Welcome NFL fans to the Conference Championships!
Admittedly, despite going 2-for-2 with my picks last week I wasn’t overly surprised by the outcomes we saw. I did unfortunately fall into the trap of not wanting to pick favorites the entire weekend and convinced myself that the Texans could pull off the upset. Whether the blame lies with regency bias or simply wanting to spice my picks up, in the end, Houston came up spectacularly short. For as bright as the Texans and young CJ Stroud’s futures are, I may have under-valued the complete package that is the Baltimore Ravens.
My two picks that did go well, despite not being entirely convincing in the process were the 49ers grabbing victory from the jaws of defeat late in their tilt with the Packers and the Lions dispatching the Bucs in slightly a more convincing albeit still tense affair.
And lastly, I cannot sum up the past week’s events without commiserating with Bills fans on yet another failure to get past the Patrick Mahomes blockade. When I was a younger lad, I was a big fan of Peyton Manning and the Colts, and their blockade, their un-killable white whale as it were was the Tom Brady Patriots. As good a team as Manning and Colts had it didn’t seem to matter when the inevitable matchup with New England appeared on the playoff calendar. Whether home or away the repeated losses messed with fans and put in serious doubt that that hill could ever be climbed. But alas, it was in 2006 when the Colts finally vanquished their demon in an all-time thriller, 38-34 victory over the Pats. So, I’m going to avoid the easy Bills jokes and say simply, don’t give up the faith Bills fans, keep on being the weird and wild bunch you are and one day, you’ll climb that mountain.
With only two games on the docket this week, I won’t spill any virtual ink previewing anything here and save that for our picks, so without further ado let’s dive right into the Conference Championships!
|Kansas City Chiefs
|Sunday / 3:00 PM
|San Francisco 49ers
|Sunday / 6:30 PM
* = Home Team Underdog
Conference Round Picks
- Baltimore Ravens – Moneyline: -200
The Chiefs will have to quickly finish off their leftover wings and save room from crab cakes this weekend as the newly minted Patrick Mahomes roadshow heads to Baltimore. Those who cast aspersions towards Mahomes’ debutante status as it pertains to playing a playoff game on the road were forced to eat crow over the weekend (myself included). But I have a strong belief that the Ravens will fare a lot better than the Crows in the Conference Championship, and here are a few reasons why. Chief among those reasons (no pun intended) is the fact that the Ravens had the luxury of playing on Saturday in the divisional round. Teams that have played on the Saturday of the divisional round have gone 19-9 in conference title games. One day’s extra rest can be paramount and considering how they swept over the Texans, one week removed from a bye, it goes without saying that Baltimore is one rested team.
Another reason doesn’t even reside on the playing field. In fact, should they set foot on the playing field, they’ll be unceremoniously ejected. I’m referring, of course, to the Baltimore crowd. Mahomes himself recently admitted that M&T Bank Stadium is one of only two stadiums (the other being Seattle) where he’s had to resort to a silent count because the crowd noise was too loud. Mahomes and the Chiefs have never had to deal with such an environment in an elimination game, and with the potential margin of error in a game against such a complete and rested team like Baltimore being so thin, those factors matter. I think what the Chiefs do, and have done in the playoffs is undeniable and credit goes out to Mahomes, Andy Reid and the whole dang squad. But at some point, their lack of weapons has to catch up to them, right?
Kansas City has papered over their less-than-stellar arsenal (when compared to years past) with killer defensive performances but the jewel of that defence is its pass protection. Lamar Jackson will not only run all over that stadium but also create time and space to make plays. Baltimore is simply too rested, too ready and has the superior ground game to dissect the Chiefs. While I’m far from predicting a blowout here, I think in a game on inches, the factors I’ve mentioned here give the Ravens the edge and the tools to make their first Super Bowl appearance since 2012.
Bet on Ravens vs. Chiefs
- Detroit Lions – Moneyline: +270
I’m putting my cards on the table here. Over the last two seasons, I’m become a bit (ok maybe more than a bit) of a Lions fan. I’ve said numerous times in these articles that I love seeing an oft-maligned sports franchise come good and give their long-suffering fans something to believe in. Don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those long-suffering Detroit fans and as such I do not have a claim to the euphoria that is currently being felt in Mo-Town. But I will permit myself to bask in it’s glow for a little while. All that being said, for that euphoria to continue, the Lions must complete the monumental task of defeating the team I called the most complete team in the league only three weeks ago – the San Francisco 49ers. I do believe they can and will do that, but let’s dissect the reasons for my belief in a little more depth.
It can be argued that Detroit’s path to the Conference Championships has been a little easy. Now I am not saying that it has been, after all neither game was a walkover, but neither the Rams nor Buccaneers invoke the word “powerhouse” in the minds of NFL fans in 2024. That being said, the Rams, Bucs and 49ers do share a similar trait in that they all boast elite passing attacks, something that the Detroit defence has struggled to contain all year long. 49ers’ star wideout Deebo Samuel’s nebulous injury status aside, the 49ers will still rely on the pass to get by the Lions, and why shouldn’t they, Detroit surrendered the 6th worst average passing yard to opponents during the regular season and gave up whopping numbers to both Matt Stafford (367) and Baker Mayfield (349) in subsequent playoff weeks. I don’t blame you if it feels like I’m shading the Lions here and building my case for the Niners, but the important thing to remember here is that despite owning that 6th worst mark in the regular season, and despite their playoff opponents having huge passing days thus far, the Detroit Lions are still in the NFC Championship game.
That is due in large part (maybe in all part) to the Jared Goff-led, Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery-powered, Lion offence. They’ve been able to outpace elite attacks with their own and there’s little reason to believe that can’t be the case this Sunday. Gibbs in particular could be the lynchpin in this game. Establishing the run will be an all-important factor in buying Jared Goff the time he needs to operate and Gibbs can go one step further as a premiere pass catcher out of the backfield. A particular 49ers weakness to key in on for the Lions will be passes to their running backs, as San Francisco has surrendered 90 total catches for 625 yards to running backs which was an eighth-worst stat league-wide. Goff and Detroit’s two-headed RB monster have gotten them this far and there’s good reason they can lead them one step further.
Bet on 49ers vs. Lions
Betting Trends of the Week
Here are a few trends to keep in mind when placing your bets this week:
- The Baltimore Ravens have hit the Moneyline in 11 of their last 13 games 🔥
- The Kansas City Chiefs are 4-6 (40%) in spread bets in their last 10 games against BAL for -2.36 total units lost🧊
- The Detroit Lionshave hit the Game Total Over in 11 of their last 15 games 🔥
- TheSan Francisco 49ershave not hit the Team Total Over in any of their last 6 games at home 🧊
Player Props to Play
Here are a few player props I love this week:
- Player Receptions Milestones – 5 – Jahmyr Gibbs: +265
Gibbs has 4 catches in each of the Lions’ playoff victories thus far and will be counted on to exploit a weakness in the 49ers defence this Sunday. It’s a good bet that Gibbs will feature prominently running and catching the ball, and since the Lions will have to kick it up a notch to make it to the Super Bowl, why not back Jahmyr to do the same.
Jackson had two rushing scores in the Ravens win over the Texans last week and both of them came in the second half as the game was well in hand. This week will be a different test for Baltimore and since their home crowd will be an important factor I expect their MVP to put his stamp on the game early, score a scamper TD sometime in the first half and crank up that crowd noise.
- Anytime Scorecast – Isaiah Likely Anytime TD Scorer, BAL Ravens 1-6 Winning Margin: +1000
Sticking with Baltimore here, I think they pull out the win at home over the Chiefs in a tight one. Backing Isaiah Likely to corral a TD as he did last week. He’s a deep threat for the Ravens and delivers in fits and starts, but hey, it’s right there in his name, he’s Likely to score.
⭐ Gold Star Pick ⭐CONFERENCE ROUND EDITION
I’ve had fun backing the Lions all year and maybe I’m guilty of betting with my emotions a little too hard when it comes to them. But hey, betting has to be as much a gut thing as it is an analytical one so I say why not? This week let’s build ourselves a same-game parlay to see the Lions into their first NFL Championship since 1957 (I can’t even call it the Super Bowl cause it didn’t exist yet).
Same Game Parlay – Moneyline DET Lions, Amon-Ra St. Brown to Score a TD, Jared Goff OVER 260.5 Pass Yards
2024 NFL Season FAQ
Week 18: None
Week 5: Browns, Chargers, Seahawks, Buccaneers
Week 6: Packers, Steelers
Week 7: Panthers, Bengals, Cowboys, Texans, Jets, Titans
Week 8: None
Week 9: Broncos, Lions, Jaguars, 49ers
Week 10: Chiefs, Rams, Dolphins, Eagles
Week 11: Falcons, Colts, Patriots, Saints
Week 12: None
Week 13: Ravens, Bills, Bears, Raiders, Vikings, Giants
Week 14: Cardinals, Commanders
San Francisco 49ers
Kansas City Chiefs
Los Angeles Rams
New Orleans Saints
Green Bay Packers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Las Vegas Raiders
Los Angeles Chargers
New York Jets
New England Patriots
New York Giants
(Per ESPN Power Index)
Sunday, January 28, 2024
Kansas City @ Baltimore 15:00
Detroit @ San Francisco 18:30
If you’re new to ATS betting in football, check out our convenient primer on Point Spread Betting and take a look at our new and improved Parlay Betting Guide should the mood strike to combine some of these picks!
Typically oddsmakers will set the next week’s Game Lines after the Sunday slate of games. NFL Odds will evolve as bets are made throughout the week and NFL Picks made too early may lack vital information. The NFL Point Spreads are set with a somewhat unclear picture and NFL predictions become more informed as the games get closer.