Mark Craig's NFL conference championship preview and predictions


(3) Chiefs (13-6) at (1) Ravens (14-4)

Time (TV): 2 p.m. (Ch. 4)

Line: Ravens by 3 1/2

The matchup: Patrick Mahomes takes a 13-3 postseason record into his sixth consecutive AFC Championship game appearance, the first on the road. Lamar Jackson is 1-3 against Mahomes heading into their first postseason meeting. Jackson won the last matchup 36-35 at Baltimore in 2021.

Did you know? This is the first NFL postseason matchup featuring two former league MVPs under 30 — Mahomes (2018, 2022) and Jackson (2019).

Prediction: Baltimore ranked first in scoring defense (16.5), sacks (60) and takeaways (31). The Chiefs ranked second in scoring defense (17.3) and sacks (57). Eight of Baltimore's wins were by 14 or more points against teams that finished with winning records. Mahomes is pure magic, but defense and home-field advantage will help lift Jackson into his first Super Bowl. Ravens 34, Chiefs 27


(3) Lions (14-5) at (1) 49ers (13-5)

Time (TV): 5:30 p.m. (Ch. 9)

Line: 49ers by 7 1/2

The matchup: The 49ers have won seven consecutive home playoff games and are in the NFC title game for a third consecutive season after losing the last two on the road. The Lions are playing in only their second NFC title game, having lost the first to Washington in 1991.

Did you know? Detroit's Jared Goff is trying to join Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner and Craig Morton as quarterbacks to lead two teams to the Super Bowl. Goff went with the Rams in 2018.

Prediction: The Lions can score with anybody. But can Detroit's suspect pass defense stop the No. 3 scoring attack led by Brock Purdy's league-high passing efficiency (113.0), Christian McCaffrey's unmatched toughness and versatility and a stellar offensive line? Detroit's chances improve greatly if 49ers receiver Deebo Samuel is slowed by his shoulder injury. 49ers 39, Lions 30