This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which professional sports handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the professional football season. Here are our top betting picks for both Conference Championship games this weekend in the NFL.
You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get right to it with some help from Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum of VSiN and Odds Assist CEO Dave Rathmanner.
San Francisco 49ers (+2.5, O/U 46.5) at Philadelphia Eagles
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Eagles listed as a short 1.5-point home favorite. Respected money had laid the points with Philadelphia, steaming the Eagles up from -1.5 to -2.5. Home favorites are 23-9 straight up (72%) in the AFC and NFC Championship games over the past 20 years. I’ll bet on Philadelphia to win straight up -145 on the moneyline.
Gable’s Guess: These are the two best and most complete teams in the NFC. It’s a great matchup to have them facing off for the Super Bowl berth. When you break these teams down, the Eagles have the advantage at quarterback with Jalen Hurts, who was playing at an MVP level prior to getting injured. Brock Purdy has done everything that’s been required of him for the 49ers. They rely on all of their weapons on offense and not necessarily an elite passing game. Philly has just as many weapons on offense and they also have Hurts, who is essentially another running back when needed. I look at this game as being strength on strength. Both teams have great lines. And this will be a battle at the line of scrimmage. The Eagles racked up 416 total yards against the Giants. That is not going to come nearly as easily against this 49ers’ defense. I don’t believe the Eagles are 2.5 points better than the Niners. So, I want to take the points with San Fran.
Rathmanner’s Reckoning: The Eagles showed they are healthy on Saturday night. Jalen Hurts looked like the MVP candidate we have seen most of the season, and Lane Johnson was back on the offensive line to give the Eagles a strong presence in the run game. From a situational standpoint, the Eagles have an extra day of rest and get to face a 49ers team traveling all the way across the country. The 49ers will have rookie Brock Purdy making his first road playoff start in what will no doubt be an extremely hostile environment on Sunday afternoon. The Eagles will make sure he feels the pressure early and often as they ranked first in the league with 70 sacks during the regular season and added five more last week. Both defenses are extremely tough, ranking first and second in yards against during the regular season. The 49ers do have a suspect pass defense and the Eagles have the weapons to exploit that. With the line holding at -2.5, play the Eagles to win and cover.
Our Bet: History says Purdy will struggle, so rooting for the Niners but will side with the Eagles and the under.
Cincinnati Bengals (+1, O/U 47.5) at Kansas City Chiefs
Appelbaum’s Assessment: We’ve seen drastic back-and-forth line movement in this game. The Chiefs opened as short favorites and the line quickly flipped to Bengals -2.5 based upon speculation that Patrick Mahomes would be hobbled due to his high ankle sprain. But then we got positive news on Mahomes and the line flipped back to Kansas City -1 at home. I liked the Bengals to win outright early in the week but I’m now wary of the line move to Mahomes, plus the fact that the Bengals are the trendy popular pick receiving 70% of spread bets. I’ll wait and search for a +1.5 and then tease the Bengals up to +7.5, passing through multiple key numbers.
Gable’s Guess: The main storyline everyone will be talking about this week is Patrick Mahomes’s high ankle sprain. Mahomes has never beaten Burrow in a game as he’s 0-3 against the Bengals since Burrow has come into the league. Each of those meetings has been decided by exactly three points. If Mahomes was healthy, you would see the Chiefs favored by about 4.5 points. The question is how compromised will Mahomes be? We won’t really have an answer until the game kicks off. Much of Mahomes’s game is predicated on his athletic ability and how he moves both in and out of the pocket. So, this is essentially a pick-a-winner-type game. The Bengals will need to prepare for Mahomes and also Chad Henne. He’s been in the league for a long time and is more than capable of stepping in. The Bengals’ offensive line was able to prevent the Bills from getting any real pressure on Burrow, but will they be as successful against the KC defensive front? They ranked in the top five in pressure percentage during the regular season, and they ranked second in the league with 55 sacks. Without a solid read on Mahomes and knowing how the injury is going to affect him, I’m going to look at the total and take the under.
Rathmanner’s Reckoning: This one will come down to the health of Patrick Mahomes and his ankle. If this were a regular-season game, Mahomes probably wouldn’t even play. Look for the Chiefs to develop a game plan that won’t ask him to do too much. The Bengals looked great against the Bills and were able to sustain long drives to keep the Buffalo offense on the sidelines. Look for them to try to do more of the same against Kansas City. Given the uncertainty around Mahomes’s ability to be effective, the under seems intriguing. The weather is going to be cold with temperatures in the teens and the wind chill making it feel even colder. Both teams have trended under this season. The Bengals are 6-3-1 to the under in their last 10 road games. The Chiefs are 8-2 to the under in their last 10 home games. Look for that to continue Sunday night and play under 47 or better.
Our Bet: Not sure what will happen with Mahomes and his ankle, but siding with the Chiefs and the over.
Divisional Rounds Weekend: 3-1; This Season: 42-49-2
Editor’s note: Betting lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, the weather and other factors. Make sure to double-check the odds before making your bets for the Conference Championship round in the NFL.
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