NFL Playoffs

49ers vs. Lions predictions: Experts pick NFC Championship winner

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The 49ers are one win away from Super Bowl LVIII.

The only thing standing in their way of a trip to Las Vegas is the Detroit Lions, who they will host in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday at Levi's Stadium.

San Francisco is the heavy favorite over Detroit entering the conference title game, but making their third consecutive NFC Championship Game appearance, the 49ers have come up short twice before.

For the Lions, who already have won more playoff games this season (two) than they did over the last 30 years (one), they're eager to reach the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.

Here's what NFL experts are predicting for Sunday's showdown.

Cody Benjamin, CBS Sports

49ers 27, Lions 23

"Detroit is a feel-good story, living up to preseason hype as a hard-nosed fighter, and if Goff gets run support while feeding St. Brown early and often, the Lions are capable of the upset. But Goff has also been significantly less effective on the road than at home, and the 49ers tend to take advantage of defensive opportunities. While Purdy and Shanahan proved vulnerable in their decision-making against the Packers, the superior talent is the safer bet."

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News

49ers 34, Lions 20

"The Lions have had a great run, but it comes to an end, as they simply do not have enough defense to slow down all the 49ers' weapons around Purdy. Goff will be under more duress all game with his backs being less of a factor than McCaffrey will. Aiyuk and Kittle also will explode for bigger games than St. Brown and LaPorta. Bosa and the defense flex again in the fourth quarter to shut the door."

Eric Moody, Seth Walder, ESPN

Moody: Lions 31, 49ers 28

Walder: 49ers 34, Lions 24

"The Lions' pass defense is the weakest unit left in the playoffs, ranking 30th in EPA per dropback over the course of the season. Hutchinson is one person who can change that in a flash, and he has been a different player in the postseason with a 29% pass rush win rate -- more than double his regular-season number. He also has 8.0 sacks in his past four games. Detroit, the underdog, needs something special -- a strip sack, perhaps? -- from Hutchinson to put this game back on level terms." -- Walder

Erik Beaston, Bleacher Report

Prediction: 49ers advance to Super Bowl LVIII with 10-point win over Detroit

"Under offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, Jared Goff has played his best and most consistent football. He has the weapons, too, in Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, Jameson Williams, and running backs Gibbs and Montgomery. He can put points up. With that said, he is still prone to mistakes when pressured and San Francisco defensive coordinator Steve Wilks will look to test the health of the Detroit offensive line by sending unique blitz packages to confuse and stunt Goff's play.

"Brock Purdy will be able to find his receivers downfield against a Lions defense that gives up big plays to talented receivers, of which the 49ers have plenty. The Lions will make it interesting for a half or so before the high-powered Niners do just enough to ensure this Cinderella story strikes midnight."

Christian Booher, Sports Illustrated

Lions 20, 49ers 17

"The Lions and the 49ers both are physical teams with run-first identities, so it will be a clash of similar squads Sunday evening. To me, this game will be won at the line of scrimmage, particularly when San Francisco has the ball.The Lions must take away cutback lanes for Christian McCaffrey, who is as dangerous as any player in the open field. The interior will be responsible for that, while Aidan Hutchinson and other players on the edge will be tasked with turning these outside zone runs back inside.

"Detroit has been very solid against the run all season long. I expect more of the same, and I think the Lions, themselves, can run the ball against anyone. It won't be easy, but I think the Lions make San Francisco one-dimensional and play ball-control on offense, to earn a hard-fought win and a trip to the Super Bowl."

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