunday would also help Jackson further silence his critics. Despite his elite physical gifts and growing list of accolades, he never receives the same level of respect as his quarterback peers like Mahomes, Josh Allen and Joe Burrow. A win over Mahomes and a trip to the Super Bowl can help him in this regard, and a Lombardi Trophy would remove all doubt about his standing as one of the best quarterbacks and playmakers in league history.
• Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s comeback tour continues with a chance to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2022, when he helped the Rams defeat the Bengals. However, Beckham’s Super Bowl experience was incomplete because he suffered a torn ACL in the first half after recording two receptions for 52 yards and a touchdown. Beckham was out of football all of last season while he rehabbed, and the Ravens gave him his long-awaited opportunity to resume his career this fall. The 31-year-old isn’t as explosive as he once was, but his 35 receptions for 565 yards and three touchdowns have helped make a revamped Ravens receiving unit more complete. Beckham would love to return to the Super Bowl and contribute from start to finish, but he must first help the Ravens overcome a tough Chiefs defense.
Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers
For the Lions, playing in just their second NFC Championship Game in franchise history…
• Dan Campbell is trying to reach the Super Bowl for the first time as a coach, after transforming the Lions from a laughing stock that opened the 2021 season 0-10-1 to one of the best teams in the league. Campbell was a tight end on the New York Giants team that lost to Baltimore in Super Bowl XXXV in January 2001.
• Lions quarterback Jared Goff remains on a mission to prove that the LA Rams were wrong when they deemed him unfit to lead a championship team and traded him to Detroit for Matthew Stafford in 2021. In the 2018 season, Goff He helped the Rams reach the Super Bowl, but he (like the rest of the Rams) struggled against the Patriots. Goff threw for just 229 yards, with just a 50 percent completion rate and one interception. He was also fired four times. Since he was traded to Detroit, Goff has helped spearhead the Lions’ cultural change and rise to respectability. He earned a high degree of vindication by beating Sean McVay and the Rams two weeks ago in the wild card round, and shined again in the divisional round against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Beating the 49ers would be huge for Goff.
• Defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, who grew up in suburban Detroit and played at the University of Michigan, grew up cheering for the Lions. He wants nothing more than to continue elevating his hometown team and give their fans their first Super Bowl victory. Hutchinson has been crying, recording eight sacks in the last four games, including three in the playoffs. In the regular season, he tallied 11 1/2 sacks and a career-high 14 tackles for loss, along with three forced fumbles and seven pass deflections.
NFL Playoffs: Key matchups to watch in 49ers-Lions NFC Championship Game
For the 49ers, who have reached the NFC Championship Game in the last three years and four times in the last five seasons…
• Coach Kyle Shanahan is trying to get his team back to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2019 season, when the 49ers lost to the Chiefs. Quarterback injuries derailed San Francisco in last year’s conference title game, but with a healthy Brock Purdy, Shanahan now hopes to finally get his team over the hump. The seventh-year head coach is also trying to join his father, Mike Shanahan, as the first father-son duo to win Super Bowls. The elder Shanahan won Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII as coach of the Denver Broncos.
• Purdy is trying to join Kurt Warner, Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson as the only quarterbacks to lead their teams to Super Bowl victories in their second seasons in the league. Purdy had a shaky performance for most of last week’s divisional playoff game against Green Bay before finally regaining his rhythm and leading the winning drive in the fourth quarter. Purdy has tried to shrug off criticism that he is simply a game manager, but a strong performance in a win Sunday would give him some vindication.
• Running back Christian McCaffrey had 128 total yards (98 rushing, 30 receiving) and two touchdowns in last week’s playoff opener. With that performance, he recorded at least 50 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in each of the first five playoff games of his career. With another similar performance, McCaffrey can become just the third player in NFL history (joining Marcus Allen and Terrell Davis) to extend his streak to six games. McCaffrey had an MVP-caliber season, with 1,459 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, and 564 receiving yards and seven touchdown receptions. But he wants a Super Bowl ring so he can be like his father, Ed, a wide receiver who won three (one with San Francisco and two with Mike Shanahan’s Broncos).
(Top photos of Purdy and Jackson: Lachlan Cunningham and Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)