NFL Odds: Expert Best Bets Against the Spread for Conference Championship Games
The Cowboys lost in a fashion that I can only describe as infuriating last week, and I’m only recently able to think about football again without despairing at the futility of life and football fandom.
It was a challenging week for the Godzilla Wins crew as two of our (read: my) darlings went down in the divisional round. It’s going to be a challenging week for me without the Jags and Cowboys to root for, and I decided to work this Sunday behind the bar to take my mind off of the pain. The Conference Championships will be like going to your first family holiday after a breakup. Everyone will ask what happened and you’ll be miserable. That’s how I anticipate my weekend going. But, of course, I’ll be betting. Who will I be rooting for while pulling draft beer for eight hours? We’ll get in to that below.
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49ers at Eagles Odds, Best Bet for NFC Championship
The big headline, and the thing everyone is going to be talking about is this: no rookie quarterback has ever started a game in the Super Bowl. The list of rookie QBs who have been in the spot Brock Purdy now occupies is a weird list. Pat Haden, Dieter Brock, Shaun King, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, and Mark Sanchez all lost in either the AFC or NFC Championship game as rookies. Not only have all of them lost, but of that group, only one managed to cover the spread.
Lincoln Financial Field is no joke, and Philly fans aren’t known for their congeniality towards opposing teams. This is easily the toughest test of Brock Purdy’s young career. Think about it like this: Veterans Stadium (where Philly played until 2003) used to not only have a jail, but also a courtroom where you could be arraigned while the game was still being played. Philly fans show up ready for their team. It will be loud and uncomfortable.
Brock Purdy has been nothing short of spectacular in his young career and he’s gone 6-1 ATS as a starter, while being favored in all of them. As a team, the 49ers have covered five straight postseason games. The 49ers are experienced outside of their rookie QB, so the expectation is that this team should stay poised.
A potential issue for Purdy is the that the 49ers rely heavily on pre-snap motion to get him in a good position to succeed. They utilized pre-snap motion on 73% of his dropbacks and he has been excellent in those spots, ranking first in yards per attempt. The issue is that the Eagles allow an NFL-low 33.2 QBR when facing pre-snap motion and allow the third-lowest yards per attempt on those plays.
Purdy also gets sacked a ton, and can start to do weird things when trying to evade pressure. The Eagles averaged over four sacks per game this season, so protecting Purdy has to be a priority. The Cowboys only generated two sacks last week against the 49ers, but they seemed to be in the backfield quite a bit which made Purdy uncomfortable at times.
Philly has a better all-around defense than Dallas, and this is Purdy’s first road start in the playoffs. He has never been in a spot like this and I think it’s fair to wonder if this moment might be just a little too big for him.
I would be remiss not to talk briefly about San Francisco’s stellar defense which ranks first in total defensive DVOA. The Eagles will counter that unit with Jalen Hurts who has averaged over 330 yards through the air against top-10 defensive units this season. Oh, and he ran for seven touchdowns on those units, as well.
I’ll take the better all-around team against a rookie quarterback playing in his first road playoff start.
Pick: Eagles -2.5
Bengals at Chiefs Odds, Best Bet for AFC Championship
The media narrative seems to be Joe Burrow-centric right now.
The other interesting thing that has been happening in this game is the extreme line moves. At various times, both of these teams have been favored by up to three points. This has mainly been in response to Patrick Mahomes’s apparent high ankle sprain.
The market has responded to these narratives, as the Bengals have drawn about 69% of the bets so far for the week.
Typically, when looking at imbalanced numbers like this, I tend to move the opposite way. More bets have come in on the Bengals, but the Chiefs have more money wagered on them. What that means is, professional (smarter) bettors are getting their money down on the Chiefs.
The Bengals are a fun team, and Joe Burrow is fun to root for, but they are playing a really experienced team that is led by the presumptive MVP of the league in Patrick Mahomes.
The only reason this line hasn’t moved even more towards the Chiefs is lingering uncertainty about Mahomes’s high ankle sprain. He wasn’t wearing a boot in his press conference this week and walked off the stage without a limp. Early reports suggest he isn’t having many mobility issues in practice, so go ahead and grab this line before it creeps towards the key number of three.
Pick: Chiefs -1.5
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