Prisco’s conference championship pick: Chiefs outlast Bengals, set up Super Bowl rematch with underdog 49ers

It’s not as bad as blowing up a game with 13 seconds left, but my playoff performance so far is close to being as bad as the Bills blowing their lead over the Chiefs in this classic game last Sunday night.

After a good regular season against the spread, I’m 3-7 in the playoffs. I also went 1-3 straight last week, dropping my playoff record to 7-3. The good news is that I went 4-1 with my best bets as part of the Pick Six podcast. That puts me at 65-59 on the season, including 6-5 in the playoffs.

That mark of the season would put me in first place in our contest, but, of course, Will Brinson changed the rules to separate the regular season and the playoffs because he was so bad in the regular season.

I don’t play that. So my record of 65-59 leads the three-man group. Sorry Brisson.

In both title matches this week, I feel like barking. Ruff, Ruff.

Let’s take the puppies to cover.

Sunday, 3 p.m. ET (CBS, Paramount+)

Latest odds:

Kansas City Chiefs -7

It was in Week 17 that we saw the Bengals beat the Chiefs, 34-31, in a classic offensive shootout that the Bengals won in the dying seconds on an Evan McPherson field goal. Sound familiar?

The Bengals lit up the Chiefs’ defense that day, as Ja’Marr Chase caught 11 passes for 266 yards. The Bengals destroyed the Kansas City blitz. The Chiefs came under pressure that day against Joe Burrow, sacking him three times and Chris Jones getting two. But Burrow has been outstanding against the blitz all season — Kansas City’s primary style of defense — and he’s been especially good when clearing the backfield.

After a nine-sack game last week against the Titans, it would look dicey this week. But that also leaves individual situations on the outside for Chase and Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd in the slot.

As for the Bengals defense, they limited Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce to 11 catches for 65 yards and a touchdown last game. They would happily take it back, but that’s unlikely. The Bengals have struggled against tight ends this season. The key will be protection up front for the Chiefs past Mahomes. It was good last week against the Bills, but the Bengals have better rushers. The game between left tackle Orlando Brown and Trey Hendrickson will be the most important one to watch. Brown did not play in the last game.

It will be another game on the two quarterbacks. Both will have success throwing it and both will roll big numbers. In the end, the Chiefs are the better team, but it will be tight. It will go to the wire, but Kansas City will move on.

Take: Chiefs 34, Bengals 32

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Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET (fox)

Latest odds:

Los Angeles Rams -3.5

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and Rams coach Sean McVay are good friends who have worked together in their careers. But since becoming head coach, Shanahan has gotten the better of McVay. He’s 7-3 in 10 games against him, winning six in a row, including two this year. In Week 18, the 49ers beat the Rams on the road to earn a playoff spot. Here we are three weeks later, and they’re back in the same building meeting for a chance at the Super Bowl.

In the last meeting, the 49ers rallied from a 17-0 deficit to win the game, 27-24. The 49ers defensive line dominated the Rams offensive line in this game. In two games against the Rams, the 49ers have seven sacks and 21 pressures without blitzing much, which Matthew Stafford has killed this season.

The Rams love to run the ball in their zone scheme, but the 49ers ran it better in both games, averaging 87.5 more yards per game rushing. This is where this match will be won. The team that performs it best will win. The 49ers need to run it to take the pressure off Jimmy Garoppolo, while the Rams limit their offense to this wide-area program.

As for attacking the 49ers defense, it’s simple. Block them against the pass and you will beat them. It’s something the Rams didn’t do. I don’t think they will here either.

The Rams are the star team, but the 49ers are the more physical team. The last time a team won three games, including a road conference title game, against the same team in the same season was in 1999. That year, the Jacksonville Jaguars were the star team, but the Tennessee Titans were the most physical team. The Titans won the championship game to go to the Super Bowl on the Jaguars’ home court.

It will happen here too. The 49ers will continue their title run with a tough and physical victory.

Take: 49ers 24, Rams 21

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