After a wild-card round that was short on drama, with five blowouts – albeit, three of them with the underdog prevailing – the divisional round lived up to the hype.
Three of the four games came down to the final possession. One of them – the Buffalo Bills’ painful loss at home, revived ghosts of post-seasons past (any Bills fan would be thrilled if the phrase, “wide right,” were stricken from the language) and another – Detroit’s win in front of a raucous home crowd – giving new life to a downtrodden fan base.
And yet midnight already has struck for all the true Cinderellas, with two No. 1 seeds and two No. 3 seeds, including the reigning champs, remaining in the final four. To put that another way, one could credibly argue that the four best teams in the NFL are the final four standing.
After underdogs went 3-3 straight up and 4-2 against the spread in the wild-card round, they went 1-3 straight up and 2-2 ATS this past weekend. The only upset was Kansas City’s win as 2.5-point underdogs at Buffalo, which has seen plenty of hideous post-season losses over the decades.
The sportsbooks certainly didn’t overreact to the San Francisco 49ers’ closer-than-expected 24-21 win over the Green Bay Packers – one dependent on an interception by San Francisco linebacker Dre Greenlaw in the final minute – with the Niners holding onto the top spot (at +140) in outright Super Bowl odds. San Francisco was at +175 going into the weekend.
The Baltimore Ravens, who dominated the Houston Texans in the second half, have been fighting second-tier status for weeks, even after they defeated the 49ers by 14 in Week 16. The Ravens’ Super Bowl odds ticked down from +275 to +200.
The Chiefs are +350 to repeat – this time, on the road for two playoff games – and the Lions, who are the only NFC team to have never played in a Super Bowl, are +700 to snap that 57-year skid.
Lamar Jackson (BAL) to win Super Bowl MVP
Conference Round Opening Odds
With the Cinderella stories, Green Bay and Houston, out, the conference championship games don’t feature any spreads that approach double digits. As mentioned above, the ‘books have kept the faith in the 49ers, whose seven-point spread is significantly longer than the 3.5 points Baltimore is ceding to the Chiefs despite Baltimore looking far more impressive in its first playoff game.
If anything, the ‘books responded to another impressive showing by Detroit’s defence – and some sporadic failures by the 49ers’ defence vs. Jordan Love and the Packers – by setting the total points on that game at a high 51 points. The sportsbooks are expecting a slower pace in Baltimore, which could have rain on Sunday, with that total set at 44.5.
Super Bowl MVP Odds
Lamar Jackson may have wiped out the narrative that he can’t win the big game, completing 16 of his 22 pass attempts for 152 yards and two touchdowns while also running for an additional 100 yards and two scores against Houston. That performance drew a passer rating of 121.6 and helped shorten his Super Bowl MVP odds even further.
Jackson remains the clear favourite to win the Pete Rozelle Trophy at +240. Not surprisingly, the other quarterbacks aren’t terribly far behind. San Francisco’s Brock Purdy is the second choice at +320, Chiefs’ signal caller Patrick Mahomes is next at +350 and the Lions’ Jared Goff is fifth at +900. Niners running back Christian McCaffrey broke up the QB streak, coming in as the No. 4 choice at +400 after leading the league in rushing and following that up with 90 yards rushing and another 30 receiving last weekend.
Quarterbacks have won the Super Bowl MVP 32 times in 57 games, or 56.1% of the time, while wide receivers have won eight (14%), running backs have won seven (12.2%) and linebackers have won four (7%). Since 2010, quarterbacks have won the award in 10 out of 14 Super Bowls. The only exceptions were receivers Julian Edelman (LIII) and Cooper Kupp (LVI) and linebackers Malcolm Smith (XLVIII) and Von Miller (L).
The shortest odds on a defensive player in this one are on 49ers edge rusher Nick Bosa at +8000. One live longshot could be Lions running back Jahmyr Gibbs at +10000, who had 114 combined yards against Tampa Bay over the weekend.
San Francisco 49ers to Win the Super Bowl