The NFL betting markets for the AFC and NFC Championship games have been trading since Sunday night, and since then, the game totals have experienced considerable movement. The AFC title game opened on 53½ points but jumped to 54½ points, while the NFL title game saw the total trimmed from an opening 47 points to 46 points at BetUS sportsbook.
In this column, we look at the game totals for both conference finals and serve up NFL predictions for each. So, without too much preamble, let’s get cracking.
Conference Championship Over/Under Picks
Cincinnati Bengals vs Kansas City Chiefs
Opening Line: 53½
Current Line: 54½
The Cincinnati Bengals and the Kansas City Chiefs reach the AFC title game on the back of vastly contrasting accounts in the division round. The Bengals edged the Tennessee Titans in a slugfest and got a lot of help from a patchy performance by Ryan Tannehill and the Titans offense. The Chiefs overcame the Buffalo Bills in a high-octane shootout that went the distance.
Markets went to press with a relatively high total for the AFC title game between the Bengals and Chiefs, opening the betting on 53½ points. That number didn’t last long and quickly shot up to 54½ points. This move appears to be a knee jerk reaction to the offensive explosion that occurred in the Chiefs vs Bills game as bettors piled onto the OVER in betting online markets.
Cincinnati’s 34-31 win over Kansa City in Week 17 is also likely having an impact on betting perceptions for this reprisal game. Then, the Bengals matched the Chiefs and outduelled them in the end as Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase stole the limelight. Chase set the rookie record for receiving yards with 266 and three touchdowns.
Josh Allen went 27/37 with 4 TD, 329 passing, & 68 rushing in a career defining playoff game w/ 5 lead changes… and it all came down to this:
— Barstool Sportsbook (@BSSportsbook) January 24, 2022
Beating the Chiefs at their own game doesn’t always go to plan. Just ask Josh Allen, who tried to outshoot and outscore the Chiefs last Sunday. Granted the coin toss didn’t go Buffalo’s way for the overtime. That proved to be deciding, and Allen and the Bills never saw the field again. But it’s these sort of intangibles that make any strategy unpredictable and risky against the Chiefs.
A solid offensive output by Burrow will be key if Cincinnati is to win this game. However, if there’s a lesson to be learned from the division round, it’s that time of possession and leaving Mahomes with no time on the clock at the end of the game will be the biggest keys to any unlikely Cincinnati victory.
Mahomes took 13 seconds, which wouldn’t be enough for most mere mortals, to make several clutch passes and set up a game-tying field goal that sent the Bills vs Chiefs contest into overtime. When the game was done, Mahomes finished with 33-of-44 passing for 378 yards and three touchdowns, improving his tally to eight touchdowns in the postseason.
There are several ways the Bengals could thwart the Chiefs offense, including running the ball through Joe Mixon. The defense will need to step up and put Mahomes under constant pressure, too. If the Bengals can do those things well, this game may well fall below the game total when all is said and done. If it doesn’t work, it’ll be a different game entirely.
The Chiefs seem to be peaking at the perfect time. If they get off to a fast start, the Bengals will have no choice but to keep up or face the ignominy of being blown off the field. Fortunately, the Bengals do have the offensive weapons to do just that.
Pick: OVER 54½
San Francisco 49ers vs Los Angeles Rams
The San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams are set for act three of their NFC West rivalry this season. The Niners swept the regular season series, winning both games in fine style including the regular-season finale at SoFi Stadium. But the NFL odds are firmly behind the Rams ahead of the NFC Championship game.
The Niners beat the Rams 31-10 at Levi’s Stadium in November, and then they rallied from a 17-0 deficit to clinch the 27-24 win in overtime in Week 18. Both games featured offensive struggles for Los Angeles, albeit with differing looks. They also underscored just how dialled in the Niners are into this rivalry.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford struggled terribly in the first meeting, his ill-advised throws and untimely turnovers practically sunk the Rams right out of the gates. As a result, the final score went under a closing 50-point total, with the Niners providing most of the points.
The second meeting delivered the over on a closing 46½ point total. Contrary to the first meeting, Stafford and the Rams got off to a hot start. They built up a 17-0 lead early and seemed to be in full control.
Then the second half happened. Stafford reverted to his error-prone ways as the Niners raised the pressure on the quarterback and rallied to tie the game. The game’s last pass summed it all up perfectly as Stafford threw an interception and handed the victory to San Francisco.
There’s no telling which way this game will go in terms of the scoreboard because it’s impossible to predict which Stafford will show up on the day short of a crystal ball. That said, knowing his propensity for turnovers and throwing interceptions – he led the NFL this season in that category – there’s good reason to believe this game will crack the over.
Pick: Over 46