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NFL CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP BETS

It's hard to believe the NFL season is down to three games. Instead of lingering on that sad fact, let's focus on the games we have left.


KANSAS CITY CHIEFS @ BALTIMORE RAVENS

Sunday, January 28, 3:00 Eastern

Baltimore -3.5 (-105) / 44.5




KC Offense vs BAL Defense

Kansas City's offense was a struggle most of the regular season--especially down the stretch. Travis Kelce looked old and there were no consistent weapons beyond him. Enter the playoffs and now Travis Kelce looks rejuvenated, Rashee Rice continues to come on as a true threat, and Pacheco is running the ball effectively. But I'm not going where you think I am with this.


The Chiefs have faced two absolutely decimated defenses in the postseason. The Dolphins were adding vets off the street just to put someone out there on the defensive line. The Bills pretty much ran out of linebackers--not the good ones, just anyone. KC didn't muster 30 points against either of these shoestring crews.


Now they go to face a Ravens defense that is largely healthy and has been among the best in the league. I think we see a Chiefs offense that looks much more like what we saw in the regular season than what we saw in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Mahomes is great, and I'm sure he'll have some amazing plays, but this could be a struggle.


Chiefs score prediction: 17



BAL Offense vs KC Defense

Baltimore has been decimated at the running back position, but it hasn't phased them offensively. In Todd Monken's first year as OC in Baltimore we've seen this team grow and develop throughout the season. Zay Flowers is a legitimate number-one receiver. Isaiah Likley is filling in admirably for Mark Andrews. And Lamar is the likely MVP of the league. This offense has weapons and they can score...a lot.


The Chiefs defense has been their strength. Sneed and McDuffie are a fantastic cornerback tandem and Chris Jones is still dominant in the middle of the defensive line. This will be a test for the Ravens offense. Lamar needs to take care of the ball.


One thing that stood out last week was Josh Allen's success on the ground. He's a great runner, but so is Lamar. Yes, it's a different style, but I think Lamar's legs could be the difference in this one. If the Chiefs devote too many people to stopping him he'll come through in the pass game.


This will be the best matchup in this game.


Ravens score prediction: 26


Turnovers

These teams came in number 2 (Ravens) and 3 (Chiefs) in my wins over expectation model based on turnovers. They both proved they're good enough to give the ball away and stay in a game.


However, there was a big disparity in turnover differential in the regular season. Baltimore was +12 and Kansas City was -9. If KC loses the turnover battle here it may not take them out of the game, but it wouldn't bode well. I believe Baltimore could overcome a -1 differential.


Other Factors

The coaching is good on both sides of this game, but I give the advantage to Baltimore because of the coordinators. However, this difference isn't big enough to sway me much.


Final Score Prediction: Ravens 26 - Chiefs 17

Bets Made: 1.2 Units Baltimore -3 (-120)


This line is currently -3.5 (-105). I prefer it at -3, but I'd still bet it at the current line for 1.05 units and I'll grade this bet based on that.


While I lean under, there's not enough of an edge for me to bet it.



DETROIT LIONS @ SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Sunday, January 28, 6:30 Eastern

San Francisco -7 (-105) / 51



DET Offense vs SF Defense

There are two factors I'm especially interested in for this matchup. First, which team wins more often on the line of scrimmage? The Lions' offense is very good and the time they gave Jared Goff to throw the ball in the first two games was a big part of his success. They also run the ball a lot, and the offensive line needs to create some holes for Gibbs and Montgomery.


Meanwhile, the 49ers defensive line is dynamic, and besting them will be no easy task. Not to mention Warner and Greenlaw providing support from the linebacking position. Jared Goff is notoriously bad against pressure. If the Lions are unable to run the ball, allowing them to use play action, and unable to protect Goff, it could be a long day.


However, if the offensive line can hold up, the Lions have the offensive firepower to put up points. The 49ers are best rushing the passer, so if the Lions can run the ball to slow them down a bit, this game will get interesting.


Lions score prediction: 27


SF Offense vs DET Defense

This is where things could get dicey for the Lions. The Niners were one of the best offenses in the league through much of the season. Their offense struggled against a middling Packers defense last week, but they still managed 24 points. I think this is a tough matchup for the Lions. The Niners have a diversity of weapons that will tax a mediocre secondary and a linebacking corps that struggles in coverage (despite the game-ending interception by Barnes last week).


The Lions' defense has SOME good players, but they have not proven to be a good defense on the whole. As long as Brock Purdy doesn't turn into a pumpkin, the Niners should return to their 30-point scoring ways.


49ers score prediction: 31


Turnovers

Detroit and SF came in 7th and 10th respectively in my wins over expectation model (based on turnovers). This isn't a large enough discrepancy to mean much. However, SF was better both at protecting the ball (18 TO vs 23) and taking it away (28 TA vs 23). If Goff is pressures an interception is likely, and that could be the end for the Lions.


Other

The coaching edge goes to the 49ers here, but not by as much as you might think. This isn't Kyle Shanahan vs Dan Campbell. Dan Campbell is a culture guy, and he gets the team ready to play. The question is what Ben Johnson and Aaron Glenn are able to put together.


I also think the first quarter of this game is very important. The Niners haven't been humming on offense and it could impact Purdy's confidence if they start with a couple of three and outs. Meanwhile, if the Lions can establish the run early it will bode well for them.


Final Score Prediction: 49ers 31 - Lions 27

Bets Made: 1.1 Units Detroit +7 (-110)


I bet this at -110, but the best available is -112, so I will grade this bet with that line. I would still bet it there.


I have not bet the over yet, but I'm strongly considering it. I may also choose to go with the 49ers team total over as I think the Lions are the team that could fall short if their line doesn't hold up.

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