For the first time since 2010, Championship Sunday of the NFL playoffs will occur without either Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers.
And we could end up with an even deeper flashback if more postseason madness occurs.
In last week’s divisional round, underdogs went 3-1 to steal home-field advantage. On Sunday, the favored Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams look to snap that trend against the Cincinnati Bengals and San Francisco 49ers, respectively.
Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs
3 p.m. ET, CBS
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams
6:30 p.m. ET, FOX
But if the Bengals somehow pull off the upset in the AFC championship at Kansas City, and the 49ers do the same in the NFC title showdown, we would turn back the clock to 1989, when Cincinnati last advanced to the Super Bowl — and lost to San Francisco.
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Only once since the NFC and AFC championships began in 1970 has a game featured no touchdowns. Coincidentally, that 1980 game involved the Rams (when still in Los Angeles).
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For what it’s worth, while there have been enough instances of a team losing without scoring a TD, only once has a conference champion lifted the trophy without doing so. New Yorkers may remember: the Giants squeaked by the 49ers 15-13 in 1991 en route to the Super Bowl.
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Again, though, which team to back? Cincinnati makes its first conference championship appearance since 1988, but the Bengals are 2-0 in the AFC title game and beat the Chiefs on the road in Week 17. But Kansas City hosts a record fourth straight AFC championship, and the Chiefs have won each of the past two.
How about San Francisco, in its record-setting 17th conference championship game. The 49ers have seven victories at this stage, and they have gone 6-0 against the Rams in the past three seasons. Then again, the Rams have something special in mind. Never before had a team played a Super Bowl in its home stadium. Until last season, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lifted the Lombardi Trophy at Raymond James Stadium.
With Super Bowl LVI held at SoFi Stadium, the Rams have all the inspiration they need to leave it all out on the field.
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It would make sense for bettors to favor the favored, which in this case are the host Chiefs and Rams. While home teams went 5-1 during the wild card round (including both Kansas City and Los Angeles), “home-field advantage” was non-existent. Host squads won just one of four divisional-round games (Kansas City).
History favors the hosts, as home teams in AFC and NFC championships have gone a combined 69-33.
Then again, there is that Cincinnati-San Francisco connection. The only other two times the Bengals have appeared in the conference title game, they went on to the Super Bowl. And in both games, they faced (and lost to) San Francisco.