The stage is set.
The San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs have advanced to the Super Bowl, and now there’s nothing left to do but wait two weeks and try to figure out who the hell we want to win. It’s one of our oldest enemies against one of the newest.
The Niners, of course, handed the Bengals their first two Super Bowl losses, and then the Chiefs stopped the Bengals from going to back-to-back Super Bowls thanks to a last-second field goal in the 2023 AFC Championship game. While the Bengals have defeated the Chiefs more often than not over the last few years, the two teams and their fan bases have formed a contentious relationship.
Bengals fans had placed all their hopes and dreams in the Detroit Lions’ hands, but they had butter fingers. So here are a few thoughts on the games from Sunday.
- Lamar Jackson was bad. The Ravens constantly found themselves in situations in which they could win the game, but they couldn’t get out of their own way. Jackson was inaccurate, threw poorly timed passes, and made bad decisions. Had he played like he did during the regular season, the Ravens would have won this game. Tony Romo said in the broadcast that Joe Burrow’s win over Patrick Mahomes to send them to the Super Bowl was what set him apart from the rest of the quarterbacks in the AFC. To be the best, you have to beat the best. Burrow has done it. Jackson has not.
- Travis Kelce had a game. He caught 11 passes on 11 targets, a few of which he had to really dive for or twist his body around. He had an up-and-down year, and there were times he just didn’t look like himself, as though he’d lost a step. But that was regular-season, Kelce. Playoff Kelce showed why he’s going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when he retires, which I still think will come after this season. Good for the former UC kid.
- I came into the year on the fence about Jared Goff. Yes, he’s a former first-round pick, and he took the Rams to a Super Bowl. But he’s Jared Goff. I’m not on the fence anymore. Goff played well all season and helped lead the Lions to the NFC Championship game ahead of schedule. They’re going to be the team to beat in the NFC North, I think, over the next few years. Their trade of Matt Stafford to the Rams worked out great for both teams.
- The 49ers looked like they were going to let the Lions just walk right to the Super Bowl in the first half of the NFC Championship game, but they exploded in the second half. The Niners are an All-Star team. Kittle, CMC, Deebo, Aiyuk, and that defense? They don’t need to play a full game, they just need to win one half.
- I love Dan Campbell, and I’m all for being aggressive, but there’s a line between aggressive and stupid and the Lions crossed it. Had they settled for a field goal on the second-to-last drive, they’re going to overtime. I dig it, and I think against most teams, it probably works, but this was the Niners, and you’re in the conference championship game. Just get the points.
- The playoffs desperately missed Joe Burrow and the Bengals. The quality of the postseason games in the AFC wasn’t great. In the end, a Chiefs team that is clearly not as good as they were last season is going to the Super Bowl. They beat a Dolphins team that played a cake schedule and fell apart as soon as they played a decent team. They Beat a Bills team that was hot and cold all year and folded like laundry in the divisional round. Finally, they beat a Ravens team whose quarterback just completely pissed down his own leg. Transport the 2021 or 2022 Bengals to the 2023 playoffs, they go to the Super Bowl. It just wasn’t meant to be in ‘23....... That’s a T-shirt!
- Who do you hate more? Old-school Bengals fans hate the Niners, and for good reason. I wasn’t alive for the first Super Bowl loss, but I remember the second one. Of course, the Chiefs are our most recent out-of-division sworn enemies. Who are you rooting for, if anyone? Or is this going to be an “I can’t wait for the commercials!” Super Bowl?
- The Bengals aren’t busy right now because there’s nothing for them to do. When the new league year begins in March, they’ll have a big decision to make right away: Joe Mixon’s future with the team. He’s due a roster bonus in March. Until that decision is made, there’s just not a ton to talk about.
So here’s my Super Bowl Prediction: I think this is the Niners’ game to lose. The Chiefs beat a Ravens team that was really busy beating itself in the AFC Championship game. While the Niners didn’t play a complete game, I’m not 100% confident that they would win if they don’t play a complete game against the Chiefs. But, if they do, I don’t think the Chiefs can win. I don’t often bet against Mahomes, but the Niners, top to bottom, are a better team.