I don’t remember the last time I saw four more evenly matched teams in the conference championships before. Yes, the Eagles might be considered to have the best offense and the 49ers the best defense, but they don’t stand out over the rest.
The current odds are
- San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5)
- Cincinnati Bengals (-1) at Kansas City Chiefs
All of the teams are so evenly matched that the most significant differences are the quarterbacks.
Patrick Mahomes – Kansas City Chiefs
What can I say about Mahomes that hasn’t been said before? He’s had a fantastic career in the NFL that’s only been overshadowed by Tom Brady. You would think that without Brady in the championships, Mahomes could sail through. But no. We’ve got new signal callers sneaking up the ranks presenting new challenges to Mahomes’ dominance.
At 27 years of age, he’s the oldest of the four. He’s injured, but a guy with that drive, talent, and work ethic won’t let anything stop him from playing. The most recent report is that his high ankle injury is just a sprain, and he will be playing, but not at 100%. That’s the big unknown at this point which will keep bettors guessing till the game gets going. Will his play negatively affect the end result of the game?
Jalen Hurts – Philadelphia Eagles
Hurts is 24 years old, but he’s still not the youngest of the four quarterbacks. This is only his second season as a starting quarterback. He was drafted in the second round, 53rd overall, by the Eagles in the 2020 NFL Draft. Last year, the Eagles made it to the playoffs but lost in the Wild Card Round against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Eagles beat the New York Giants in the Divisional Round this year. That was Hurts’ first playoff win.
He is also injured, spraining his throwing shoulder on December 18, 2022, in a game against the Chicago Bears. He sat out Week 16 against the Dallas Cowboys but returned after that. He says that he’s still not 100%, but he hasn’t shown any signs of diminished performance.
Joe Burrow – Cincinnati Bengals
Burrow is 26 years old and, at 6 foot, 4 inches, is the tallest of the four quarterbacks. As with Hurts, Burrow was drafted in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Bengals picked him first overall. In his rookie year, he was named the starter in Week 1. He did well throughout the next few weeks until he got a season-ending knee injury.
The following season, he was again named the starting quarterback and took the Bengals to the playoffs. In the Wild Card round, he won his first playoff game 26-19 against the Las Vegas Raiders. That was Cincinnati’s first win in the playoffs since the 1990 season. They also won the Divisional round, even though Burrow was sacked nine times. He works so well under pressure that he’s known as Joe Cool.
The team seems to have improved even more this year and caught up with him.
Brock Purdy – San Francisco 49ers
23-year-old Purdy is the youngest of the young quarterbacks facing each other in this year’s conference championships. He is Mr. Irrelevant of the 2022 NFL Draft, being the final pick by the 49ers. After quarterbacks Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo were injured, Purdy was put into the starting position. He won all five games to end the season and has so far won every game in the playoffs. He’s the only quarterback in this group that’s a rookie, and he’s won every game he’s started.
No rookie quarterback has made it past this point in the playoffs. Purdy has a fantastic team behind him, and he’s known for being even-keeled and unflappable.
This could be a game for the record books, so have your sportsbook ready to handle both high-tension matchups showcasing four of the best teams in the league manned by four rising stars.
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