Now that was a fun weekend of football.
The divisional round of the 2022 NFL playoffs helped make up for a lackluster wild-card weekend with a four-game display that was, arguably, the best week of postseason action in NFL history. All four games were decided by a score on the final play. The only favorite to win and advance, the Chiefs, needed a 13-second miracle drive from Patrick Mahomes to tie the game. Aside from that, three underdogs won outright to set up a couple of intriguing matchups in the AFC and NFC Championship Games.
Bettors will now be treated to a matchup of two of the best, young quarterbacks on the AFC side of the bracket while the NFC side will feature a divisional rivalry between two of the best, young offensive coaches in the league.
These games should be competitive, but what are gamblers to make of them? Each squad, save for the Chiefs, is lacking key experience in at least one area, so that could make this round just as unpredictable as the last. As such, the points spreads for each game will need to be watched closes as the lines move and odds change based on the latest news and injury updates.
Speaking of injuries, every NFL team is banged-up at this time of the season, but some are more so than others. For example, the 49ers are dealing with injuries to their two best offensive players, receiver Deebo Samuel and left tackle Trent Williams. If either can’t suit up, that will impact the spread. Elsewhere, the looming threat of COVID still lurks, but as long as players are asymptomatic, they won’t need to be tested — even if they’re unvaccinated — under the NFL’s postseason COVID protocol.
For more expert NFL predictions, check out Sporting News’ picks straight up and against the spread for the Bengals vs. Chiefs and 49ers vs. Rams games.
BENDER: Where does Bills-Chiefs rank among greatest playoff games?
NFL odds for conference championship games
Below are the latest NFL odds for the AFC and NFC Championship Games, including point spreads, money lines and over-under totals for each game, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Last updated: Wednesday, Jan. 26.
NFL conference championship game point spreads
NFL conference championship game money lines
NFL conference championship game over/unders
NFL best bets for conference championship games
49ers (+3.5) at Rams
Both Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay joined the NFC West as head coaches in 2017. During that time, Shanahan has enjoyed a distinct advantage over McVay, even when McVay has had the superior team.
Shanahan’s record against McVay is 7-3 straight up, and Los Angeles’ last victory came at the end of the 2018 season when Nick Mullens was starting at quarterback for a banged-up 49ers squad. Since then, the 49ers have won six consecutive games against the Rams. Four have been by one possession, but the 49ers have still won each time.
The 49ers just beat the Rams in Week 18, coming back from 17 down to beat them in the final week of the season. So, even if they get down early, they have proven that they can make the comeback. Their defense has also played well, as the unit just held Aaron Rodgers’ Packers to 10 points and has allowed an average of 16.3 points per game over their last seven. If they can bother Matthew Stafford, who has been prone to interceptions this year, they should certainly cover this spread — if not, win outright.
49ers moneyline (+146)
If you’re a bit more daring, going with the 49ers moneyline isn’t a bad bet. It’s paying out at roughly 1.5 to 1 and, as mentioned, Shanahan has dominated McVay over recent years. That includes this season, during which the 49ers have outscored the Rams 58-34 over two previous meetings.
SN’s Vinnie Iyer is predicting a 49ers upset this week as well. This game is more of a coin-flip than most realize, so if you’re looking for a good value in the conference championship games, roll with San Francisco.
IYER’S PICKS: Bengals vs. Chiefs | 49ers vs. Rams
Bengals (+7) at Chiefs
Another underdog? You bet. The Bengals may find it difficult to beat the Chiefs for a second time this season, but they can certainly cover against a team they beat 34-31 in Week 17.
Cincinnati has played just three opponents that rank in the top 10 of Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, which “breaks down the entire season play-by-play, comparing success on each play to the league average based on a number of variables including down, distance, location on field, current score gap, quarter, and opponent quality.” They have a record of 1-2 straight up in those contests, but they have kept each game close and both losses came in overtime.
Below is a look at each of their three games against top-10 DVOA teams:
These previous results bode well for Cincinnati keeping it close. As they showed in Week 17, they can compete with Kansas City. This has the makings of another close offensive battle that could come down to the final drive. As such, the Bengals look like a nice pick as touchdown underdogs.
Bengals at Chiefs OVER 54.5
This number is a high one, so it may scare some off, especially considering that the Bengals had a lot of trouble moving the ball against the Titans with Joe Burrow under pressure. That said, the over has been a pretty safe bet with the Chiefs of late. They have hit the over in seven consecutive games and have done it rather handily most times.
In six of their last seven games, the Chiefs and their opponents have exceeded the over by at least 7.5 points. The only time they didn’t was in Week 16, when they exceeded in by 1.5 in a game during which the Steelers scored only 10 points. On average, Chiefs games have hit the over by an average margin of 11.4 points since their 48-9 win over the Raiders in Week 14.
That makes betting the over look appetizing, especially considering that the Bengals have averaged 27.6 points per game against playoff teams and both teams scored more than 30 the last time they met in Week 17.
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