June 22, 2024

Nikopol Game

E-Sport News

Ranking biggest mismatches in AFC, NFC championship games: Jalen Hurts, Ja’Marr Chase set for huge days

The NFL certainly has an excellent weekend of football ahead. This weekend’s conference championship games arguably feature the best four teams all season, based on how each team has 12-plus victories. 

This is just the sixth time in NFL history that all four conference championship teams won 12-plus games in the regular season, the first time since the 2015 season and only the third time since 1998. For the first time since 1996, all four quarterbacks starting in the conference championship games will be under the age of 28. 

Two teams are on a 10-plus game win streak (San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals) while the other two teams have 14-plus wins (Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs). The matchups can go either way and any of the four potential Super Bowl matchups will feature worthy opponents. 

So, who’s going to represent the AFC and NFC in the Super Bowl? Both title games are evenly matched, but there are some mismatches that could give certain teams the edge on Sunday. Here are the six biggest mismatches on Championship Sunday, starting at the bottom and working our way up to No. 1.

6. Chiefs vs. Bengals in fourth quarter 

Advantage: Bengals

The Chiefs have lost their past three matchups with the Bengals, by a total of nine points. Kansas City lost by three in each game, blowing a fourth quarter lead in each.

The Chiefs have been outscored 26-6 in the fourth quarter and overtime of the three matchups, showcasing a major difference between the quarterback play late in games. Joe Burrow has completed 80% of his passes for 257 yards with two touchdowns to one interception in those games (110.7 passer rating) while Patrick Mahomes has completed 71.4% of his passes for 111 yards with no touchdowns to one interception (63.8 rating). 

If the Chiefs have a fourth quarter lead in this matchup, they’ll be battling their own demons to see if they preserve the lead this time. 

Advantage: Chase

Chase has had the Chiefs’ number over the three meetings they’ve faced off. He’s had 417 receiving yards in his three matchups against Kansas City, the most by any player in a three-game span against the Chiefs since Lance Alworth from 1965 through 1966. 

When Joe Burrow targets Chase against the Chiefs, the Bengals quarterback is 24 of 29 for 417 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 144.0 passer rating (14.4 yards per attempt). In the second half of those games, Chase has 14 catches for 244 yards and two touchdowns (17.4 yards per catch). 

The Chiefs secondary has had trouble defending Chase over the three meetings. It’s a good bet Burrow targets his No. 1 receiver. 

Advantage: 49ers pressure

Hurts’ passing numbers haven’t been the best against pressure this season — arguably the one weakness in his game. He’s completed 44.4% of his passes for for 597 yards with four touchdowns to two interceptions for an 66.8 passer rating. Hurts is 25th among qualified quarterbacks in completion percentage and yards per attempt (5.4). He was 16th in passer rating in that category. 

The 49ers are 12th in pressure percentage in the NFL (34.4%) and have the fifth-best pass rush rate in the league (per Pro Football Focus). The defense will make sure to pressure Hurts and attempt to exploit that weakness. 

3. Jalen Hurts vs. 49ers pass defense on deep throws 

Advantage: Hurts

The Eagles pass offense has a golden opportunity to put up massive numbers if the offensive line can protect Hurts, who has been the best deep-ball quarterback in the league. Hurts is the only quarterback to complete 50% of his passes on throws of 25-plus air yards this season (including playoffs), throwing for 798 yards with 10 touchdowns to just one interception (125.0 rating). He leads the NFL in touchdown passes and passer rating on throws traveling 25-plus air yards. 

This is a problem for the 49ers defense — which struggles covering the deep ball — ranking 25th or worse in completion percentage, touchdown-to-interception ratio, and passer rating on throws 25-plus yards downfield. The 49ers allow opposing quarterbacks to complete 41% of their passes for 687 yards with five touchdowns to two interceptions and a 106.6 passer rating on throws that travel 25-plus air yards.

If Hurts has time, he can make the 49ers pay with A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. 

2. Patrick Mahomes vs. Bengals ‘D’ when they rush three or fewer

Advantage: Bengals defense

Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anuramo may have the blueprint to beating Mahomes — not sending a multitude of defenders at him. When Mahomes faces a pass rush of three of fewer defenders (Anuramo drops eight back in coverage), Mahomes completes just 52% of his passes, averages 5.2 yards per attempt, and has a 66.7 passer rating. 

When the Bengals rush four of more defenders, Mahomes completed 72% of his passes, averages 8.3 yards per attempt, and has a 112.0 passer rating. Mahomes does have a 112.9 passer rating when eight defenders are in coverage this season and was second in the NFL in touchdown passes when pressured this season (13).

This may be a double-edge sword for Cincinnati this week, but Anuramo has proven in prior matchups that when he rushes three he’s able to have some success against Mahomes.

1. Brock Purdy vs. Eagles pass rush 

Advantage: Eagles pass rush

Purdy hasn’t faced a pass rush as dominant as the Eagles this season, who were the only team in the NFL with a sack rate over 10% (11.7%) and finished second in pressure rate (38.4%). The 70 sacks in the regular season were tied for the third-most in a season in NFL history (their 75 sacks in the regular and postseason are the third most). The Eagles are the first team in NFL history to have four different players with 10-plus sacks in a season (Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, Javon Hargrave and Brandon Graham). 

Purdy struggled against pressure in the divisional round victory over the Cowboys, going just 3 of 11 for 14 yards with a 39.6 passer rating (2.2 yards per attempt). This is a stark contract to his first six starts when facing pressure, as Purdy completed 54% of his passes, averaged 8.3 yards per attempt, and had a 121.2 passer rating. 

Purdy didn’t face a top-five defense in pressure percentage in any of those starts — and just one top-10 defense in pressure rate (that team missed the playoffs). The Eagles have proven they can get to the quarterback and have the personnel to make plays in the secondary to back up the dominant pass rush. 

When Purdy faced a top-five defense in pressure rate last week, it didn’t go well. Will he improve when facing a similar situation against a defense that averages 5.1 sacks per game over their last nine games — on the road?