NFL championship weekend recap; Super Bowl 56 preview

If the NFL were a ladder, the conference championship would be the one last step before reaching the top: 32 teams in the league, only two to compete for a championship and one will be cemented forever in NFL lore. There are football clubs that were destined to make it to the conference championship, and there are others that have made late-season comebacks and surprised many with their accomplishments. Two teams of each conference enter the field; one’s season will continue and the other’s comes to a grinding halt. 

Only a small number of fans gave the Cincinnati Bengals a chance to make it this far in the postseason. This franchise ended their 31-year playoff losing streak this season after defeating Las Vegas in the wildcard round. While they have one of the league’s most dynamic receiving corps, having a young quarterback wouldn’t be considered an advantage going up against the powerhouses that are the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs represented the AFC in Super Bowl 55 and had every intention of winning their third straight conference championship en route to Los Angeles. The Chiefs got off to a hot start, finding the end zone on their first two possessions and holding the Bengals to only a field goal during the first quarter. With five minutes left to go in the half, the Chiefs led 21-3, but a Joe Burrow touchdown and goal line stand by the Bengals gave the team momentum going into the second half down 21-10. The Bengals went on to score 14 unanswered points and shut out the Chiefs offense for the entire third quarter and the majority of the fourth. The Chiefs were able to salvage a field goal and extend the game into overtime, however an uncharacteristic interception thrown by Patrick Mahomes shifted the game in the Bengal’s favor. Evan McPherson eventually kicked the 31-yard field goal that sent the Bengals to their third Super Bowl in franchise history. 

The NFC Conference Championship game set the stage for the third meeting this season between division rivals the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers came into this game with a six-game winning streak against their opponents from Southern California. This game got off to a slow start, remaining scoreless until the middle of the second quarter. After an exchange of touchdowns, the 49ers were able to take the lead with a field goal as time expired to end the half. The 49ers were able to extend their lead by 10 entering the fourth quarter, but fate would have other plans. Quarterback Matthew Stafford led the Rams offense in scoring 13 points on three straight drives to take the lead 20-17 with almost two minutes remaining in the game. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was given the opportunity to execute a game-winning drive of his own, but defensive playmakers Von Miller and Aaron Donald were able to force pressure in the pocket that ultimately led to Garoppolo throwing a game-sealing interception. The Los Angeles Rams will advance to the Super Bowl to represent the NFC and will also have the distinction of being the second team in NFL modern era history to play the Super Bowl at their home field. 

The Rams have a true home-field advantage playing at SoFi Stadium, and you better be sure the familiar setting will put the players’ nerves at ease. Secondly, other than points per game, the Rams outrank the Bengals in vital statistical categories.After reviewing the roster and making note of the number of seasoned veterans the Rams have playing on both sides of the ball, it is easy to see why the Rams may walk out of SoFi Stadium as this years Superbowl champs.