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Sunday February 5th, 2023 10:51PM

NFL playoffs: Mahomes shrugs off pain, plans to play

By The Associated Press
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Patrick Mahomes has a very sore right ankle. Jalen Hurts has a bum right shoulder.

Even so, neither quarterback is complaining in the lead up to Sunday's NFL conference championship games.

Mahomes went through a normal morning walkthrough Wednesday and then headed out for an afternoon practice with the rest of the Kansas City Chiefs, four days after a Jacksonville pass rusher landed on his ankle and forced him to hobble off the field in pain.

The Chiefs host the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC title game Sunday.

“The last few days has been an all-day thing,” Mahomes said, “where you’re doing treatment and rehab and watching film. You’re trying to make sure you’re prepared for the Bengals, a great football team, mentally and physically.”

Mahomes, a two-time All-Pro, was still pretty good on one ankle against the Jaguars. He left in the second quarter after the injury but returned for the second half and performed well enough to push the Chiefs to a 27-20 victory. They advanced to their fifth consecutive conference title game.

Philadelphia's Hurts — who is a finalist for MVP along with Mahomes, Josh Allen, Justin Jefferson and Joe Burrow -- has a sore right shoulder and told Fox Sports before the team's 38-7 win over the Giants that he was “nowhere near 100%."

He looked fine against the Giants, completing 7 of 7 passes for 89 yards in the first quarter and eventually threw for two touchdowns and ran for another score in Philadelphia's lopsided win.

Hurts said Wednesday his shoulder is still sore, though he didn't seem concerned.

“I’ve felt better, but it doesn’t really matter,” Hurts said. “I’ve got to get it done.”

The Eagles will host the San Francisco 49ers and rookie quarterback Brock Purdy in the NFC Championship on Sunday. The two winners from the conference championship games will advance to the Super Bowl on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona.

Purdy is set for perhaps his toughest test yet Sunday, when he faces an Eagles defense that led the NFL with 70 sacks and must deal with an imposing road environment.

Two of the four remaining teams are in the midst of long winning streaks. The 49ers have won 12 straight games while the Bengals have won 10 straight.

Here are some other things to know during the postseason:

WHAT’S THE UPCOMING SCHEDULE?

SUNDAY

San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles, 3 p.m. EST, Fox

Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs, 6:30 p.m. EST, CBS

NO NEED FOR NEUTRAL

The AFC title game would have been played in Atlanta next weekend if the Buffalo Bills had beaten the Bengals, under a rule adjustment approved by NFL owners.

The league decided on the first of its kind conference championship neutral site setting because the Bills (13-3) finished the season a half-game behind the Chiefs (14-3) after their game at Cincinnati was canceled on Jan. 2 when Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated on the field.

Hamlin has since been making a remarkable recovery and attended Sunday's game in Buffalo, waving to fans from a stadium suite.

In the end, all the Atlanta hypotheticals weren't needed. That's because the Bengals and Burrow are rolling. Cincinnati beat Buffalo 27-10 and is one win away from playing in a second straight Super Bowl.

“Better send those refunds,” Burrow said, referring to the 50,000 or so tickets already sold for a game that will never be played.

WHAT'S THE FORMAT FOR THE PLAYOFFS?

This is the third straight year of the current playoff format, which included the top seven teams from both the AFC and the NFC.

The four division winners in both conferences automatically get the top four seeds, regardless of record, and then the top three teams with the best record that didn't win their division are the wild-card selections. That's why it's fairly common for a wild-card selection to have a better record — but worse playoff seeding — than a team that finished as a division winner.

The No. 1-seeded team in each conference gets a bye into the second round — that's the Chiefs and Eagles — while No. 2 hosts No. 7, No. 3 hosts No. 6 and No. 4 hosts No. 5 during the wild-card weekend.

The NFL re-seeds teams after each playoff round. That means no matter how the bracket started, the lowest-seeded team always travels to the highest-seeded team.

There are four rounds to the playoffs: The wild-card round was Jan. 14-16, the divisional round was last weekend, the conference championship games are this Sunday and the Super Bowl is scheduled for Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona, at the home stadium of the Arizona Cardinals.

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AP Pro Football Writer Josh Dubow and AP Sports Writers Dave Skretta and Dan Gelston contributed to this report.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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