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An NFL weekend in late January means two things: the Super Bowl is almost here and there’s only two games to handicap. By now, if you’ve been following what I’ve been writing, then you know the general statistics of these final four teams. I’ll still talk about the stats, but I’m also going to look at some different ways to break down the game this week, which is easier with only two games. But before we look at my betting picks for Championship Sunday, let’s take a quick look at how I did last week.
Divisional Round record: 2-2 extremely mediocre, but for what it’s worth, I finished plus units because I bet both SF +6.5 and +205 on the ML. That Buffalo game was absolutely insane, and I know I’m not alone thinking that my BUF +110 ticket should’ve been safe with 13 seconds left. Oh well, that’s sports, right?
Cincinnati @ Kansas City
I haven’t really gotten a feel for the public yet on this game. On a totally unrelated personal note, I started a new job that has sucked up A LOT of my time, so my plugs into Gambling Twitter and human interaction have been limited lately.
It’s mid-day Wednesday* at the time I am writing this, so I’m seeing that only 34% of the bets have come in on CIN but 83% of the money wagered is on them to cover the +7 spread. That means that there is a 49% difference in bets placed vs. money wagered which indicates that big time money has come in on the Bengals. There is also currently 29% of the tickets on the Under 54.5, but 65% of the money sits on that side.
That doesn’t always mean that the big money has come from “sharp” or professional bettors, especially since we are getting down to the end of the season (think about that random Mattress Guy from Houston that always places a massive wager on the Super Bowl every year – big money from a non-professional).
I typically don’t put too much stock in public money, however as you get deeper into the playoffs, I think it can tell a story of where the money is going. Just remember, if Vegas wasn’t good at winning bets, it wouldn’t still be around.
But, if it were simply as easy as fading the public, then you would have people that make millions off of just doing that. To my knowledge, I don’t know anyone that actually exists that fits those criteria. So, let’s take a look at the statistical matchup:
|Third Down %||1st||15th|
|Yards per play||1st||8th|
|Yards per rush||7th||26th|
|Yards per completion||7th||3rd|
|Third Down %||20th||21st|
|Yards per play||28th||23rd|
|Yards per rush||30th||20th|
|Yards per completion||22nd||12th|
This paints a clear picture for how I feel about this game. Arguably the best offense in the NFL going against a good, not great offense and two average to below average defenses. If last week was any indication, the over is never dead when Pat Mahomes is involved. KC and BUF combined to score 25pts in the last two minutes of the game, and then KC ended it in OT with a TD. Now add the fact that 65% of the money is on the Under 54.5 and it makes me like the Over a lot more. If I had to pick a side I would wait to see if the number goes below 7 and take KC at -6.5 or better. I think KC wins this game, and probably by at least a TD, but I like the total bet way more.
This game is going to come down to the Chiefs’ D-Line vs. the Bengals O-Line. If Chris Jones and Melvin Ingram can get after Joe Burrow, then I think KC wins easily. I think it will be a high scoring game, and I don’t think that either defense is good enough to really stop the opposing offense. All it takes is 1 or 2 drives for Cincy to get stalled in order to be the difference.
Pick: Over 54.5
San Francisco @ LA Rams
As it stands, there isn’t a real edge money-wise yet for this game. And there isn’t anything as large as the swing in the AFC Title Game. SF is getting 45% of the bets and 46% of the money so far. There is a slight edge on the total, with 44% of the tickets on the Under 46 but 65% of the money on the same side. But remember, it’s still early in the week.
Let’s look at the stats and then break it down:
|Offense||Los Angeles||San Francisco|
|Third Down %||7th||14th|
|Yards per play||2nd||3rd|
|Yards per rush||28th||17th|
|Yards per completion||2nd||1st|
|Defense||Los Angeles||San Francisco|
|Third Down %||12th||18th|
|Yards per play||6th||3rd|
|Yards per rush||5th||6th|
|Yards per completion||9th||4th|
These two teams are extremely similar across the board. They also match their weaknesses and strengths symmetrically across the ball (LAR struggles in RZ Off, but SF struggles in RZ Def). The only real, ever-so-slight edge is on Third Down Percentage. SF offense is ranked 14th going against the 8th ranked defense. Likewise, the SF third down defense is 16thgoing against the 7th best offense. That’s just not enough for me to feel confident in a side quite yet.
So, let’s look at their matchups during the season. The 49ers are 2-0 against the Rams this season beating them 31-10 at home in November and 27-24 in OT in LA during Week 18. A friend of mine reminded me recently that despite the trope, “it’s difficult to beat a team three times in a season,” those 2-0 teams are something along the lines of 10-6 in the third game. So, you can pretty much ignore that.
This game features two explosive offenses, with extremely talented offensive skill positions, but quarterbacks that are inconsistent. I think this game comes down to which QB doesn’t cost his team the game. Both have been known to throw untimely INTs, so limiting the mistakes is key. Both teams are very solid up front on both O- and D-Lines. The health of 40-year-old LT Andrew Whitworth is going to be something to pay attention to. He missed the Divisional Round game, and Joe Noteboom held his own against JPP, but that’s not Nick Bosa. SF also ranks 3rd in Team Sack Percentage and 2nd in Sacks Per Game.
I might be biased because I’m holding a SF to win the Super Bowl ticket, but I trust Jimmy Garoppolo more than I trust Matt Stafford. Jimmy has late playoff experience, and this is Stafford’s first time ever in a Conference Championship Game. I think the game stays Under 46, but I like SF with the points slightly better here.
Pick: SF +3.5
*Admittedly, looking at the public money on a Wednesday before a Sunday game isn’t the best way to get a good picture of public money. You typically want to look until closer to kickoff, as there are still 3+ days left for people to get their bets in. But I at least wanted to take a different angle for you all given the two-game slate.