NFL playoffs: Ravens-Chiefs QBs, Lions-49ers balance mark conference finales

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson throws a pass against the Houston Texans during the first half an AFC divisional playoff game Saturday at M&ampT Bank Stadium in Baltimore. Photo by David Tulis/UPI

Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Lamar Jackson says Sunday's AFC Championship game will be a "heavyweight" clash between his Baltimore Ravens and Patrick Mahomes' Kansas City Chiefs. The San Francisco 49ers will host the Detroit Lions in the NFC finale Sunday night.

The Ravens and Chiefs game will kick off at 3 p.m. EST in Baltimore. The AFC Championship game will air on CBS.

The 49ers and Lions will kick off a few hours later in Santa Clara, Calif. The NFC Championship game will air at 6:30 p.m. on Fox.

Jackson, the 2019 NFL MVP, is on track to win the award for a second time this year. He led the Ravens to the AFC's top seed this postseason, but will need to get past the defending champions to reach his first Super Bowl.

Mahomes, a two-time MVP, will attempt to lead the Chiefs to the Super Bowl for the fourth time in five years.

San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (L) will face the Detroit Lions on Sunday in Santa Clara, Calif. File Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI

The Ravens are 3.5-point favorites.

"He is a great quarterback, definitely a Hall of Famer," Jackson said of Mahomes at a news conference this week in Baltimore. "That's a no-brainer. I believe it's two up-and-coming greats going toe-to-toe like a heavyweight fight. It's a heavyweight matchup."

Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff will attempt to win the second NFC title of his career when he faces the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in Santa Clara, Calif. File Photo by Ian Halperin/UPI

Mahomes' Chiefs have a 3-1 record against Jackson-led Ravens teams. The Ravens won the most recent meeting in 2021 after Chiefs victories in 2020, 2019 and 2018.

"It's a tall task," Mahomes said of facing Jackson and the Ravens. "You've got to go out there and play your best football. If you make any mistakes, it seems like the game will go the other way."

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes will lead the Kansas City Chiefs into Baltimore on Sunday for the AFC Championship game, where they will face the Baltimore Ravens. File Photo by Jon Robichaud/UPI
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes will lead the Kansas City Chiefs into Baltimore on Sunday for the AFC Championship game, where they will face the Baltimore Ravens. File Photo by Jon Robichaud/UPI

The Chiefs, previously propelled by high-powered offenses, leaned on their defense a bit more this season. They totaled the ninth-most yards on offense, while their defense allowed the second-fewest. They were led by the No. 4 pass defense, while they ranked No. 18 against the run.

The run-heavy Ravens ran for the most yards in the league this season. They totaled the sixth-most yards overall and allowed the sixth-fewest. The Ravens allowed the sixth-fewest passing yards and 14th-fewest rushing yards.

Head coach Dan Campbell led the Detroit Lions to their first playoff victory since 1992 on Jan. 14, when they defeated the Los Angeles Rams in Detroit. File Photo by Steve Nesius/UPI

Ravens All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews, who hasn't played since November because of an ankle injury, is expected to compete in the AFC finale. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey, out since Week 17 because of a calf injury, also could return.

Guard Joe Thuney, wide receiver Skyy Moore and running back Isiah Pacheco are among Chiefs players who haven't practiced this week because of injuries.

"There is no pressure at all on my shoulders or my mind," Jackson said. "The defense just has to do what they've done all season. We've gotta do what we're supposed to do, put points on the board, and we won't have anything to worry about."

In the NFC, the 49ers are 7-point favorites to beat the Lions. Unlike the 49ers, Chiefs and Ravens, who all competed for the Vince Lombardi Trophy over the last 11 seasons, the Lions are seeking their first Super Bowl appearance.

"If you can win on the road, that means you can handle adversity," Lions coach Dan Campbell said. "You can handle the ebbs and flows of a game. You don't crack and you handle pressure well. That's something we talk about here, with the way we practice, do things and the way camp is. I think it serves you well.

"When you are able to play a certain way on the road and handle a certain amount of pressure, that travels anywhere."

The Lions, who went 6-3 in road games, used its No. 3 offense, including its No. 2 passing game and No. 5 rushing attack, to capture their NFC North division title and later ended 32-year drought without a playoff win by beating the Los Angeles Rams in the wild-card round.

They'll be tested by another balanced version of the 49ers, who totaled the second-most yards on offense and allowed the eighth-fewest defensively. The 49ers leaned on its No. 4 passing game and No. 3 rushing attack. They surrendered the third-fewest rushing yards in the NFL, which could slow the Lions' backfield.

"We are going to have a huge challenge this week," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. "The Lions, regardless of who they play, they stick with the run. They do it every game. It's a big part of what they do. They are very balanced. They are very similar to our offense. It'll be a huge challenge."

The Lions and 49ers played only once over the last five seasons. That was in 2021, when both teams had largely different rosters and coaching staffs.

Wide receiver Deebo Samuel, one of the 49ers' top playmakers, is dealing with a shoulder injury and his status is uncertain for Sunday. Offensive linemen Frank Ragnow and Jonah Jackson and tight end Sam LaPorta are among the Lions players dealing with injuries.

The least expensive ticket price for the 49ers-Lions game was about $383, before taxes and fees, as of Thursday afternoon on the secondary market. The least expensive ticket for the Ravens-Chiefs game was $530.

Rain is expected Sunday in Baltimore, with temperatures forecast to be in the 40s. Temperatures are expected to be in the 70s, with no rain in the forecast, Sunday night in Santa Clara.

The winners of the conference title games will meet in Super Bowl LVIII on Feb. 11 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.