After a truly sensational slate of games last week, the NFL Conference Championship games have a lot to live up to. All four games were very close, and some absurd finishes still have people talking about how it all played out.
When the dust settled, three road teams advanced to the conference championships. Only the Kansas City Chiefs held on and won on their home field. They get another chance this week to defend Arrowhead Stadium, hosting the Cincinnati Bengals. In the other matchup, the San Francisco 49ers travel down to Los Angeles to play the Rams.
What two teams will play in the Super Bowl? These are the picks against the spread for the NFL Conference Championship games. The over/under pick will also be examined for betting purposes.
Table of Contents
Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs -7
Sign up for a FREE Consultation to start working with Legendary Sports Bettor Jon Price
Both teams left it all on the field last week, so it will be interesting to see how they bounce back in this one. Many thought there was no way the Cincinnati Bengals would overcome giving up nine sacks against the Tennessee Titans, but Joe Burrow came through when it mattered most and picked up a gutsy victory. For Kansas City, they had to go to overtime to beat the Buffalo Bills.
Kansas City is the most popular pick for the Super Bowl right now. That’s not to say they have an easy path, but they are the most experienced team of the bunch. Cincinnati has already exceeded expectations, but the young playmakers on the roster feel like they aren’t satisfied.
In Week 17, the Bengals found a way to beat up on the Kansas City Chiefs. They took chances on offense so Patrick Mahomes didn’t have a chance to make a difference and come back as he did against the Buffalo Bills (and plenty of other teams). While Burrow has been good all season long, he particularly tore up Kansas City that week. He completed 30 of his 39 passes for 446 yards and four touchdowns.
His main target that week was Ja’Marr Chase. He was responsible for 266 of those yards, and three touchdowns. To say that Burrow and Chase must match that level production in this game might be a bit much, but they do need to be sharp. Cincinnati’s defense isn’t bad, but they’ll be going up against a Kansas City offense that is dominant. The Bengals won’t win this game if it’s low-scoring.
Cincinnati’s offense might be the best answer to Kansas City‘s offense. In the first matchup, Kansas City only had the ball three times in the second half. Long drives for Cincinnati kept the ball out of Mahomes’ hands, and that kept the Bengals in a position to win.
How can Kansas City counter Cincinnati this time around? For starters, exploiting Cincinnati’s poor offensive line could be a huge key. They were able to get to Burrow four times for sacks, and Tennessee just showed that an aggressive team can do that more. Kansas City’s pass rush isn’t the best, but they still need to take chances where Cincinnati is at its weakest.
If they can’t get to Burrow, Kansas City’s secondary is going to be in for another rough day. Just last week, they were torn up by Josh Allen, and that was with a healthy Tyrann Mathieu. Now that he’s in concussion protocols, they could be even weaker.
What Kansas City knows going in is that Mahomes will give them a great opportunity to win this game. He’s only played poorly in one playoff game in his career, and it’s coming off some of the biggest heroics ever seen on this stage. He’ll show up in this one, but it’s a matter of everyone else matching his level to hold serve at home.
That’s the main reason why Kansas City is a safe pick, even considering the spread. Cincinnati has earned their spot this far in the postseason, but they’re just not a complete team just yet. If they can fill a few holes in the offseason, they should be a perennial power with Burrow at the helm. In other words, they are somewhat like Kansas City a few years ago. The experienced Chiefs get back to the Super Bowl by winning and covering.
Pick: Kansas City Chiefs -7
The over/under is a bit high, but not high enough considering the way these two teams will be forced to battle it out. The two talented quarterbacks know that their defenses are not strong enough to completely shut down the opposition. That means it’s likely going to turn into a shootout.
Both Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes have been playing superbly in the postseason so far. That’s not going to change in this one, as the weather should be good for solid passing games overall. Don’t expect a lot of running from either team, which is beneficial in that neither team will grind time off the clock. It would not be a huge surprise to see both teams score over 30 points in this one.
Pick: Over 54.5
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Rams -3.5
This all-California matchup pits San Francisco against Los Angeles. San Francisco is looking to get back to the Super Bowl for the third time in a decade, while the Rams are holding onto the chance of playing a home game for the Super Bowl.
The 49ers have a distinct edge over the Rams in recent memory. They’ve won six in a row, which has some people thinking that Kyle Shanahan has a big coaching edge over Sean McVay. While that is possible to some degree, San Francisco’s also had the edge from a personnel perspective in a good amount of those matchups.
San Francisco has a pretty simple game plan when it comes to success. They must be able to put pressure on every opponent, creating outstanding field position and also generating some turnovers. They don’t have to generate pressure by blitzing over and over again, but they still get to the quarterback and get them out of their comfort zone.
The Rams will be leaning on their defense as well, so expect a bit of a low-scoring game in general. Jimmy Garoppolo will make mistakes when he’s facing pressure, so the Rams will be trying to make him rush a little bit without blitzing. Having a disciplined approach limits the big-time play, but might cut down on sacks.
Like a lot of playoff games, this will likely come down to the quarterback play. Matthew Stafford has played terrifically so far in the postseason, and he has yet to throw an interception. He’s been able to find many of his targets, including Cooper Kupp. If he finds rhythm early, he’ll also be hooking up with Odell Beckham Jr., Tyler Higbee, and Van Jefferson.
He’s the more dependable of the two quarterbacks in this matchup. That’s not to say that Jimmy Garoppolo can’t find his rhythm, as he will be leaning on Deebo Samuel to be the x-factor. Whether he’s catching the football or lining up at running back, he can create plays in the open field and have a big game.
With the AFC game looking like a shootout, the NFC could be a low-scoring affair. The defenses are strong enough that they might limit each other from scoring too much. If San Francisco can get a lead, they’ll try to milk the clock with a steady running game. While there’s a chance that the game turns into one with both teams taking more passing chances, that’s not necessarily their style of play.
Who wins this one? The Rams look like they are ready to break that losing streak and get to the Super Bowl. They have the more complete team, and the health of Garoppolo at quarterback has many people worried. If it’s clear early on that he can’t make some of the plays he’s used to making, the Rams could pull away and cruise to a victory.
It should be a physical game both ways, but don’t expect a true blowout. With that said, Los Angeles is only a 3.5 point favorite, so it’s not a huge ask for them to win by more than that.
Pick: Los Angeles Rams -3.5
This seems to have all the makings of a low-scoring game. The over/under indicates that, but it still seems like they will finish with 45 or fewer points.
The reasoning behind this pick comes down to all the different scenarios that might play out. If San Francisco gets a lead early, they’ll try focusing on a running attack. That means very few points for either side.
If Los Angeles pulls ahead early, it’s probably because San Francisco can’t get anything going offensively. The health of Jimmy Garoppolo is still a question mark going into the game, so no one should be too surprised if their offense stalls out.
There’s always a potential for a late cover, but this could be a race to 20 points. Stick with the under.