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Ravens Insider: Staff picks for Ravens vs. Chiefs and 49ers vs. Lions: Who will meet in Super Bowl 58?


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Here’s how The Baltimore Sun sports staff views the outcome of Sunday’s NFL conference championship games.

AFC: Kansas City Chiefs at Ravens, Sunday, 3 p.m.

Brian Wacker, reporter

Chiefs 24, Ravens 23: The Ravens are the better team, but Kansas City has what Baltimore does not: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes. As good as Lamar Jackson has been for the Ravens — he should be the NFL Most Valuable Player — this is new territory for him and old hat for Mahomes, who is playing in his sixth straight AFC championship game. The Ravens’ defense has also been vulnerable against strong running backs, which Isiah Pacheco certainly qualifies as, and can struggle at times defending passes over the middle. The key for Baltimore will be getting Mahomes off his first read, muddying the picture in the secondary and applying pressure up the middle and/or on the edge without losing contain. Those are all things the Ravens do well, but expect Mahomes to stay patient and make a play when he has to. This one will come down to the end.

Mike Preston, columnist

Ravens 31, Chiefs 21: If Patrick Mahomes wins this game, he isn’t just the best quarterback of all time, but the greatest magician. This is a physical mismatch in favor of the Ravens, who are the No. 1 ranked rushing team in the NFL going up against the Chiefs’ No. 18 ranked run defense. Translation: Just pound the ball. Kansas City has Mahomes, but its offensive tackles, Donovan Smith on the left side and Jawaan Taylor on the right, won’t be able to handle defensive end Justin Madubuike and outside linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy. The Chiefs have a good coaching staff led by Andy Reid, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and defensive line coach Joe Cullen, but they won’t be able to save Kansas City, which is playing its second straight road game after beating Buffalo, 27-24, in the divisional round. The first-round bye will help the Ravens.

Childs Walker, reporter

Ravens 30, Chiefs 24: The Ravens have been better than the Chiefs this year. They have more ways to win and in Lamar Jackson, a superstar who seems ready to come into his own as a true rival to Patrick Mahomes. No one blows out the Chiefs, however, and no lead will ever feel safe against Mahomes. The quarterbacks will headline, but this game could just as easily come down to the defenses. Kansas City will pressure Jackson and make it difficult for him to move the ball in chunks. But the Ravens were just as stingy against big plays and much better at creating takeaways. They will disturb Mahomes just enough to pull out a tense win.

C.J. Doon, editor

Ravens 27, Chiefs 20: Facing Patrick Mahomes and an elite defense is the toughest test yet for this Ravens team, but even that won’t be enough to derail what’s shaping up to be a dream season. When he avoids turnovers, Lamar Jackson is pretty much unbeatable, even against a terrific defensive coordinator like Steve Spagnuolo. Mahomes can single-handedly keep the Chiefs in the game with his ability to extend plays, but his receivers are simply not good enough to go toe-to-toe with this Ravens defense. Travis Kelce, at age 34, isn’t the dominant force he used to be. On top of that, Kansas City is dealing with a long list of injuries and will likely be without All-Pro guard Joe Thuney. Justin Madubuike and Jadeveon Clowney should dominate, which will frustrate Mahomes and lead to mistakes. It’s hard to envision the Chiefs getting blown out as long as Mahomes is healthy, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the Ravens win comfortably.

Tim Schwartz, editor

Ravens 30, Chiefs 24: It’s destiny, right? Baltimore has checked every box this season and dominated the NFL’s best — just look at what it did to the teams playing in the NFC title game. The Chiefs are the best team they’ll face, so why not knock them off, too? Lamar Jackson has been as even-keeled as any player can possibly be this season and seems ready to capture the moment. But it certainly won’t be easy against a stout Kansas City defense. I like the Ravens’ defense matching up against Patrick Mahomes and his receivers. There is nobody quite like Kyle Hamilton, who can guard Travis Kelce and do a little bit of everything else, too. The Ravens are Super Bowl bound.

49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) celebrates with wide receiver Deebo Samuel (19) after scoring a touchdown during a game against the Buccaneers on Dec. 9 in Santa Clara, California.
Shae Hammond, Bay Area News Group
49ers quarterback Brock Purdy, left, celebrates with wide receiver Deebo Samuel after scoring a touchdown during a game against the Buccaneers on Dec. 9 in Santa Clara, California.

NFC: Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, 6:30 p.m.


49ers 27, Lions 14: History isn’t on the Lions’ side. They’ve lost 11 of their past 12 against San Francisco, including a 41-33 defeat in Detroit in 2021, and haven’t won a road playoff game since 1957. This isn’t the same old Lions team, of course, as Detroit is averaging 27.5 points per game this postseason. Jared Goff has been efficient, hasn’t turned the ball over and been a catalyst for the Lions’ success. But not all playoff opponents are created equal, and the 49ers are far better than the Rams and Buccaneers. San Francisco has an elite defense, ranking third in points, rushing yards and yards per pass allowed, and it ranks second in turnover margin. Even if 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel doesn’t play, their offense has hummed, ranking first in passing yards per attempt, success rate, EPA per attempt, touchdown percentage and first-down percentage. The Lions’ run defense has been stout this season, but the Ravens exposed them in Week 7 and San Francisco will do the same.


49ers 24, Lions 21: The Lions are one of the best stories of the season, having won two playoff games in the same year for the first time since 1957. Detroit has the offense to keep pace with the 49ers, and the Lions have explosive weapons in running backs David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs and tight end Sam LaPorta. Quarterback Jared Goff appears to have stepped up his game in the postseason, but San Francisco still has one of the best defenses in the NFL. Meanwhile, Detroit’s defense is a concern. It gave up an average of 336.1 yards per game during the regular season, including nearly 250 through the air, and has allowed an average of 415 yards per game during the playoffs. The 49ers have too much firepower for Detroit, and while quarterback Brock Purdy can be rattled, he might put up big numbers.


49ers 31, Lions 21: The Lions are the most sympathetic team left in final four, but that won’t help them stop a 49ers offense that was the most efficient in the league in the regular season. San Francisco’s close call against the Green Bay Packers was a reminder that no favorite is invincible. Detroit will move the ball and match the 49ers’ physical intensity. But the Lions’ defense isn’t quite ready to win consistently at the highest level.


Lions 28, 49ers 24: San Francisco was fortunate to escape the divisional round against Green Bay’s young team, but it won’t be so lucky against Detroit. Yes, the Lions’ secondary is vulnerable, but 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel is banged up and quarterback Brock Purdy does not look ready to lead the offense in tense moments. There’s something about this Detroit team that gives me confidence, especially because of how much more agressive coach Dan Campbell will be than his counterpart Kyle Shanahan. Those little edges add up, and it will make the difference Sunday.


Lions 27, 49ers 24: The majority of America is ready to see the Lions get over the hump. Count me in. They have not played their best during the postseason but have won anyway — that’s a sign of a good team. San Francisco looked vulnerable last weekend against the Packers and I don’t trust Brock Purdy as much as I do Jared Goff. A key turnover will swing this one in Detroit’s favor, and the Lions will advance to their first Super Bowl.

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