10 best players to watch on NFL Championship Sunday originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The NFL’s best will be on display this weekend.
That makes it nearly impossible to narrow it down, but here’s a look at the 10 best players you’ll want to watch this weekend – plus an honorable mention section because there’s just too many stars:
1. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
Divisional round stats: 22 of 30, 195 passing yards, two touchdowns
I know, I know. Mahomes suffered a high ankle sprain in the divisional round and won’t be close to full strength by Sunday. But that’s part of what makes him the player I most want to watch. The soon-to-be two-time MVP is the best player in football, but he’s never beaten Joe Burrow. Even with diminished health, Mahomes should be on his game Sunday.
2. Joe Burrow, Bengals
Divisional round stats: 23 of 36, 242 passing yards, two touchdowns
Even without three starting offensive linemen, Burrow marched into the Buffalo snow and dismantled the Bills with relative ease. Now he’s entering another familiar spot: Arrowhead Stadium with a Super Bowl berth on the line. The Bengals pulled it off last year and Burrow looks even more confident this time around.
3. Nick Bosa, 49ers
Divisional round stats: One tackle for loss, one QB hit, two total tackles
His divisional round numbers looked limited, but make no mistake: Bosa has an impact on every play. The Eagles have the best O-line in football, with no real weakness up front. Bosa led the league with 18.5 sacks, with at least one sack in 13 of 16 regular season games. It could be an all-time matchup on Sunday.
4. Travis Kelce, Chiefs
Divisional round stats: 14 receptions, 98 yards, two touchdowns
Kelce continues to set records after another dominant game against the Jaguars. He now has the third-most touchdowns (14) and second-most receptions (120) in playoff history. The 33-year-old tight end was limited to just four catches for 56 yards in the Chiefs’ loss to the Bengals earlier this season, so revenge could be on his mind.
5. Jalen Hurts, Eagles
Divisional round stats: 16 of 24, 154 passing yards, 34 rushing yards, three total touchdowns
After questions about his shoulder injury, Hurts responded with a no-stress win over the Giants for his first career playoff victory. He was in total control from the jump, both in the air and on the ground. Hurts is a true dual-threat quarterback, which will present a unique challenge to the 49ers’ league-leading defense.
6. Ja’Marr Chase, Bengals
Divisional round stats: Five receptions, 61 yards, one touchdown
If it weren’t for a pesky replay overturn, Chase would’ve been walking into Kansas City fresh off a two-touchdown performance. He had to settle for just one, though, but the second-year wideout is once again asserting himself as one of the league’s top weapons. Chase scored the tying touchdown in last year’s title game against the Chiefs before the Bengals prevailed.
7. Haason Reddick, Eagles
Divisional round stats: 1.5 sacks, three QB hits, five total tackles
In his first season with the Eagles, Reddick has emerged as a high-end pass rusher. He totaled 16 sacks, five forced fumbles and 26 QB hits in the regular season to earn Second-Team All-Pro honors. The 28-year-old was just as good in his postseason debut against the Giants, and Philly will need similar production against a potent San Francisco O-line and rushing attack.
8. Deebo Samuel, 49ers
Divisional round stats: Four receptions, 45 yards
You’ve heard of dual-threat quarterbacks, but how about dual-threat wide receivers? Samuel excels as a pass-catcher and a rusher in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Even though he was quiet against the Cowboys, Samuel is often unleashed in the postseason. He had seven carries and seven targets in last year’s NFC title game loss to the Rams.
9. A.J. Brown, Eagles
Divisional round stats: Three receptions, 22 yards
Another first-year Eagle, Brown had a breakout campaign – 145 targets, 88 catches and 1,496 yards were all career-bests. Philly didn’t need much from Brown against the Giants, but that will change this weekend against a superior defense. This is a chance for Brown to prove that he’s in the same class as guys like Justin Jefferson, Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill.
10. Trent Williams, 49ers
Most people don’t watch football for offensive linemen, but I had to sneak one onto this list. Between Williams and the Eagles’ Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce, some of the top blockers in football are playing on Sunday. The 6-foot-5, 320-pound left tackle stands out because of his mobility, as Shanahan often sends him flying all over the field.
Honorable mention (sorted by team): Christian McCaffrey, 49ers; George Kittle, 49ers; Fred Warner, 49ers; DeVonta Smith, Eagles; Jason Kelce, Eagles; Lane Johnson, Eagles; James Bradberry, Eagles; Chris Jones, Chiefs; Nick Bolton, Chiefs; Tee Higgins, Bengals; Trey Hendrickson, Bengals; Sam Hubbard, Bengals; Mike Hilton, Bengals