NFL Conference Championship Picks: Bengals vs Chiefs & 49ers vs Rams
Bill Speros | 7 mins
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No Tom Brady. No Aaron Rodgers. No problem for the AFC & NFC Championship Games on Sunday. The Bengals visit the Chiefs in the AFC title tilt, while the Rams and 49ers meet for the third time this season in the NFC.
For the first time in a dozen years, NFL championship Sunday will not include No. 12 Rodgers or No. 12 Brady. But NFL betting fans will persist. And they should. Both games offer compelling matchups. In the AFC, the Bengals and Chiefs present two 99-octane offensive teams. In the NFC, the Rams and 49ers are poised for another battle of attrition in their third meeting of the season.
The 49ers reached the NFC championship by upsetting Rodgers and the Packers in the snow of Green Bay. Sunday, they’ll return to SoFi Stadium to meet the host Rams. The 49ers have won their past six against the Rams. San Francisco rallied to beat Los Angeles in their most-recent matchup in Week 18 by a 27-24 score in OT.
The Rams blew a 17-0 lead in that game. A flood of fans from the Bay Area turned SoFi into Candlestick South. The Rams, including coach Sean McVay, have been pleading with the locals not to sell tickets to 49ers fans. The Rams even tried to ban sales to out-of-towners online by restricting certain billing zip codes on credit card sales. But that plan was scrapped.
The Rams held a 27-3 edge at Tampa Bay in the Divisional Playoff game before Brady and the Buccaneers defense roared back to tie it in the final minute. Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp repaired the damage in time to set up a game-winning field goal as the clock expired.
The Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs drew more than 47 million viewers in a game that featured 25 points scored in the final two minutes of regulation. The Chiefs’ 36-42 shootout victory triggered a nationwide call for the NFL to change its overtime rule. But the current rule will still be in effect when the Cincinnati Bengals visit Kansas City on Sunday. These two teams also met late in the season, with the home-team Bengals clawing their way to a 34-31 victory in Week 17.
NFC & AFC Conference Championship Odds & Picks
It will be impossible to match the level of intensity from the Divisional Round. All four games were decided on the game’s final play, with three being decided by the road team winning on last-second field goals. That continued a season-long trend across the NFL that saw the most games decided on the final play or OT in any one season since the 1970 merger.
This weekend, the largest NFL line has the Chiefs favored by a touchdown. Kansas City is -7 at FanDuel and most other sports betting sites.
These rematches make for a steep challenge when making NFL picks. Despite that, we’re on to our NFL Championship weekend selections.
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Sunday, Jan. 30
Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs, 3 p.m. (CBS)
Check out: Bengals vs Chiefs odds, injury report, betting lines and more.
The Bengals were home underdogs when they beat the Chiefs in Week 17. That line swung between 4.5 points and 3.5 points, where it closed. The total in that game closed at 51. More than 70% of the public backed the over at BetMGM in that game and scored an easy win. This week, the line has settled a half-point from 7.5 to 7 in the Chiefs’ favor. The total is a lofty 54.5 points.
The Bengals have gone under in both of their playoff wins, while the Chiefs have ridden to easy covers on the over. Joe Burrow has taken on a “Joe Namath” vibe, so says Namath himself. When Broadway Joe took the Jets to their only Super Bowl, he didn’t throw a touchdown pass but still won. That scenario won’t happen Sunday for Broadway Little Joe. Both teams devour yards, especially through the air.
Patrick Mahomes II and Burrow are nearly unflappable and stand to dominate the AFC, along with Josh Allen and perhaps the magic of Bill Belichick, for years to come. This week's challenge is whether either defense can stop the other QB in the fourth quarter. Both defenses were beyond gassed last week.
Hopefully, for Bengals bettors, coach Zac Taylor won’t be caught up in the spotlight and pressure of an AFC title game and make a critical play-calling gaffe like Sean McDermott did by kicking into the end zone late against the Chiefs. The Bengals are inexperienced, which is good because they’re too young to be fearful on such a big stage. Mahomes is playing for his third straight Super Bowl appearance in his fourth-straight AFC title game. This one could be another instant classic.
AFC Title Game Best Spread, ML & Total Bets
- SPREAD: Bengals +7 (-105) at DraftKings ➜
- MONEYLINE: Chiefs ML (-325) at PointsBet
- TOTAL: Under 54.5 Points (-110) at SugarHouse
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San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams, 6:30 p.m. (FOX)
Check out: 49ers at Rams odds, injury report, betting lines and more.
The 49ers were underdogs in winning both matchups this season. The coaching acumen of Kyle Shanahan has manifested itself over McVay, given the Rams’ overwhelming strength in talent across the board. The Rams loaded up for a title run this season. And it has paid off thus far. They needed both Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr. – two major in-season acquisitions – just to get out of Tampa with that 30-27 victory Sunday. Both veterans played critical roles in the Rams’ (+2) upset.
Home field will be a wash here given the real concerns about 49ers fans packing the place. That means a lot of noise when both teams have the ball. Shanahan’s game plan will limit just how much the 49ers rely on the ailing Jimmy Garoppolo. The Rams offense demonstrated its quick-scoring lethality at Tampa. The 49ers have seen this before. But the Rams have too many playmakers on offense to fall a seventh-straight time to the 49ers.
If the Rams get a 27-3 lead in this game, don’t expect Jimmy G. to pull a Brady. But Garoppolo has demonstrated an ability to deliver in the clutch – at least until the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl. Stafford needs to continue the same Eli Manning/Nick Foles vibe he exhibited in beating Brady and he can't make too many critical mistakes. If he does that, the Rams will be sticking around for the Super Bowl at SoFi in two weeks.
NFC Title Game Best Spread, ML & Total Bets
- SPREAD: Rams -3.5 (+100) at bet365
- MONEYLINE: Rams ML (-170) at DraftKings ➜
- TOTAL: Over 46.5 Points (-110) at SugarHouse
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Regular Season & Playoff Record
Divisional Round: 2-2
Wild Card Round: 4-2
Regular Season: 138-102-1 (57.2%)