Just four teams remain on the road to Super Bowl LVII and they have definitely proven themselves to be the leading quartet in the league. So, now we turn our attention to the AFC Championship Game as the Cincinnati Bengals visit the Kansas City Chiefs and the NFC title contest as the Philadelphia Eagles host the San Francisco 49ers.
And if you want to talk about the high standards that are going to be on display this weekend, consider this… the 49ers have won 12 games in a row but are not even the number one seed in the NFC and the Bengals have won 10 straight, but still have to go on the road to face the top-seeded Chiefs.
With fans around the world feeling like Sunday cannot come quickly enough, here are some key players to watch in the Super Bowl semi-finals, both of which will be aired live on Sky Sports NFL from 7pm.
San Francisco 49ers (NFC 2 seed) at Philadelphia Eagles (1 seed) - Sunday 8pm KO
Brock Purdy – Quarterback – San Francisco 49ers
No rookie quarterback has ever started in a Super Bowl, but Purdy stands just 60 minutes from making NFL history. The last player chosen in the 2022 NFL Draft has won all seven of his starts and has a quarterback rating of 108.0 – best of any passer in the NFL this season, including the playoffs.
George Kittle – Tight End – San Francisco 49ers
If the Eagles get after Purdy with a pass rush that produced 70 sacks in the regular season and another five in the playoffs last weekend, getting the ball into the hands of Kittle will be an excellent counter. The All-Pro tight end had seven touchdown catches in the final four weeks of the regular season.
Fred Warner – Linebacker – San Francisco 49ers
The athletic and aggressive All-Pro linebacker is the leader of San Francisco's number one defense. He is the total package, capable of stuffing running backs at the line of scrimmage or covering passing targets 30 yards downfield. Warner led the 49ers with 130 tackles during the regular season.
Jalen Hurts – Quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles' dynamic quarterback has come of age in just his third season and where he goes, Philadelphia's players and fans follow. Hurts shreds defenses with his arm and his legs. The MVP candidate is the first QB in NFL history to rush for more than 10 touchdowns (13) and compile a passer rating over 100 (101.6).
A.J. Brown – Wide Receiver, Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles may have rushed for 268 yards last week and scored 35 touchdowns so far this year – second-most in the NFL over the last 30 seasons, but gaining yards on the ground may be tough against San Francisco's top-ranked D. But Brown, who registered 1,496 receiving yards in the regular season, can attack their corners.
Haason Reddick – Edge Rusher, Philadelphia Eagles
Four different Eagles registered at least 10 sacks during the regular season and it was Reddick who led the way with 16 quarterback takedowns. The pressure on Purdy is likely to be relentless and Reddick – who boasts a rare combination of speed and power – is very likely to lead the onslaught.
Cincinnati Bengals (AFC 3 seed) at Kansas City Chiefs (1 seed) - Sunday 11.30pm KO
Joe Burrow – Quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals
From the moment he strolls into the stadium, through warm-ups and all the way to the final gun; Burrow might just be the coolest man on the planet. He is deadly accurate with the football and absolutely fears no defense or situation. No stage is too big for a young man who seems destined to be an NFL champion.
Joe Mixon – Running Back, Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals are very dynamic through the air but in Buffalo, they found much-needed balance with the ground game producing 172 yards and a touchdown. After a relatively average regular season and a quiet first round of the playoffs, Mixon rushed for 105 yards and a score. He needs to be as effective in Kansas City.
Trey Hendrickson – Defensive End, Cincinnati Bengals
No player in the NFL has pressured opposing quarterbacks at a higher rate than Hendrickson, even though other pass rushers produce bigger sack numbers. When these teams met last year, extra defenders dropped off to defend the pass. If that happens again, Hendrickson might have to fight through several blockers to get to the limping Mahomes.
Patrick Mahomes – Quarterback, Kansas City Chiefs
All eyes will be on the sprained right ankle of the Chiefs superstar who is top of the NFL player pile right now. Mahomes is pivotal to the league's top-ranked attack after producing an NFL record 5,614 offensive yards during the regular season. Mahomes is chasing a third Super Bowl appearance, a second Super Bowl win and a second MVP crown… and he's only 27!
Travis Kelce – Tight End, Kansas City Chiefs
If Mahomes is hampered by his injured ankle, he cannot run around and make the off-script plays that have become his trademark. But it would be a massive boost to the passing game if he can dump the ball quickly to Kelce and let his All-Pro tight end do the rest. Kelce has produced seven straight 1,000-yard seasons and caught 14 passes (third-most in playoff history) last week.
Chris Jones – Defensive Tackle, Kansas City Chiefs
The Bengals should get some injured linemen back for this game but even at full strength, they will be tested by the interior force that is All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones. The dominant man-mountain led the Chiefs with 15 ½ sacks in the regular season, making him the only DT to have multiple 15+ sack campaigns since 1982
The Conference Championship Games are live on Sky Sports NFL and NFL Game Pass from 7pm on Sunday January 29, 2023.