NFC Divisional Jalen Hurts des Philadelphia Eagles avant le match de NFL face aux New York Giants le 21 janvier 2023 à Philadelphie, Pennsylvanie (GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP - Mitchell Leff)

NFL play-offs: Chiefs-Bengals/49ers-Eagles, like an air of deja vu

Like last year, Joe Burrow’s Bengals will try to play a bad trick on Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs, the regular 49ers challenging the unusual Eagles on Sunday in the American and National Conference finals of the NFL play-offs.

. Time for revenge?

Last season, Cincinnati was not really favorite, but had put a big cold snap at Arrowhead Stadium, winning after extra time (27-24), before giving in (23-20) against the Rams, during the Super Bowl played in Los Angeles. This time, it is no longer an outsider that the Ohio franchise will present in Missouri.

Especially since his quarterback Joe Burrow has a psychological advantage over Patrick Mahomes, since he remains undefeated in three duels – each time raised and spectacular -, the last to date dating back to the beginning of December, in the regular season in Cincinnati (27- 24).

A spirit of revenge therefore drives the star of the Chiefs, well on his way to gleaning a second MVP trophy after that of 2018. But it is less his arm, which has delivered 50 touchdown passes this season, than his right ankle which worries .

She bent badly last Saturday, under the weight of a Jacksonville defender, and Mahomes finished the game on one leg. Despite this sprain, he was able to resume training this week.

“I feel I can still do a lot of things, but we will see as we go. All I can do is prepare myself in the best way possible, hoping that the adrenaline will take over during the match and be able to make those shots when necessary,” he said on Thursday.

On its ability to withstand the shock will depend the qualification of Kansas City, in search of a third final in four years (titled in 2020, beaten in 2021). Because his receiver Travis Kelce, symbol of a formidable offensive line, needs their formidable connection to continue to shine as he does now.

However, not only do the Bengals have the recipe to upset the Chiefs, but their level of play in these play-offs is very high, as evidenced by their frank success in Buffalo last Sunday (27-10). Their offense has little to envy to that of their rivals, like receiver Ja’Marr Chase. Their serenity transpires and their experience grows: from confirmation to consecration, they still have two steps to go to win a very first Super Bowl.

. Time for renewal?

NFC Divisional Jalen Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles before the NFL game against the New York Giants on January 21, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP – Mitchell Leff)

No one can underestimate Philadelphia at this point, even though the last time the Eagles played a Super Bowl, they won it in 2017 against Tom Brady’s Patriots, their first coronation after two unsuccessful finals in 1980 and 2004. Since ? An elimination in the 1st round in 2020 and then nothing.

So seeing their sudden emergence this season, which they finished with the best record in the league, surprised many. And they did not tremble to unceremoniously dismiss the Giants (38-7) in the semi-finals of this NFC, carried by their quarterback Jalen Hurts, excellent from start to finish.

Still, they will face 49ers with more experience in January games, since the team coached by Kyle Shanahan will play its third conference final in four years, hoping to reconnect with the Super Bowl three years after the setback suffered against Kansas City.

If his intractable defense remains the main genome of San Francisco, undefeated for twelve matches (regular season and play-offs combined), his attack has been able to renew itself during the season around the rookie Brock Purdy, who has asserted himself as the revelation of the championship. The 23-year-old quarterback will nevertheless have to manage the pressure inherent in such a challenge, even if the Californians’ running game is very efficient in the wake of the unpredictable Christian McCaffrey, certainly bothered by a sore calf but who will be well fit.



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