There are just three more games remaining in the NFL season, and this Sunday brings us the AFC and NFC Championship Games. With a spot in the Super Bowl on the line, we could see two highly competitive games: the Baltimore Ravens host the Kansas City Chiefs, and the San Francisco 49ers host the Detroit Lions.
As we look ahead to Conference Championship Weekend, here are our NFL betting predictions and picks for both games.
NFL Conference Championship Predictions
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Kansas City Chiefs vs. Baltimore Ravens Predictions
Chiefs +170, Ravens -200
Rolfe: The Ravens took some time to get going on offense but were ultimately pretty impressive in their 34-10 victory over the Houston Texans. Meanwhile, the Chiefs did just enough to go into Highmark Stadium and beat the Bills in a tight game. However, heading on the road again in the AFC Championship Game is a different beast.
Per TruMedia, dating back to 2000, teams going on the road in the Conference Championship after playing on the road in the Divisional Round are 3-7 straight up and 5-5 against the spread. With the spread being Ravens -3.5, that provides an ample window for the Ravens to win but the Chiefs to cover.
If you want to give yourself more cushion, then take the Chiefs +9.5 in a teaser. For the second half of that teaser, you could either take the total down to 38.5 and take the over or pair it with one of the lines below teased by six points.
Pick: Chiefs +9.5 as part of a six-point teaser (Pick alone -250)
Soppe: When installed as an underdog, Mahomes is averaging 5.3 red-zone pass attempts per game, a number that puts him in a position to threaten the over (career: one TD every 3.5 red-zone pass attempts for his career).
Worried about the quality of this Ravens’ defense? They were a top-12 unit this regular season in scoring, passing, yards per attempt, and pass TD rate, so the concern is warranted.
In five of his 11 career games as an underdog, Mahomes has played a defense checking those boxes five times, and in those games, he’s racked up 14 touchdown passes (over 1.5 in four of five).
Pick: Patrick Mahomes over 1.5 touchdown passes (-130 at DraftKings)
Soppe: Let’s keep pulling the thread of underdog Mahomes against strong defenses. In those five games, he has been intercepted just once on 159 attempts.
In addition, his postseason aDOT is more than 8% lower than his regular-season number, a trend that naturally lowers his interception expectation.
- Career INT rate on balls thrown 15+ yards: 3.6%
- Career INT rate on balls thrown less than 15 yards: 1.2%
Pick: Patrick Mahomes under 0.5 interceptions (-110 at DraftKings)
Detroit Lions vs. San Francisco 49ers Predictions
Lions +260, 49ers -320
Rolfe: The 49ers were far from convincing last week in their 24-21 victory over the Green Bay Packers. The 49ers failed to cover and arguably should have lost to the Packers last week. However, it is not uncommon for teams coming off a bye to struggle to impress. Per TruMedia, teams coming off their bye are 60-26 since 2000 but just 40-44-2 against the spread in that same time span.
That is basically what we saw last weekend when the 49ers and Ravens both won, but only the Ravens managed to cover out of the two. When you then step it forward a week, teams who had a bye in Wild Card Weekend are 28-14 straight up when playing at home in Conference Championship Weekend (22-20 ATS).
Additionally, teams coming off a bye who did not cover the week before are 8-4 straight up at home in Conference Championships but just 7-5 ATS.
What this means in terms of picking the game between the 49ers and Lions is not to read too much into the 49ers’ struggles to comprehensively beat the Packers.
That struggle is not unexpected. The numbers above demonstrate that the team that fails to cover at home in the Divisional Round then wins 66.7% of the time the following weekend. Yet, they only cover 58.3% of the time, while the under hit or pushed in 75% of those games.
What all of this data tells me is that the play here is to tease the 49ers down to -1.5 and the total up to 56.5 and take the under. Neither team was entirely convincing last weekend, and I would rather take the team with a better depth of talent who is playing at home to win in that situation.
Pick: 49ers -1.5 and Under 56.5 (-106)
Soppe: The 49ers are a top-12 defense in passer rating and yards per pass, that much we know. They’ve been nothing short of elite on that side of the ball all season long and is something that I’m comfortable counting on in this spot.
Detroit played four games against similarly stingy defenses this season, and while they won three of those contests, their top WR, Amon-Ra St. Brown, was held in check. In those games, he averaged just 6.4 yards per target and never reached 80 receiving yards (all other games: 9.7 yards per target, 80+ receiving yards in 85.7% of games)
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Take this specific matchup a bit further, and your confidence in “The Sun God” will continue to cloud. Since their Week 9 bye, the 49ers are allowing 6.5 yards per target to opposing WR1s (I excluded the Cardinals game due to no WR1 being on their roster and the Week 18 game against primarily reserve Rams) and have held the opponent’s top target under 73 yards in seven of eight games despite that player seeing 24.7% of the targets.
In short, this defense forces opponents to move the ball with secondary options, and if that continues with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, St. Brown’s yardage prop is going to be difficult to reach.
Pick: Amon-Ra St. Brown under 84.5 receiving yards (-115 at DraftKings)
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