January 26, 2024 11:00am

Championship weekend

Can the top two seeds again return to the Super Bowl?

Photo of Rick Gosselin
NFL Correspondent

The two top seeds in the NFL played in the Super Bowl last February. Expect a repeat this February.

In this week’s NFL Power Poll, we asked our panel of former players, coaches, officials, talent evaluators, writers and broadcasters to pick the winners in the conference championship games this weekend – Kansas City at Baltimore in the AFC and Detroit at San Francisco in the NFC. The Ravens and 49ers are the top seed in each conference and the Chiefs and Lions both third seeds.

The two top seeds were the overwhelming winners. The 49ers received 113 of a possible 159 votes and the Ravens received 110 votes.

Baltimore finished with the best record in the NFL at 13-4. The 49ers were a stride back at 12-5. The Ravens rank in the NFL’s Top 6 in both offense and defense and the 49ers rank in the Top 8 on both sides of the ball. Baltimore and San Francisco also have the two front-runners for NFL MVP, quarterback Lamar Jackson of the Ravens and running back Christian McCaffrey of the 49ers.

The 49ers finished third in the NFL in scoring with an average of 28.9 points per game. The Ravens finished fourth in scoring at 28.4 points. The Ravens allowed the fewest points in the league (280) and the 49ers allowed the third fewest (298).

“I just think it’s Lamar's turn to get it done in the AFC,” said Wayne Larrivee, the radio voice of the Green Bay Packers. “Baltimore has been the best in that conference virtually all season.”

“The Chiefs will struggle to move the ball against the league's premier defense,” added Hall-of-Fame voter Ira Kaufman of JoeBucsFan.com.

This is Kansas City’s sixth consecutive appearance in the AFC title game, all with two-time NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes at the helm. This is San Francisco’s third consecutive appearance in the NFC title game.

“If experience counts, and I believe it does, then that's bad news for the Lions and the Ravens,” said Bruce Castleberry, the sports editor of the Boston Herald.

The Chiefs won their eighth consecutive AFC West title with an 11-6 record and finished in the Top 9 in the NFL in both offense and defense. The Chiefs allowed the second fewest points and the second fewest yards in the league. And then there is Mahomes.

“For the Super Bowl to cap the 2019 season, the consensus was the 49ers had the better team -- but the Chiefs had Mahomes,” said Mike Klis, who writes for 9News in Denver. “The 49ers were up 10 in the fourth. Mahomes won. It seems like the same deal here, Ravens vs. Chiefs. Mahomes may not win 'em all. But can't pick against him.”

The Chiefs also have Andy Reid, who ranks fourth all-time in coaching victories and owns a pair of Super Bowl rings.

“Should the Chiefs win the AFC again, this would have to go down as Andy Reid's best coaching job throughout his illustrious career,” said long-time Associated Press NFL writer and Hall-of-Fame voter Barry Wilner. “But the Ravens simply have the better team.”

The Lions have reached their first championship game since 1957. Detroit finished third in the NFL in yards and fifth in points. But the 12-5 Lions have the worst defense left in the playoffs. They allowed the 19th most yards in the league and 23rd most points.

“Tampa Bay just rolled up 23 first downs and 408 yards at Ford Field -- and the Bucs don't have a difference-maker like Christian McCaffrey in their backfield,” added Kaufman. “KC's attack has looked better in recent weeks, but unlike Buffalo, Baltimore's defense is healthy and relentless. It's a good bet both No. 1 seeds will end up meeting in Vegas.”

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of significant key players in American sports today. It's member list draws on people from media, team management, and league management. It is not a scientific survey, but the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those who know most about the sport.

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