750 The Game Staff
Sunday, the champions of the AFC and NFC will be crowned, destined to meet the other in Las Vegas on February 12th in Super Bowl 58.
The Baltimore Ravens are hosting the AFC Championship Game for the first time in franchise history. Patrick Mahomes leads the Kansas City Chiefs into town in hopes of pulling another road upset and returning to the Super Bowl to defend their title from last season. The Ravens are favored by 3.5 points at home per Draft Kings with a total at 44.5 points.
On the opposite coast, the San Francisco 49ers find themselves in a third consecutive NFC Championship Game under head coach Kyle Shanahan and fourth NFC title appearance in five seasons but remain in pursuit of Shanahan’s first Super Bowl ring. A narrow, tense win over the Packers in last week’s Divisional round sets the stage for the 49ers welcoming in a gritty Detroit Lions team coming off back to back postseason home wins, the franchise’s first playoff victories since the 1991 season. That was also the last time the Lions reached the NFC Championship Game, a 41-10 loss at future Super Bowl 26 champion Washington Redskins.
John Canzano, who grew up a 49ers fan, says the Niners close win over Green Bay has some reasonable explanation, beginning with star playmaker Deebo Samuel leaving the game in the first half with a shoulder injury.
“When you don’t have Deebo Samuel in the lineup, you lose a weapon that the defense absolutely has to account for,” Canzano said in his opening segment Monday on 750 The Game. “Deebo Samuel being on the field makes George Kittle better, makes Brandon Aiyuk better, makes Christian McCaffrey better, because you cannot dedicate extra defenders to those other players. And that’s how the Niners kill you on the offensive side. They just have too many weapons, and (Brock) Purdy is the distributor, he’s the point guard. When you remove Deebo Samuel you make life harder for everybody.”
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Monday that the 49ers consider Samuel “50-50” for Sunday’s conference title game vs. Detroit.
Canzano thinks the Niners will get past the Lions, even if Samuel doesn’t play, but still has concerns for their chances of winning the Super Bowl in part due to Shanahan’s conservative coaching in key moments, something he doesn’t see in the Ravens and John Harbaugh.
“Coaches that win Super Bowl championships, you can see that there is a comfort and a confidence that they have in the talent that’s on the field,” Canzano said. “Bill Belichick, whether you liked him or you didn’t like him, you always felt his confidence and his comfort with his team. And I can feel that right now with the Baltimore Ravens and John Harbaugh and it’s why I think they’re going to go to the Super Bowl. I think they’re going to beat Kansas City. There’s just a confidence and there’s a comfort, they believe, coaching staff looks relaxed.
“I don’t feel that with the 49ers right now. I feel like Kyle Shanahan knows that he hasn’t won a Super Bowl, knows that he’s been close, and gets in his own head a little bit. And I think towards the end of the first half he played not to lose. You kind of see him playing and coaching almost like a coach who has the team that is the underdog in the game. And I’m like, you’ve got the better players. You should be maximizing possessions. You should want more plays. And at the end of the first half here he was playing conservatively.”
The Ravens are coming off a 34-10 win over C.J. Stroud and the 4-seed Houston Texans in the Divisional Round. Baltimore held Houston to just 3 points on offense while Lamar Jackson and company went into high gear in the second half to blow open a game that was tied 10-10 at the half.
But Patrick Mahomes lurks on the opposing sideline, his Chiefs coming off a dramatic 27-24 victory in Buffalo in Mahomes’s first career road playoff game, putting Kansas City in a sixth consecutive AFC Championship Game.
“It’s one thing to say, can you win another game, can you appear in a sixth straight AFC Championship Game, and credit to the Chiefs organization, remarkable thing,” Canzano said. “I’m not counting them out because they have Patrick Mahomes. But that Ravens defense might just be the right defense to put in there, and that’s why I think they’ll beat the Chiefs.”
The Ravens defense allowed just 16.5 points a game in the regular season.
As for the NFC Championship, Canzano remains confident in the 49ers to get the job done.
“I do think the Niners are going to beat the Lions,” he said. “To me, the Lions have the feel of a team that’s going, ‘Hey, we’re playing with house money, we’ve gotten to the point where we’re at, Dan Campbell’s done a great job. That Lions team, I think they’ll run the ball, I think they’ll score in the twenties, but I think the Niners have too much offense for them.”
You can listen to full coverage of Championship Sunday from Westwood One exclusively in Portland on 750 The Game and streaming for free here. Coverage begins at 11:00 a.m. leading into the AFC Championship Game between the Ravens and Chiefs at 12:00 p.m. followed by the 49ers and Lions in the NFC Championship Game at 3:30 p.m.
John Canzano delivers the Bald Faced Truth afternoons 3-6 p.m. exclusively in Portland on 750 The Game.
Listen to Canzano’s segment on the wild NFL playoff weekend and setting up Championship Sunday at the opening of the show podcast below.