NFL conference championship: Best prop bets, picks and tips
By ESPN Fantasy,2023-01-28
Need some last-minute advice while putting together your parlays for the weekend?
Our ESPN Fantasy Football experts have got you covered. They have studied and analyzed all of the players across the league from a fantasy perspective all season and are ready to offer insight on which player props are the most profitable for each conference championship game on Sunday.
Which QBs do you think will go over or under their passing total this week?
Matt Bowen: Brock Purdy under 219.5 yards . In Purdy's eight pro starts, which includes the playoffs, the rookie has hit over 219.5 yards only three times. I don't like the matchup for Purdy against the Eagles' defense given Philadelphia's high-end perimeter talent in the secondary and deep group of versatile pass rushers. This feels like a low-volume passing day for Purdy, with Kyle Shanahan looking to control tempo through the rushing attack. Expect quick passing, screens and defined play-action to target intermediate windows. Take the under here.
Eric Karabell: Patrick Mahomes under 275 yards . Well, someone has to say it. Betting against Mahomes doesn't feel particularly good or wise, but even without his current ankle injury, which may be serious or may not be, 275 yards seems a bit high. Oh, and Mahomes is unlikely to be at his best with questionable mobility and against a strong pass rush. Mahomes has been well under this number -- like 50-plus yards or more under -- in three of his past four games anyway, and he threw for only 223 yards in Week 13 at Cincinnati. Last season, in the AFC title game, Mahomes threw for 275 yards. He was healthy. Knowing what we know today, expecting a statistical repeat of that is generous. I'll say he throws for 274 yards.
Tristan Cockcroft: I'm with Karabell, it's Patrick Mahomes under 275 yards for me, too. Hey, it's great that Mahomes checked in with full Wednesday and Thursday practices, but color me skeptical that an injury that typically costs a player multiple weeks' action won't hinder him to some degree. Mahomes might be superhuman, but that's an awfully aggressive number and one that matches his O/U from the divisional round, when he had a clearly superior matchup. These Bengals, by the way, have surrendered that many passing yards in a game only four times in their 18 games this season (counting playoffs).
Eric Moody: Joe Burrow over 276 passing yards . The Bengals quarterback is not taking Kansas City lightly despite being 3-0 against them and still calls them the "team to beat," but he also said that the Bengals are "coming for them." Over the past two seasons, Burrow has averaged 327 passing yards against the Chiefs. On Sunday, I believe the young quarterback will rise to the occasion against Kansas City since he has never shied away from big moments. Burrow is well-positioned for success with receivers like Ja'Marr Chase , Tee Higgins , and Tyler Boyd .
Running back props
Which player do you think will go over or under their rushing total this week?
Bowen: Samaje Perine over 16.5 yards rushing . Perine rushed for 33 yards, on seven carries, in the Bengals' divisional round win over Buffalo. And if we go back to the Week 13 head-to-head matchup versus Kansas City, Perine stepped in for an injured Joe Mixon to log 106 yards on 21 carries. In a game where I anticipate rushing volume in the Bengals call sheet, Perine can give you 7-8 carries on both gap and zone schemes. He's a downhill runner with enough short-area juice to push through the second level of the defense. And at just 16.5 yards, which Perine has topped in eight of his last ten games, this feels like a good bet on the over.
Karabell: The 49ers are tough to run on, so do not expect the inconsistent Miles Sanders to enjoy a big game, but the Eagles will need QB Jalen Hurts to be aggressive in order to sustain offense. Hurts (shoulder) is clearly physically compromised to some degree, but he still rushed for 34 yards and a touchdown in the blowout win over the Giants. The 49ers are much better, of course, but Hurts can be better, too, and he will need to do more to compensate for Sanders. Expect several big runs. Take the over on Hurts reaching 48 rushing yards .
Cockcroft: Jerick McKinnon over 16.5 yards . I'd be happy with either of the Chiefs' running backs, who will almost assuredly be more of a factor this week because of Mahomes' ankle injury. Pacheco is the one who exceeded this O/U number in nine of the Chiefs' past 10 games (playoffs included), but McKinnon absorbed 11 carries and delivered 25 yards in the divisional round, and I see him being needed for a similarly sized workload here to compensate for the shift in game plan. That's a really low target for the dynamic talent, and he more than tripled it the last time these teams battled, in Week 13, when the Chiefs' offense was in a healthier state.
Clay: Miles Sanders under 58.5 rush yards. Sanders has gone over this line in 11 (61%) of his 18 games this season, but he hasn't faced the league's best run defense. Including the playoffs, the 49ers have allowed only three RBs to reach 59 yards this season, with none clearing 69. The Niners have faced the fewest carries, allowed the fewest rushing yards and surrendered the lowest yards per carry (3.3) to RBs this season. Sanders is averaging 15.3 carries per game, but he projects for 47 yards on 12 carries in what should be a more neutral game script than usual. I'd also lean under on Jalen Hurts' rushing line (47.5), as he's facing the same elite run defense and has hit this line in only seven (44%) of 16 games.
Wide receiver/tight end props
Which WR/TE do you think will go over or under their receiving total this week?
Clay: Travis Kelce over 77.5 receiving yards. This is a high line, but Kelce has gone over it in 10 (56%) of 18 games this season. That includes a 98-yard effort on 17 targets against the Jaguars last week. Kelce has now reached 78 receiving yards in seven consecutive playoff games, averaging 12.1 targets and 108.1 yards per game during the span. The Bengals allowed 932 yards to tight ends during the regular season (seventh most) and four tight ends reached 78 yards against them. Kelce's projection checks in at 86 yards in what projects as a competitive, pass-heavy game for Kansas City.
Clay: JuJu Smith-Schuster under 46.5 receiving yards. Smith-Schuster has reached 47 yards in only seven (41%) of 17 games this season and five of those were during his first eight games. He hasn't hit the mark since Week 15 and has been held to no more than four targets or 35 yards in four consecutive games. Smith-Schuster was held to 35 yards on four targets when these teams met in Week 13. In what is essentially a neutral matchup against Cincinnati, Smith-Schuster's projection checks in at 42 yards.
Bowen: Tee Higgins over 55.5 receiving yards . I like Higgins here because of the Chiefs coverage stricture, which will create middle of the field windows versus 2-deep, plus the isolation throws outside the numbers when Burrow reads man-free coverage. Higgins has seen 36 targets in his past five games. Let's get some fade-ball throws to Higgins here, along with the slant and dig routes that allow Burrow to make rhythm throws inside the numbers.
Karabell: Eagles WR A.J. Brown was disappointed he didn't get more chances to shine in the win over the Giants, and he didn't hide it. Coaches tend to compensate the following week to placate receivers. Expecting Brown to surpass 70.5 yards isn't asking for a lot, anyway. He averaged 88 receiving yards per game this season. Prior to the playoff game, Brown topped 90 receiving yards in four consecutive games. The 49ers don't boast a shutdown secondary, and they clearly couldn't handle CeeDee Lamb last week. Brown and colleague DeVonta Smith should each soar past their number.
Moody: Travis Kelce over 76.5 receiving yards . Although the Bengals' defense has improved this season, the team has struggled to contain tight ends. Dawson Knox caught five of seven targets last week for 65 receiving yards against Cincinnati's defense. Kelce caught 14 of 17 targets for 98 receiving yards against the Jaguars. He averaged 78.7 receiving yards per game this season. With Patrick Mahomes' ankle sprain limiting his mobility, why wouldn't he prioritize Kelce in the passing game? A.J. Brown over 69.5 receiving yards. Brown is dealing with a minor injury but is expected to play against the 49ers. Last week, he caught only three of six targets for 22 receiving yards against the Cowboys. Brown is well-positioned to bounce back against a 49ers defense that does have a weakness at cornerback. In the playoffs, San Francisco has allowed 136 receiving yards to DK Metcalf and 117 to CeeDee Lamb. Just imagine what Brown will do.
Cockcroft: DeVonta Smith over 64.5 yards . It's darned near impossible to run against the 49ers, by far the best defense in the league against running backs in fantasy in 2022, so I see both Smith and A.J. Brown standing good chances of exceeding their numbers. I know Brown has been vocal about getting the football more, but a good team like the Eagles isn't going to ignore that Smith has been an integral part of their passing game, having averaged 92.6 receiving yards in his past six games (playoffs included), or 32 more than his O/U. I see both receivers getting to at least 65 receiving yards, but in cases like that, I'll always take the one with the lower O/U.
Is there any other prop on the board you are looking at playing?
Moody: Jalen Hurts to score a touchdown (+119) . During the regular season and playoffs, he averaged 10.8 rushing attempts per game. Hurts has 13 rushing touchdowns this season, including six in his past five games. Hurts has a good chance of scoring a rushing touchdown in this matchup, especially since Dak Prescott and Geno Smith both had some success against the 49ers on the ground.
Bowen: Hurts' longest completion over 38.5 yards . I'm looking at the Eagles perimeter matchups with wide receiver A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, plus the vertical tendencies in the Philly pass game. Throw the boundary one-on-ones here, target the slot fades and scheme up the deep overs. Hurts attempted 52 passes of over 20 air yards during the regular season.
Bowen: Pacheco over 11.5 rushing attempts . Pacheco has topped 11.5 carries in eight of his past 10 games, which includes the 14 carries he logged versus Kansas City in Week 13. Outside zone schemes there, behind an offensive front that can create daylight. Bet the over here in a matchup where I believe the Chiefs will need a strong run-game foundation to advance to the Super Bowl.
Bowen: DeVonta Smith anytime TD (+140) . Including the playoffs, Smith has logged eight touchdown receptions this season. Here, we are betting on Smith in vertical one-on-ones, plus the red zone opportunities where the Eagles can deploy the wide receiver as a target on RPO concepts. Slant, pop, screen. One read -- and the ball is out.
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