The NFL Sunday Review: Championship Weekend

The Super Bowl is set, and what a matchup we have to look forward to in just under two weeks. Championship Sunday was a day of two halves: a injury-riddled early game, with a comfortable winner in the end, followed by the tensest of contests, as two of the best teams in the league went back and forth trading blows, before a very dramatic ending robbed us of the overtime it looked like we were heading to. And now, it’s set.

Let the sports show debates begin. Chiefs or Eagles? Mahomes or Hurts? Andy Reid’s new team vs Andy Reid’s old team? Travis Kelce or Jason Kelce? Is Nick Sirianni going to complete one of the all-time great turnarounds, from his opening press conference disaster, to Super Bowl champion? Is this game “must-win” for Mahomes’ legacy? … There are SO many storylines, and we have all that to look forward to, but before all that, let’s review how we got here. We’ll get to Brock Purdy, Kyle Shanahan and the Niners later on, but we start with the Battle for… Burrowhead.

Chiefs Break Bengals' Hearts... At Arrowhead

After all the build up, and all the trash-talking… The Kansas City Chiefs showed they are still the class of the AFC… and all that talking came back to haunt the Cincinnati Bengals. And, in all honesty, I don’t blame them for doing the talking in the first place… but, when you lose, them’s the break. We had “Burrowhead” being said on official team release social media posts, but had the Mayor of Cincinnati questioning Patrick Mahomes’ parentage… and with the growing cloud of Joe Burrow’s (previously) undefeated streak against Mahomes, there was a lot on the line for the Chiefs.

The Bengals fans’ victory lap would have been incredible to see, but equally the inverse is true too. Travis Kelce cutting WWE promos on unsuspecting politicians is exactly what I want and need to see. “Know your role, and shut your mouth, ya Jabroni” is an ICONIC piece of Championship Sunday celebration history. Kelce moved into 2nd all-time in Post-Season receiving yards on Sunday, now trailing only Jerry Rice. Simply remarkable. I know there are plenty of people out there who are starting to suffer from “Chiefs Fatigue,” where the constant barrage of positivity and media obsession surrounding Mahomes, Reid, and the entire organisation has started to grate, and annoy them… but I’m not one of those people.

This is a generational team, with a 5th year QB who – if he wins this upcoming Super Bowl – could retire immediately after and still be a 1st ballot Hall of Famer no matter if he never took another snap. Mahomes IS that special. It’s a great thing for the league that we have so many superstar quarterbacks right now, though that is heavily slanted to the AFC, but Mahomes is still a cut above the rest. With this upcoming Super Bowl, the Chiefs have the chance to really kick start their new dynasty… This will be Mahomes’ 3rd Super Bowl in 4 years, and a chance to accelerate his climb towards all those records that Tom Brady holds. Sure, it would be silly to suggest Mahomes should be aiming to win 7 like TB12 has done, but two in five years would be a hell of a way to start.

Mahomes’ mobility was the big talking point coming into the game, but he reminded us all that he’s more than capable of picking defenses apart from within the pocket, finding Marquez Valdez-Scantling downfield with ease in the 2nd half. I agree that Tony Romo, and many other media personalities, sometimes go a little overboard in their praise for Mahomes… but his toughness, grit, determination and will to win, playing with a high ankle sprain, deserves all the plaudits it’s going to get. Mahomes is the face of the league for a reason.

Joe Burrow & The Bengals had another fantastic season, and simply have to now get the respect and admiration they deserve from the rest of the league. Burrow is a Top 5 quarterback in this league. Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins are a Top 2 WR tandem in the league. Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine are a great 1-2 punch out of the backfield. The Bengals defense didn’t give up a 1st quarter TD since OCTOBER and have fallen just short at the last hurdle before the Super Bowl. For the 2nd season running, this O-Line was riddled with injuries and enforced changes and yet they went deep into the postseason.

This Bengals team deserves to be viewed as an immediate Super Bowl contender for 2024. However, it should also be noted that Chase, Higgins, Mixon, and Burrow, will all have contract discussions coming up in the next few years… so as much as the Bengals championship window is “as long as Joe Burrow is playing Quarterback,” but there are a few nuances to work out in terms of how you keep this team together.

The Bengals will also be kicking themselves, because after a fairly pedestrian first half, they had numerous chances to win this game, but Chiefs DC Steve Spagnuolo just about outdueled his counterparts, forcing two Joe Burrow INTs, and using Frank Clark and Chris Jones to create havoc up front.

Obviously, we have to talk about the Joseph Ossai penalty. Ossai was penalised for a late hit out of bounds on Mahomes, which gave KC the 15 yards needed to give Harrison Butker the chance to win it with a field goal. On a day of bad officiating, this was one call that couldn’t be disputed, but you have to feel for Ossai, who is desperately trying to make a play, and just did too much. Mahomes had barely scrambled all day, but broke right trying to get out of bounds with a gain, and inadvertently won the game by baiting Ossai into the season-ending error.

Cincy will have flown back to Ohio heartbroken, but knowing that they have proven they can beat every single team in this league when they’re at their best. None of us should be surprised if we see the Bengals back here, in this game again, next year. But, again, it’ll be Kansas City representing the AFC in the biggest game. Burrowhead? Nope. This is still Patrick Mahomes’ world, and we’re all just living in it.

Eagles Dominate Niners, As Purdy Fairytale Ends In Injury


In Sunday’s early game, The Philadelphia Eagles secured a deserved berth in the Super Bowl, with a comprehensive destruction of an injury-riddled San Francisco 49ers team. Brock Purdy’s fairytale ended in tragic style on Sunday, as an elbow injury hampered Purdy and left the 49ers defeated in the NFC Championship game for the 2nd season in a row. Purdy suffered what has now been confirmed to be a torn UCL, so the fact that he was even able to return, hand the ball off, and throw a couple of screen passes, is actually quite remarkable, but that was also the huge issue – that was all Purdy could do.

Josh Johnson was clearly not the answer to beating the Eagles, even before Johnson’s unfortunate concussion that left the Niners completely without a professionally trained passer. From that point on, it was a foregone conclusion, as Lincoln Financial Field was rocking, carrying their heroes to the Super Bowl. I will say, I was underwhelmed by Kyle Shanahan’s attempt to remain in the game. I appreciate it’s insane to have NONE of your first FOUR QBs healthy in an NFC Championship game, but the “offensive genius” responded to this by… running the ball on every down!? Hmmm. He tried ONE trick/gadget play with McCaffrey at QB, but not until the 4th quarter when the game already felt like it was over.

Another 49ers season where everyone in the media says “this is the best team in football/this is the best roster in the league/nobody wants to play San Francisco in January…” ends (again) with the Niners unable to win the big one. Shanahan can cite bad luck, and more injuries at the most important position in the game, but his best iteration of this team came with the 3rd choice QB at the helm. Is that a case of the team gelling at the right time? Or is that a sign that Shanahan picked the wrong guy to lead this team all season long? The only thing we know for sure, is that the 49ers QB room is one of the most interesting ones to watch this offseason. Will Jimmy Garoppolo finally be traded? Will Trey Lance resume his position as de facto starter? Will Brock Purdy or Lance even be fully healed from their injuries and ready to start Week 1? Would the team finally try to bring in Aaron Rodgers for one last run at a Super Bowl? Whatever happens… It’s going to be an interesting few months in the Niners front office.

But enough about San Francisco… Let’s talk about Philly! The Eagles have led the NFC from pillar to post, and deservedly will represent the conference in the Super Bowl. Nick Sirianni won the coaching battle, and has thrust himself firmly into Coach of the Year discussions, as he takes Philadelphia back to the Super Bowl after their Championship win under Doug Pederson in 2018.

The Eagles’ defense was ferocious throughout, causing the early turnover that changed the flow of the game, and knocked Brock Purdy out in one fell swoop. Haason Reddick was everywhere and the Niners couldn’t contain him. Obviously the secondary will have their hands full defending against Mahomes and Kelce in two weeks, but displays like this explain just why the Eagles have opened as the Bookies’ favourites for the Big Game.

On the other side of the ball, Jalen Hurts deserves so much credit. And what’s great about Hurts, is he’ll immediately (and correctly) attempt to give credit to his coaches and offensive line. Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce and that crew are the premier crop of the league, moving bodies at will, and creating the lanes that led to four Eagles rushing TDs against the statistical #1 defense in the league. Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, and Hurts himself all found their way into the endzone, as the Eagles were dominant on the ground throughout. Why is that so important? Because with AJ Brown, Devonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert available to catch passes as well, the Eagles have a multitude of ways they can beat you.

Smith and Brown were largely quiet in this one, but they weren’t required to be loud, based on how dominant the rushing attack was. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of game plan Sirianni uses against Kansas City, but I’d expect them to continue to lean on a run game that basically nobody has been able to stop yet this season. All I know for sure is that the Eagles were clearly the cream of the NFC crop, and getting to see this team play for the biggest prize in the NFL is extremely exciting.

The Super Bowl

And now, the stage is set. I am… SO excited for this game, and we’ve got 13 days until kick off. These two juggernauts earned their respective #1 seed, and then fought their way to Arizona, to fight it out for the Championship. It feels too early to accurately make a prediction, until we know a little bit more about the state of the Chiefs’ injury report, but I’ll say this… I’m always going to predict the National Anthem goes over, the coin toss is tails, the opening kick off will NOT be a Touchback, and Rihanna will slay the halftime show…

I love the Super Bowl so much. I foresee points, and hopefully just a healthy sprinkling of drama and chaos. May the best team win. As always, thanks for spending part of your week with us. I’m @CallumJDSquires on Twitter and Instagram if you want to say hi, or discuss any of your NFL opinions. Enjoy your week, and see you back here in two weeks for the Super Bowl review! Cheers.

Callum Squires