The NFL’s marathon of a season, the first with each team playing 17 regular-season games, is down to just three more games. And if this postseason has taught us anything, it’s that just about anything can happen … and will happen.

For two of the remaining teams in the Final Four, this Sunday will be their last game of the 2021 season.

After an inconsistent and at times funky season of picks, I have gotten off to a very good start in the postseason, with a 6-0 mark during wild-card weekend and then a 2-2 mark in last weekend’s four divisional-round games.

Let’s get after it and see if we can’t finish this season out in style during the final two weeks.

Cincinnati Bengals (12-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (14-5), 3 p.m. on CBS
The Line: Kansas City -7

Both the Bengals and Chiefs had to win two playoff games to get to this championship game. The Bengals got past Las Vegas on their home field and then had to travel to Nashville as a 3.5-point underdog to beat the Titans in a thriller.

For their part, the Chiefs hosted and had their way with a totally outmanned Steelers squad. Then there was arguably one of the greatest postseason games ever last Sunday night between the Chiefs and Bills, a game won in overtime with a touchdown drive by Patrick Mahomes. The loss had to be one of the most devastating in Bills history — and that is saying something for a team that lost four consecutive Super Bowls.

If the Chiefs win, they’ll go to their third straight Super Bowl. Should the Bengals pull off the upset, they will go to the Super Bowl for the first time since way, way back in 1989. Super Bowl XXIII was the Bengals’ second trip to the Big Game, and just as they had during Super Bowl XVI in 1982, the Bengals came up bridesmaids to the great Joe Montana.

As proud as they should be of the season they have had to date — and as good a leader as Joe Burrow is — the Bengals’ defense won’t be playing against Ryan Tannehill on Sunday. True, the Bengals and Chiefs will be squaring off for a second time this month, with the Bengals winning the first meeting in Cincinnati, 34-31.

But that game back on Jan. 2 had much more riding on it for the Bengals, while the Chiefs had already taken charge of their division. The Chiefs could have still earned the No. 1 seed, but that day the Bengals needed the game more.

This time around, the game is on the Chiefs’ home turf, and as I said earlier, Mahomes won’t be doing favors for the Bengals the way last week’s quarterback gift-wrapped a couple turnovers that short-circuited the Titans’ chances to win and advance.

The Chiefs’ relentlessness was what won that game against the Bills. This Bengals club isn’t as advanced as the Bills are, and those growing pains will be enough to send the Bengals home licking their wounds.

The Pick: KANSAS CITY 30, Cincinnati 17

San Francisco 49ers (12-7) at Los Angeles Rams (14-5), 6:30 p.m. on FOX
The Line: Los Angeles -3.5

Just like in the AFC championship game, we see two teams that had to run a two-game gauntlet to get to the conference championship. The 49ers were 3-5 early in the season but came on late with a 7-2 regular-season run to grab a playoff spot. With their win against the Cowboys as a 3.5-point dog and their victory in the freezer at Lambeau Field against the Packers as a 5.5-point dog, the Niners are now 9-2 in their last 11.

The oddity this week: The Niners meet a team in the Rams that they have beaten six consecutive times in the past three regular seasons. Yet, the vanquished Rams are a 3.5-point favorite in this game.

For their part, the Rams kicked off their playoff run with nearly six quarters of perfect football (all four quarters against the Cardinals and the first 29 minutes against the Buccaneers). I am not quite sure what happened after that first Cam Akers fumble when he was about to score a touchdown just before the half. The Rams lost three more fumbles in the second half — one by star receiver Cooper Kupp, one on a botched snap and another by Akers.

All that ugly play allowed the Bucs and Tom Brady to come all the way back from down 27-3 and tie the game at 27 with just 42 seconds left in regulation. The Rams decided they didn’t like their chances of winning an overtime coin flip and facing that Brady momentum.

The Rams showed focus and discipline during that final drive, and Matthew Stafford looked like a quarterback capable of winning at least one more game.

I think the 49ers went into Green Bay and played a team that really wasn’t mentally ready to play that game on their home field in conditions that should have favored them.

I think the 49ers will face a Rams team this week that will be fresher and less banged up than them. I am not a Jimmy Garoppolo hater, but I think this is the game Stafford was brought to Los Angeles for and I just have a hunch he’ll meet the moment. It helps to have Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. as your two primary wide receivers.

The Pick: LOS ANGELES 26, San Francisco 16

Photo Credits: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Stan Charles

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