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NFL Picks, Conference Championship Games: 49ers vs Eagles, Bengals vs Chiefs

NFL Picks, Conference Championship Games: 49ers vs Eagles, Bengals vs Chiefs article feature image
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Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images. Pictured: Patrick Mahomes.


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AFC & NFC Conference Championship Picks

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Lean: 49ers vs. Eagles Total
Sunday, 3 p.m. ET
Bengals vs. Chiefs Total
Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET
Bengals vs. Chiefs Moneyline
Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET

Pick
Lean: Under 45.5
Best Book
Day/Time
Sunday, 3 p.m. ET

Brandon Anderson: No. 1 seeds that are favorites of six or fewer points in a Conference Championship Game are 9-5 against the spread (ATS) since 2003, but four of those five underdogs that covered also won outright.

I’m recommending patience, though. I’m not making any bets just yet. There’s a lot of unknown right now with key players in both matchups.


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For 49ers vs. Eagles, we need to keep an eye on Christian McCaffrey’s calf. He was limited late in the game, which is why Elijah Mitchell was getting key carries down the stretch.

Also in that game, Philadelphia is healthier than Dallas and is No. 1 in DVOA against the pass. This will be a much tougher test for Brock Purdy, although the Eagles did play a soft schedule this season.

I’d lean — emphasize lean — under 45.5 in that one, and that’s my best pick for either game as of Sunday night. It feels like points will be at a premium, especially if we get bad injury news on any key players.

For Bengals vs. Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes’ health is everything. He’s the great equalizer for Kansas City, but isn’t a 100% healthy Burrow a better option than a limited Mahomes?

I’d lean Bengals right now, but I’ll probably wait because the line will likely rise if there’s positive news on Mahomes’ availability.



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Pick
Over 47.5
Best Book
Day/Time
Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET

Ricky Henne: Patrick Mahomes is god’s gift to football fans, so it was brutal watching him suffer a high ankle sprain in Kansas City’s Divisional Round win over the Jaguars.

The total when the Chiefs and Bengals squared off in Week 13 closed at 53.5. Now, thanks to Mahomes’ injury, the early line for next week’s AFC Conference Championship game opened at 47.5. There’s no doubt the total should be lower than when these teams met in the regular season, but a five-point difference is a bit of an overreaction, which is why I’ve already jumped on the over.

Will Mahomes be gimpy against Cincinnati? Most definitely. However, a lesser version of Mahomes is still vastly better than nearly every other quarterback in the league.


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Plus, if there’s any coach I trust to adjust an offense in a matter of days, it’s Andy Reid. “Big Red” is as creative as they come, so assuming Mahomes’ ankle limits him to being a pocket passer, I suspect the Chiefs will have plenty of wrinkles to move the ball nonetheless. Additionally, this version of Kansas City’s offense runs the ball more efficiently than years’ past behind Isaiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon.

Meanwhile, the Bengals offense will get theirs. Joe Burrow and company finished the year fourth in offensive DVOA, per Football Outsiders, and ranked seventh in total points (26.1). They’ve also had success against the Chiefs, scoring exactly 27 points against them in a pair of meetings over the last calendar year.

Cincinnati will likely hold up its end of the bargain, so it all comes down to whether a Kansas City offense that led the league in points per game (29.2) can be effective with Mahomes at less than 100%.

This isn’t risk free. If news comes out that Mahomes’ ankle is worse than expected, the line will surely drop. However, there’s no doubt Kansas City’s doctors will do any and everything under the sun for Mahomes to manage the pain, so I wouldn’t be shocked if this line creeps up ever so slightly as the week rolls on.

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Pick
Bengals ML (-102)
Best Book
Day/Time
Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET

Dylan Wilkerson: The Bengals and the Chiefs are starting to emerge as the new rivalry in the AFC, and this chapter of it should bring some fireworks.

The last time these two teams met was in Week 13, when Cincinnati got its third straight win over the Chiefs, 27-24. Last year’s AFC Championship Game was the exact same score, with the Bengals punching their ticket to the Super Bowl. They also played during the regular season last year, with the Bengals winning 34-31.

This year’s Bengals are one of the most disciplined units in the NFL, committing the second-lowest total of offensive penalty yards in the regular season. Avoiding self-inflicted mistakes is crucial at this point in the season.

The Bengals also have a huge advantage when it comes to red-zone defense. They’re allowing touchdowns on 52% of opposition trips inside the 20-yard line, compared to the Chief’s 67%.

Cincinnati’s defensive strengths don’t stop there. The Bengals allowed fewer than two points per drive during the regular season. Any team that wants to beat the Chiefs will have to neutralize their high-powered offense, and the Bengals are fit to do just that.

If you believe that history tends to repeat itself, the pick here is pretty clear. Zac Taylor and his Bengals have taken care of the Chiefs in every one of their meetings over the last two years, and I expect more of the same Sunday.


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