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Best bets for NFL conference championship weekend, from covering the spread to touchdown scorers

Insider
Insider
 2022-01-26
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Patrick Mahomes looks to throw against the Buffalo Bills.
  • Just four teams remain in the race to reach Super Bowl LVI.
  • The Bengals will face the Chiefs in the AFC, and the 49ers will take on the Rams in the NFC.
  • Take a look below at our best bets for this weekend's action, including a few prop bets.

Last weekend was arguably the greatest weekend in NFL history, with all four playoff games decided on the final play.

It was also a pretty good week for our bets , which went 3-1 against the spread. This week, we're back at it, picking both the AFC and NFC Championship games against the spread, as well as a few prop bets to fill out our betting card.

Take a look below at our best bets of conference championship weekend (* indicates home team).

LAST WEEK : 3-1
OVERALL : 149-131-2

Cincinnati Bengals (+7) over Kansas City Chiefs*
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Joe Burrow prepares for a play against the Tennessee Titans.

Less than a month ago, the Bengals beat the Chiefs outright 34-31 in a thrilling preview of what should be an exhilarating AFC Championship game.

In that first meeting, the Chiefs jumped out to a 14-0 lead before the Bengals stormed back in the second half. Even if Cincinnati is down at some point in the game, they should never be out of it.

I don't think the Bengals have a great chance at winning this game, but getting seven points against the Chiefs, I do believe they can cover.

Bengals/Chiefs under 54.5 total points
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Andy Reid looks on during a game against the Buffalo Bills.

It doesn't feel great betting the under in a game involving Patrick Mahomes, especially after last week's scoring bonanza against the Buffalo Bills.

But it feels like the wild run of scoring that ended last week's game might be having an effect on this week's total that can be exploited. Initially, this game opened at 50.5, but the total has since jumped four points to 54.5 — that's a pretty significant jump.

Last week the Bills and Chiefs scored 25 points in the final two minutes of regulation, but if the Chiefs had had possession heading into that final stretch, they could have just knelt the game out to win 26-21.

As long as this game doesn't end with another chaotic scoring see-saw in the final minutes, it feels like there's some value on the under here.

First touchdown scorer: Ja'Marr Chase (+850)
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Ja'Marr Chase celebrates a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Despite their high-flying offense, the Kansas City Chiefs have given up the first touchdown in each of their two playoff games so far this year.

Last week, the Chiefs got burned by Bills receiver Gabriel Davis for four touchdowns — a postseason record. Given the success the Bills had getting Davis the ball in space, look for the Bengals to attempt to exploit those same weaknesses against Kansas City.

While his fellow receivers, Tee Higgins (14/1) and Tyler Boyd (18/1), also have a good amount of value in this market, neither has as much big-play potential as Chase does, especially on the game's opening drive.

Over 36.5 receiving yards for Byron Pringle
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Byron Pringle brings down a catch against the Buffalo Bills.

On Sunday, Byron Pringle was a huge part of the Chiefs offense against the Bills, coming down with five catches on seven targets.

While he only had 29 yards in that game, his share of targets in recent weeks is a good reason to back him to beat his number this week against the Bengals.

Over 29.5 rushing yards for Patrick Mahomes
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Patrick Mahomes dives for a first down against the Buffalo Bills.

Patrick Mahomes was the Chiefs leading rusher against the Bills, taking seven carries for 69 yards.

Mahomes might not be known as a rushing quarterback the way that Lamar Jackson or even Josh Allen is used in their respective offenses. But his improvisation, when flushed out of the pocket is second-to-none, and the threat of his arm often leaves defenses on the back foot when he decides to use his legs.

Mahomes could only need one or two solid carries to hit this prop, depending on how the Bengals defense decides to play him.

Los Angeles Rams* (-3.5) over San Francisco 49ers
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Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp celebrate a play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Sean McVay and the Rams have now lost six straight games to the San Francisco 49ers dating back to 2018. But in the NFC Championship, I think Los Angeles finally gets the better of their in-state rivals.

Matthew Stafford is playing at his best and looks to be making good on his desire to come up big in big moments.

The 49ers were able to beat the Packers last week, thanks, in large part, to a stunning defensive performance that held Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense to just 10 points. But in that win, San Francisco failed to score a single offensive touchdown.

They also created a 10-point swing on special teams alone, between a blocked field goal and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown. That's a lot of bounces that went in their favor. As long as those bounces even out a bit, the Rams should take care of business.

Rams/49ers over 46 total points
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Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles reacts after the San Francisco 49ers win over the Green Bay Packers.

Similar to how the Chiefs-Bengals total feels inflated due to last week's games, this number feels a bit deflated.

The 49ers were able to win with just 13 points and without scoring an offensive touchdown, but that game was played in the arctic conditions of Lambeau Field. While the Rams only finished the game with 30 points, 20 came in a dominant first half.

Los Angeles can score in bunches, and the 49ers should manage to put more than 13 points on the board based on temperature change alone.

First touchdown scorer: Van Jefferson (+1700)
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Van Jefferson runs after a catch against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This is something of a long-shot play, but when Van Jefferson gets open, he can get really open.

The speedster wide receiver hasn't found the end zone since mid-December, but at 17/1, it feels like a value for his breakout potential.

Sean McVay is a schemer, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Rams come into the game with at least one early look drawn up to try and find Jefferson streaking deep.

Over 0.5 interceptions for Jimmy Garoppolo
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Jimmy Garoppolo makes a throw against the Green Bay Packers.

Jimmy Garoppolo has thrown six interceptions over his past four games and given away at least one pick in each one.

While you have to pay a bit of extra juice on this number, Garoppolo will eventually slip up.

There's likely a bit of extra value in this pick if you think that the Rams will jump out to a lead in this game. San Francisco might do their best to keep Garoppolo from making dangerous throws, but if they're trailing, they will need to take some chances, and that's when mistakes are made.

Over 2.5 rushing yards for Matthew Stafford
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Matthew Stafford celebrates a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Matthew Stafford is not a rushing quarterback. At all.

That said, he is a gamer and ready to do whatever he needs to do to help the Rams win. Stafford scored a rushing touchdown in both of the Rams' playoff games so far, and has taken off to run unscripted on several occasions when all of his options downfield were covered.

It only takes one desperate dive on third-and-4 for this bet to hit, and I think Stafford is ready to commit to the effort.

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