NFL Betting Predictions: Championship Weekend Opening Line Report and Picks
The conference championship games have been set, as the NFL season approaches its conclusion. In the divisional round, we went 2-1 from a betting perspective. The Bengals easily covered the +5 spread as they demolished the Bills, cashing our +200 moneyline bet in the process. The 49ers defense flexed their muscles on Dallas, covering the 4-point spread, while our only blemish of the week was taking the Chiefs -8.5, as the Jaguars covered the spread thanks to a meaningless field goal with 30 seconds to play. This brings our overall record to 23-19-1, ensuring we will finish with a positive record regardless of what happens in the conference championships. Before getting into the final edition of the opening lines report, let’s take a look at the storylines from the divisional round.
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- Chiefs hold on, but at what cost? The Chiefs beat the Jaguars rather comfortably, but the injury to Patrick Mahomes is worrying. Despite his ankle sprain, Mahomes re-entered Saturday’s game, winning the game but setting his ankle back further. There is no doubt Mahomes will hobble out for a monster game against the Bengals, but his mobility and effectiveness will be greatly compromised.
- Eagles dominate: The Philadelphia Eagles once again proved themselves as a legitimate threat, demolishing their NFC East rivals, 38-7. Jalen Hurts looked phenomenal, and their defense frustrated Daniel Jones all night long. They amassed 268 rushing yards as they ran out the clock on the Giants’ season.
- Bengals keep improving: The Cincinnati Bengals mauled the Buffalo Bills in front of Bills mafia, ensuring the Bills Super Bowl drought lives on. Joe Burrow and co. have developed chemistry rarely seen in the NFL and will be looking to represent the AFC at the Super Bowl for the second consecutive season.
- Purdy stays poised: The reason the 49ers are in the NFC title game is because of their stellar defense shutting down Dallas. However, if last pick Brock Purdy was unable to step up and deliver accurate throws, the 49ers would not be in this position. Purdy is now 9-0 as a starter and will look to become the first rookie QB to reach the Super Bowl.
Game 1 NFC Championship: San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles
Opening Line: Philadelphia Eagles (-3)
The Philadelphia Eagles are facing their first real test when San Francisco comes to Philly. The number 1 seed in the NFC had been all but secured since Week 14, ensuring the Eagles got a first round bye. No disrespect to the New York Giants, but they were by far the weakest team remaining in the divisional round. The Eagles have managed to stay healthy, but the walk in the park ends here. Jalen Hurts played well against the Giants, but it was the ground game that dominated New York. Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell combined for 202 of the Eagles 268 rushing yards, and the Giants had no answer. A dominant offense, coupled with a stout defense, is a surefire way to book your ticket into the conference round. Howeverm, the Eagles haven’t shown enough to deserve to be 3-point favorites in this contest.
The 49ers haven’t lost a game since October, and Brock Purdy is undefeated as an NFL starter. Purdy continues to stand in the pocket and deliver consistent -- and accurate -- throws to his receivers. He’s gone turnover free in his last 3 games and is proving that he is a legitimate talent in the NFL. He started all 4 years in college and gained valuable in-game experience in those starts, allowing him to remain poised in high stakes situations. On the other side of the ball, the 49ers possess the best defense in the league, led by DPOY front runner Nick Bosa and defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans. The ability to stop the run will force the Eagles to flip the script compared to the Giants game and will really test the strength of Hurts’ arm. If Hurts finds himself stifled early by the 49ers defense, the lack of adversity he faced in recent weeks may cause errant throws. In a pivotal NFC matchup, I’ll happily take the 3 points with the visitors.
Pick: San Francisco 49ers (+3)
Game 2 AFC Championship: Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs
Opening Line: Kansas City Chiefs (-1)
In what is virtually a pick ‘em contest, the Chiefs will welcome the Bengals back to Arrowhead stadium for a rematch of last year's AFC title game. The Bengals prevailed 27-24 in overtime after trailing 21-3 late in the second quarter. Joe Burrow has been able to improve his game even further since last year's Super Bowl run and will be hungry to avenge last season's defeat. The Bengals have won 10 straight games and will feel confident they can push that streak to 11 on Sunday. Their offense is centered around Burrow, who remains calm in the pocket and consistently delivers the football on a silver platter to his receivers. Ja’Marr Chase had his season disrupted with a midseason injury but didn’t miss a beat once he returned. Burrow and Chase have developed chemistry dating back to their LSU days. And once you throw in Tee Higgins and Joe Mixon into the mix, the Bengals have a very well rounded offense. On defense, they are no slouches, either, finishing with the 6th best defense in the regular season.
Across the sideline, the Chiefs playoff hopes are dangling by a thread. The health of Mahomes remains uncertain, as the ankle sprain suffered against the Jaguars would usually take someone out for weeks. Mahomes will try to remain strong, but his effectiveness may be limited. His ability to run out of the pocket is what has made him an elite quarterback. And while he will still be effective if he is forced to be immobile, he will be nowhere near as devastating as he is when healthy. On defense, the Chiefs have a middle of the pack defense that struggles to shut down the passing game. Against Joe Burrow, there will be no room for error in the air, and the Chiefs’ secondary will need to be at the top of their game if they hope to advance to the Super Bowl. For me, I don’t expect them to get it done. Going into Arrowhead and winning a game, let alone a postseason contest, is always a tall task, but the Bengals have proven they can do it, and they will do it once again. The advantage on both sides of the ball forces me to lean in the Bengals direction, and I expect them to make the Super Bowl for their second straight season. I’ll be avoiding the spread and would rather just take the moneyline at -105 odds, and will be sprinkling on the alt spread for the Bengals to win by 7+ at +225 odds.
Pick: Cincinnati Bengals ML -105
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