AP

NFL playoffs: Vegas believes some classics could be coming

Jan 6, 2023, 8:40 PM | Updated: Jan 28, 2023, 11:46 am

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow speaks with the media, Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, in Cincinna...

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow speaks with the media, Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, in Cincinnati. The Bengals are scheduled to play the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday in the NFL football AFC championship game. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

(AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

If Vegas oddsmakers are correct — and there’s a reason those casinos are huge and luxurious — then football fans are in for a treat this weekend.

The NFL’s conference championship weekend is here: The Philadelphia Eagles will host the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC title while the Kansas City Chiefs host the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC. Both games are Sunday.

The gambling odds are tight for both games, though both home teams have a slight edge. The Eagles are a 2 1/2-point favorite while the Chiefs are favored by 1 1/2 points, according to odds from FanDuel Sportsbook.

The winners will meet in the Super Bowl on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona.

All four teams have legitimate reasons for confidence Sunday:

— Let’s start with the Chiefs. Kansas City has arguably the top quarterback in the sport with Patrick Mahomes under center. He’s battling a high ankle sprain that he suffered during last week’s win against the Jaguars, but the All-Pro selection went through a full week of practice to prepare for the Bengals.

“It’s about being a competitor,” Mahomes said this week. “You want to be out there, especially in these games.”

Mahomes gets a lot of the publicity, but he also has help. Tight end Travis Kelce is among the game’s elite while defensive tackle Chris Jones had 15 1/2 sacks this season.

— Now we move to the Bengals, who are coming to Kansas City with loads of hard-earned confidence. The two teams are playing for the fourth time in under 400 days and Cincinnati won the previous three meetings — all by three points.

Quarterback Joe Burrow has been at his best against Mahomes, including his comeback win in last year’s AFC title game. He’s coming off a season in which he set Bengals records for completions (414), pass attempts (606) and touchdown passes (35).

The Bengals haven’t lost since Halloween, winning 10 straight.

— Over in the NFC, the Eagles and quarterback Jalen Hurts have had a dream season. Hurts is having a breakout, MVP-caliber year and its hard to top the pass-catching duo of A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, who both easily topped 1,000 yards receiving. Linebacker Haason Reddick leads the defense with 16 sacks.

Also, the game is in Philadelphia. That’s a place where fans can get a little — what’s the polite word — enthusiastic?

Hurts is battling a sore throwing shoulder, but it didn’t seem to be a problem in last week’s dominant win against the Giants.

“I’ve felt better, but it doesn’t really matter,” Hurts said. “I’ve got to get it done.”

— And finally, the 49ers. They have won 12 straight games, including seven in a row since rookie Brock Purdy, a seventh-round draft pick, took over at quarterback after Jimmy Garoppolo was injured.

Purdy is set for perhaps his toughest test yet Sunday, when he faces an Eagles defense that led the NFL with 70 sacks and must deal with an imposing road environment. But Purdy isn’t easily rattled and the 49ers have a loaded roster that includes running back Christian McCaffrey and defensive end Nick Bosa.

Here are some other things to know during the postseason:

WHAT’S THE UPCOMING SCHEDULE?

SUNDAY

San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles, 3 p.m. EST, Fox

Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs, 6:30 p.m. EST, CBS

NO NEED FOR NEUTRAL

The AFC title game would have been played in Atlanta next weekend if the Buffalo Bills had beaten the Bengals, under a rule adjustment approved by NFL owners.

The league decided on the unique conference championship neutral site setting because the Bills (13-3) finished the season a half-game behind the Chiefs (14-3) after their game at Cincinnati was canceled on Jan. 2 when Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated on the field.

Hamlin has since been making a remarkable recovery and attended Sunday’s game in Buffalo, waving to fans from a stadium suite.

In the end, all the Atlanta hypotheticals weren’t needed. That’s because the Bengals and Burrow are rolling. Cincinnati beat Buffalo 27-10 and is one win away from playing in a second straight Super Bowl.

“Better send those refunds,” Burrow said, referring to the 50,000 or so tickets already sold for a game that will never be played.

WHAT’S FORMAT FOR PLAYOFFS?

This is the third straight year of the current playoff format, which included the top seven teams from both the AFC and the NFC.

The four division winners in both conferences automatically get the top four seeds, regardless of record, and then the top three teams with the best record that didn’t win their division are the wild-card selections. That’s why it’s fairly common for a wild-card selection to have a better record — but worse playoff seeding — than a team that finished as a division winner.

The No. 1-seeded team in each conference gets a bye into the second round — that’s the Chiefs and Eagles — while No. 2 hosts No. 7, No. 3 hosts No. 6 and No. 4 hosts No. 5 during the wild-card weekend.

The NFL re-seeds teams after each playoff round. That means no matter how the bracket started, the lowest-seeded team always travels to the highest-seeded team.

There are four rounds to the playoffs: The wild-card round was Jan. 14-16, the divisional round was last weekend, the conference championship games are this Sunday and the Super Bowl is scheduled for Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona, at the home stadium of the Arizona Cardinals.

___

AP Pro Football Writers Josh Dubow and Rob Maaddi and AP Sports Writers Dave Skretta, Dan Gelston and Mitch Stacy contributed to this report.

___

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

1 year ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

1 year ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

1 year ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

1 year ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

1 year ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

1 year ago

NFL playoffs: Vegas believes some classics could be coming