Beating the Spread: Conference Championship Picks and Props
The Divisional Round of the playoffs were forgettable for Bill O’Brien, the Seattle Seahawks, and our betting crew. We really took it on the chin last week, posting a combined 3-9 record. Oof. The missed two-point conversion by the Seahawks saved Erik Smith from the 0-4 record but Tom took the golden sombrero. I had a chance at a winning week but that failed 2-pointer from Russell Wilson hurt me as Erik and I were on opposite sides.
Halfway through the special playoff contest, I hold a big lead of three games over both of my colleagues. A stellar week of picks could lock it up before the Super Bowl, which would be pretty sweet.
To keep things even each week of the playoffs, we’re still picking four lines each, but we’re adding a few prop bets into the mix. This is the first time we’ve had prop bets enter the conversation. Prop bets can be from everything to coin flips to whether or not the Chiefs will run out of fireworks again (seriously, a yes vote is +800). The prop bets are listed in their own table. Each of us will pick either the side or the over-under for each game and pick out two prop bets.
The following lines were captured on Thursday. Betting lines can vary by site and move throughout the week so check yours to make sure that you have similar information.
|Away Team||Home Team||Line||O/U|
|Tennessee Titans||Kansas City Chiefs||KC -7.5||52|
|Green Bay Packers||San Francisco 49ers||SF -7.5||45|
|Prop||O/U or Line|
|Defensive or Special Teams TDs scored (combined both games)||0.5|
|Number of Field Goals scored (combined both games)||7.5|
|Number of TDs scored (combined both games)||11|
|Total points scored (combined both games)||100|
|What Conference scores more points?||AFC -7 / NFC +7|
|Home or Away teams score more points?||Home -16.5 / Away +16.5|
|Analyst||Jeff Berckes||Erik Smith||Tom Schweitzer|
|Pick #1||KC/TEN Over 52||TEN +7.5||KC/TEN Over 52|
|Pick #2||SF -7.5||GB +7.5||GB +7.5|
|Pick #3||AFC -7||D/ST TD over 0.5||FGs under 7.5|
|Pick #4||Home -16.5||FGs under 7.5||Total Points over 100|
|Regular Season Record||55-29-1||51-33-1||45-40|
Jeff Berckes: I’ve enjoyed this run by the Tennessee Titans, to the point that I’m not sure I can pick against them. I think the Chiefs will probably win this game but there’s enough of a scenario for me to believe that the Titans can keep it close. So, I’m going to avoid the line altogether and guess a high scoring game takes place down in KC. Patrick Mahomes put up over 50 points last week and they combined for 67 in early November (KC/TEN Over 52). The San Francisco 49ers destroyed the Packers 37-8 in November. I’m not sure these teams are all that different and while I expect the Packers to keep it closer than a 29 point margin, I don’t think they can stay within one score. The 49ers have looked like the best team in the NFC for most of the year. It’s time for them to seal up the conference with an exclamation point (SF -7.5). Props! I love props. I think they’re really fun. I’m starting off by choosing between the conferences in which game will score more points. I can envision shootouts in both games, but it seems more likely that the Chiefs are running up a bigger score. The 49ers defense looks hungry and it wouldn’t surprise me if they are able to keep the Packers to a reasonable point total (AFC -7 ). I’m also going to take the home teams to win by a combined margin or more than 16.5. It’s a big amount and I’m betting that both the home teams win to contribute to this total, but I’m so in on the home teams this week. I think the Chiefs and the 49ers are the best teams in their conferences and home-field advantage in the championship game can create the best atmosphere in all of sports. Picking this means that the games might not be instant classics, but should set up an awesome Super Bowl (Home Teams -16.5).
Erik Smith: After grinding out a 60% win-rate during the regular season, I find myself with a playoff win percentage of… on second thought, let’s not do the math. Onto championship weekend, and time to turn things around. While I think the Chiefs will win, I think it would be foolish to write the Titans off as lucky. We’re all excited about Kansas City’s offensive outbreak last week, and rightly so. But Tennessee just beat a more complete team than the Chiefs in Baltimore last week and are playing with an enormous amount of confidence. Maybe the Titans win, maybe they lose a close one, maybe they get a garbage-time backdoor cover. But I’m taking the points here and picking TEN +7.5. I have similar thoughts about the NFC Championship, and while I concede that the 49ers are the better team, Green Bay shouldn’t be viewed as a pushover. You could argue that they have the better quarterback, better running back, and better number-one wide receiver. While there is much more to this matchup than the skill position players, any one of Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, or Davante Adams could take this game over for stretches at a time. I think the Packers have a chance to win this one, and while ultimately the 49ers will likely prevail at home, I’ll take the points again with GB +7.5. On to the props. I like the chances of one defensive or special teams touchdown between the two games. Kansas City features dynamic athletes in Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman in the return game, while Tennessee has that playoff magic that I could easily see lead to a defensive touchdown. In the other game, both teams feature ferocious pass rushes that could certainly lead to a pick-six under pressure. D/ST TD over 0.5 is my pick. Finally, I’ll look towards the field goal prop. The Titans may never kick another field goal again, and Kansas City scores from too far away to ever be in field goal range too often. There could be a few field goals in the NFC game, but we should have a big buffer after the AFC game. I’ll take under 7.5 combined field goals.
Tom Schweitzer: The 49ers dominated the Packers in their matchup earlier in the season, a game where the Packers fumbled in their own territory on the opening possession and then went 1 of 14 on third-down conversions for the rest of the game. It was probably Green Bay’s worst performance of the year. I’d be surprised to see a repeat of that. The 49ers have been dominant at times this year, including last week, but we’ve also seen them get tested by teams that aren’t as good as this Packers squad. I expect Matt LaFleur to put together a few new looks for this game to help manufacture points and the prospect of getting Aaron Rodgers as this big of an underdog is too good to pass up. I think the 49ers win but Green Bay covers +7.5. I have no idea what to make of Tennessee after last week’s dominant performance in Baltimore. I thought the Ravens panicked and abandoned their gameplan too early, but Tennessee was the superior team on that day. I think their luck probably runs out this weekend. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a team win two straight road playoff games where they only attempted 15 passes, so the idea of a third seems insane. I think we’ll either see a Chiefs blowout or a game where the Titans have to air it out to keep pace with Mahomes. Either way, I think the total goes Over 52. Perhaps the strangest thing about the Titans is they’ve only made 8 field goals all year and haven’t even attempted one since mid-December. I think Mike Vrabel understands that he needs to score TD’s to win this game and will avoid kicking as much as he can. That, combined with the more aggressively inclined coaches in the NFC, should keep the total Field Goals under 7.5. Finally, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these games goes under the total, but I think all 4 teams will be able to move the ball with some degree of success. The Chiefs and 49ers are both threats to put up 35+ points if things go their way. All in all, I think the total points for the weekend go Over 100.
What are your favorite picks of the week? Put in your comments below to play along. We’ll be updating our records all playoffs!
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)