NFL Odds, Picks, Predictions: An Expert’s Guide To Betting 49ers-Rams, Bengals-Chiefs, NFL Props On Sunday
Getty Images. Pictured: Joe Burrow, George Kittle, Cooper Kupp, Patrick Mahomes (left to right)
NFL Odds, Picks, Predictions
Note that all defensive pressure stats are courtesy of Pro Football Reference, all DVOA starts are via Football Outsiders, and all other stats are courtesy of PFF unless otherwise noted.
|Time||6:40 p.m. ET on Sunday|
|Updated ods via DraftKings. Find real-time NFL odds here.|
- Pick: 49ers +3.5
- Bet to: +3
When the 49ers are underdogs against the Rams, it should pretty much be an auto-bet on San Francisco. Kyle Shanahan has won each of his last six clashes with Sean McVay — five of which came with the 49ers as outright dogs.
- 1/9/22: 49ers 27-24 (LAR -3.5)
- 11/15/21: 49ers 31-10 (LAR -3.5)
- 11/29/20: 49ers 13-10 (LAR -5)
- 10/18/20: 49ers 24-16 (LAR -2)
- 12/21/19: 49ers 34-31 (SF -7)
- 10/13/19: 49ers 20-7 (LAR -3)
It all starts with the 49ers defense, which matches up well with the Rams offense for two main reasons:
1. The 49ers can stop the run. Despite the flashy passing-game weapons, McVay’s offense is still predicated on being able to have success on the ground, but the 49ers will have none of it. San Francisco is second in the NFL in run-defense DVOA (including postseason). It held a Rams rushing attack that averaged 99.8 yards per game this season to totals of 64 and 52 yards, their second- and third-lowest outputs on the year.
2. The 49ers can get pressure without blitzing. By subtracting blitz rate from pressure rate, we can get a good idea of how good a defense’s four-man rush is. During the regular season, the 49ers generated pressure 24.1% of the time but blitzed only 19.8% of the time, and their +4.3% differential ranked fourth-best in the NFL. During the postseason, the 49ers have turned it up, generating pressure on 43.0% of opposing dropbacks despite blitzing just 17.4% of the time. This is key because Matthew Stafford’s 9.3 yards per attempt when blitzed are second in the NFL, and his rating falls from 132.5 when blitzed to 97.0 when kept clean.
When the 49ers are on offense, they also match up well against the Rams, also due to two main factors:
1. The 49ers can block the Rams’ star-studded front-seven. The 49ers are currently graded out first in PFF’s team run-blocking grades (88.3) and seventh in pass-blocking (75.2). This allows the 49ers to not only move the ball efficiently, but also control the clock and keep the Rams’ explosive offense off the field; San Francisco won the time-of-possession battle 75:47-52:21 in the two matchups this season.
2. The 49ers shred zone coverage. The Rams play zone vs. man at a four-to-one ratio, third-most in the NFL. This has been the Rams’ identity all season, and going “mean-heavy” for them still means zone coverage two-thirds of the time or more. The 49ers are averaging 9.8 yards per targeted pass attempt against zone coverage this season compared to 8.2 against man. And as my colleague Stuckey pointed out on this week’s Action Network Podcast, the only quarterback the Rams have allowed to average at least 9.0 yards per attempt in a game is Jimmy Garoppolo — and he did it twice.
Shanahan is 7-3 ATS against McVay, including 5-1 over the last six (in addition to being 6-0 straight up over that span. And Shanahan is 27-18 (60%) ATS as a dog, including 18-10 (64%) ATS as a road dog.
These two teams averaged 46.0 combined points in their two meetings this season, which makes the market spot-on. It is worth noting that indoor postseason unders are 9-1 since 2018.
- Pick: Van Jefferson Over 29.5 Rec Yards
- Bet to: 40.5
Despite being quiet in the postseason thus far, his underlying usage has been excellent, as Jefferson ran a route on 86% of Stafford’s drop backs in the Wild Card Round and 95% in the Divisional Round. This has been the case all season, as Jefferson’s median route participation percentage is 89%.
On top of that, the Rams will likely have to pass more than usual against a 49ers defense that is ranked No. 2 in DVOA against the run.
Jefferson has posted at least 41 receiving yards in 12-of-19 (63%) games this season.
Pick: Cam Akers Under 60.5 Rush Yards
Bet to: 58.5
In two meetings with the 49ers, Rams running backs combined for 97 yards on 35 carries, an average of 2.8 yards per carry and 48.5 yards per game. Last week against a Bucs defense that ranks seventh in DVOA against the run, Akers rushed for only 48 yards despite getting 24 carries.
After that nightmare of a performance that also included two lost fumbles, it’s very possible that McVay dials back Akers’ usage a bit, as he played a season-high 81% of the snaps last week. Nevertheless, last week proved that there’s still an out for this prop to hit even if Akers still sees 20+ carries.
Click the arrow to read Raybon’s DFS analysis
In chronological order, Cam Akers’ snap counts in his three games since returning from an Achilles injury this summer are 20%, 53% and 81%. In the postseason, Akers is averaging 20.5 carries and 2.5 targets per game. Despite the tough matchup, he has the top Projected Plus/Minus at RB in our Models. However, he is expected to be the most highly rostered RB on the slate, so I will be mostly looking to pivot off of him aside from stacks with the Rams DST.
Sony Michel played 19% of the snaps and recorded only three touches last week against the Bucs. Still, after Akers fumbled twice and generally struggled with his heaviest workload to date, I feel there’s a decent chance the backfield returns to a 60-40 or 70-30 split rather than 80-20. With limited contrarian options on the main slate, Michel is worth a dart throw. Like Akers, he would also work best paired with the Rams DST for correlated game flow purposes.
Cooper Kupp’s stat lines In two games against the 49ers are 11/122/0 and 7/118/1. Our Models have Kupp projected with the highest floor of any player — including QBs — on DraftKings, and he is second to only Mahomes on FanDuel. Kupp is on jam-him-in status in cash games.
Van Jefferson ran a route on 95% of Stafford’s drop backs last week. He is the cheapest source of routes on the slate, making him cash-viable as a value option at WR, which allows you to get up to Kupp at WR1.
Tyler Higbee pasted the 49ers for two TDs in Week 18, but this is still a tough matchup for him as San Francisco ranks fifth in DVOA against TEs. With that said, Higbee is expected to be less popular than Kelce and George Kittle and comes with a lower price tag, which makes him a strong value in GPPs.
Odell Beckham Jr. has scored in five of his past eight games as a Ram, but he posted 2/18/0 lines in both games against the 49ers. On such a small slate, he has to be in GPP consideration at his salary, but Jefferson and Higbee are better options when projected rostership is taken into account, as OBJ’s is the highest of the three.
No. 4 WR Ben Skowronek and backup TE Kendall Blanton are the only other Rams likely to see routes and are the top GPP dart throws for Los Angeles on Showdown slates. No. 5 WR Brandon Powell returns kicks and thus can be stacked with the Rams DST. No. 3 RB Jake Funk and No. 3 TE Brycen Hopkins will be available but are unlikely to receive offensive snaps.
Matthew Stafford is averaging 240.5 yards, 2.0 TDs and 2.0 interceptions against the 49ers this season. His main value lies with the fact that he is projected to be in approximately 60% as many lineups as Mahomes.
Elijah Mitchell is averaging 24.0 touches per game during the postseason and 24.0 touches per game in two meetings with the Rams this season. He has to be locked into cash lineups at RB despite facing a tough Rams run defense that is up to sixth in DVOA against the run (including postseason).
Deebo Samuel had 10 touches for 133 yards and a TD in the first matchup and 12 touches for 140 yards in the second matchup. He is one of the highest-ceiling plays on the slate. He works best in lineups that fade Mitchell in hopes that Samuel is able to vulture a rushing TD from the rookie runner.
George Kittle caught five balls in both matchups against the Rams and is the top TE for cash games. He costs $1,900 less than Kelce on FanDuel and $1,500 less on DraftKings. Working in Kittle’s favor is that the Rams play a high rate of zone coverage, and Kittle led all TEs in yards per route against zone during the regular season (2.58; min. 20 targets).
Brandon Aiyuk goose-egged last week in Lambeau. He posted lines of 3/26/0 and 6/107/0 in the two meetings against the Rams, with the bigger game coming in the most recent contest. On DraftKings, Aiyuk is expected to be in two-thirds as many lineups as OBJ at a similar price point, making him the superior play of the two on that site.
Jauan Jennings had a career game against the Rams in Week 18, recording six catches, 94 yards and two TDs. He is viable as a cash-game punt play on FanDuel at $4,900 and is one of the top GPP plays given his projected rostership, which is expected to clock in at 6-12%.
No starting quarterback averaged 9.0 yards per attempt against the Rams this season except Jimmy Garoppolo, who did it twice. Overall, Garoppolo is averaging 249.0 yards per game with 1.5 TDs and 1.0 interceptions in the two meetings. Ultimately, his DFS value will depend on volume, so he makes sense in lineups with Akers, which would be more suggestive of a trailing game script for the 49ers. Still, the potential payoff to rostering him is the highest of all QBs, as his price and projected rostership are the lowest of all QBs.
Kyle Juszczyk is the best dart-throw option on the 49ers for Showdown slates. Juszczyk is averaging a route participation rate of 58% in the postseason, up from the mid-40s during the regular season. The next best option is JaMycal Hasty, who, like Juszczyk, could see a few passing-down snaps in place of Mitchell.
Mohamed Sanu was activated from IR this week, but he could be a healthy scratch since Travis Benjamin, Trent Sherfield and River Cracraft all play special teams. If Sanu is active, I’d consider him the top option among San Francisco’s backup WRs. If he’s not, I’d lean Benjamin, who played ahead of Sherfield last week and also returns kicks. Backup TE Charlie Woerner had a 22% route participation rate last week, his highest since Kittle returned from injury in Week 9. I would consider Woerner a superior option to any of the backup WRs. Third-string TE Ross Dwelley hasn’t run a route since Week 16.
Both DSTs are viable here. The Rams are enticing because Garoppolo had the second-highest rate of turnover-worthy throws this season (4.9%) among 38 qualified passers, trailing only the god-awful Mike Glennon (9.3%). Meanwhile, the 49ers DST is averaging 12.5 fantasy points per game with a low of 9.0 in the two meetings with the Rams this season. Given the 49ers’ price and how well they’ve played against the Rams, they are my preferred DST for cash games.
- Cash Plays: RB Elijah Mitchell, RB Cam Akers, WR Cooper Kupp, WR Van Jefferson, WR Jauan Jennings, TE George Kittle, DST San Francisco 49ers
- GPP Plays: QB Matthew Stafford, QB Jimmy Garoppolo, RB Sony Michel, WR Deebo Samuel, WR Odell Beckham Jr., WR Brandon Aiyuk, TE Tyler Higbee, DST Los Angeles Rams
|Kickoff||3 p.m. ET on Sunday|
|Update odds via DraftKings. Find real-time NFL odds here.|
- Pick: Bengals +7
- Bet to: +6.5
This number is too big for a Bengals team that has shown it can match up well with the Chiefs, upsetting them 34-31 in Week 17.
On offense, the Bengals match up well because the scheme of Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo relies on man coverage and blitzing. The Chiefs play man coverage at the sixth-highest rate in the NFL and blitz at the eighth-highest. Including the postseason, the Bengals are averaging 11.4 yards per targeted pass attempt against man coverage, best in the NFL. And when blitzed, Joe Burrow led the NFL with 11.5 yards per attempt — over two yards better than second-place Matthew Stafford (9.3). In the first meeting between these two teams, Burrow shredded the Chiefs for 446 passing yards, four touchdown passes and no interceptions.
The most promising thing about Burrow’s Week 17 performance if you’re a Bengals backer? The Chiefs actually blitzed at a lower rate than usual and Burrow was still able to smoke them like one of his patented victory cigars — going 24-of-30 for 354 yards and all four of his touchdowns when Spagnuolo chose not to send extra rushers.
As always, the biggest thing you worry about with the Bengals offense is protection after Burrow was sacked nine times last week, but I think it’s good for the Bengals that it happened last week against a lesser offensive team, as offensive coordinator Brian Callahan will be able to install some more quick passes and/or lean on a spread offense that allows Burrow to get the ball out more quickly. Although Burrow took four sacks under pressure in the first matchup, he also completed 7-of-10 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown when under duress.
On defense, the Bengals will not shut down Patrick Mahomes, but they have at least shown that they can contain him and the rest of the Chiefs stars. Here is how Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce fared against Cincinnati in Week 17:
- Mahomes: 26-of-35, 259 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
- Hill: 6/40/0 on 10 targets
- Kelce: 5/25/1 on 7 targets
Even after defeating the Bills in last week’s overtime thriller, the Chiefs are just 1-3 against the other three AFC Divisional Round teams, getting outscored 135-96 with their only win coming by six points. In these teams’ first matchup, the Bengals bested the Chiefs in total yardage (475-414) and yards per play (7.5-7.1). Even if they don’t win, they are a threat to keep it close and/or get a backdoor cover. In fact, underdogs by 7 or more in the Conference Championship are 10-5 against the spread (ATS) since 1999.
The Chiefs have played 19 games this season, and only eight wins — or 42% of those games — have come by eight points or more. Meanwhile — and this speaks to Burrow’s star turn — the Bengals have lost by more than three points in only two of Burrow’s 18 starts this season (11%).
The total opened at 50.5 and has gotten bet up all the way to 54. While I will probably stay away because I already missed the best of the number, it is worth noting that postseason unders that went up by more than a point have gone 23-15-1 (61%) since 2003, according to our Action Labs data.
And per Action Labs, Conference Championship overs where each team averages at least 22.25 points per game are 21-7-3 (75%) since 2003.
The total points scored in Mahomes’ three AFC Championship Games were 62, 59 and 67. Mahomes overs in Conference Championship games are 3-0, covering by an average of 9.0 points per game.
- Pick: Tyler Boyd Over 37.5 Rec Yards
- Bet to: 47.5
Last week, Boyd ran a route on 96% of Bengals drop backs. While he has been over in exactly half of his games this season, he is averaging 48.3 rec yards and has a median of four catches. Since he is averaging 12.4 yards per reception, his true median should be closer to his average of 48.
Then there’s the Ja’Marr Chase factor: Chase went 11/266/3 in the first matchup against the Chiefs, which will likely try to take him away this time around. They were able to limit the Bills’ No. 1 receiver Stefon Diggs to three catches on seven yards last week, which resulted in Buffalo’s No. 2 and No. 3 receivers going off — Gabriel Davis went off for 201 yards while Cole Beasley chipped in another 60.
Click the arrow to read Raybon’s DFS analysis
Patrick Mahomes is averaging 391.0 yards and 4.0 TDs passing this postseason. He is also adding 49.0 yards and 0.5 TDs on the ground. Although the Bengals held him relatively in check in the first matchup (259 yards and two TDs passing, 25 rush yards on two attempts), Mahomes has to be the play at QB in cash games. He is the only QB with a positive Projected Plus/Minus in the FantasyLabs NFL Pro Models.
In Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s return, he was out-snapped by Jerick McKinnon, 53-23. It was Edwards-Helaire who was more effective, however, turning eight touches into 69 yards (8.6 yd/touch) while McKinnon produced 78 yards on 15 touches (5.2). I’m projecting the backfield as a 50-50 committee this week, with Edwards-Helaire reclaiming his spot as the top early-down back and McKinnon handling the majority of the passing-down work.
However, Edwards-Helaire’s rostership is expected to be one-fifth as high as McKinnon’s, making the former the superior GPP play. Darrel Williams (toe) will return this week, but it would be surprising if he were too involved given Edwards-Helaire and McKinnon have both had success this postseason. Fullback Michael Burton has 12 touches and one TD this season; he’s viable as a Showdown dart throw.
Though the Bengals ranked 24th in DVOA against TEs, Travis Kelce was held to a 5/25/1 line on seven targets when these teams met in Week 17. Kelce is the slate’s most expensive TE and is expected to also be its most popular, so he works best in Mahomes or Burrow game stacks. The same goes for Tyreek Hill, who was held to a 6/40/0 line on 10 targets when these teams met in Week 17.
Byron Pringle ran a route on 81% of Mahomes’ drop backs last week and caught at least five passes for the fourth time in the past five games. He is one of the top cost-saving options available, regardless of position. His rostership is expected to be modest, clocking in at a projected 20%. Thanks to the standout play of Chidobe Awuzie, Cincinnati ranked sixth in DVOA against WR1s but 27th against WR2s, giving Pringle massive leverage on Hill.
Mecole Hardman ran a route on only 36% of Mahomes’ drop backs last week, yet is expected to be in six to seven times as many lineups as Demarcus Robinson, who ran a route on 64% of Mahomes’ drop backs. Both are liable to goose-egg, but Robinson is the superior GPP play due to underlying usage and projected rostership. Hardman is still a solid GPP play due to his sub-10% rostership projection, but he is an even better option on Showdown slates paired with the Chiefs DST, as he serves as the team’s primary punt returner.
Marcus Kemp and Daurice Fountain will be lucky to see more than one route and are Showdown Hail Mary dart throws only, with Kemp the superior option. Backup TEs Noah Gray and Blake Bell are better options than the third-string WRs, as Gray is averaging a 20% route participation rate this postseason while Bell is at 13%.
Joe Mixon is averaging 20.5 touches for 90.5 yards and 0.5 TDs in Cincy’s two postseason games. Mixon posted a solid 86 yards on 19 touches against the Chiefs in the first matchup. He is the highest-floor RB on the slate and has to be locked into cash lineups. Samaje Perine (14) and Chris Evans (four) both played snaps behind Mixon last week. Both are in Showdown dart-throw consideration. Evans provided a few explosive kickoff returns this season and is a contrarian stacking partner for the Bengals DST on Showdown slates.
Joe Burrow went off for 446 yards with four TDs and no interceptions in the first matchup, with Ja’Marr Chase responsible for 11/266/1. Stacking Burrow and Chase is cheaper than Mahomes and Hill or Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp. I consider Burrow the top GPP play of Championship Sunday. He is projected to be in roughly 60% as many lineups as Mahomes, which allows those who roster him not only to benefit from ownership leverage, but also from correlation, as opposing QBs have a correlation coefficient of 0.57 since 2014, according to the FantasyLabs NFL Correlations tool.
Chase is expected to be extremely popular and thus is best limited to Burrow stacks, as it’s possible the Chiefs sell out to stop him after he popped off against them in Week 17. A situation similar to last week could play out, where the Chiefs limited Stefon Diggs to 3/7/0 but let Gabriel Davis erupt for 8/201/4 and Cole Beasley go for 6/60/0. That scenario would benefit Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins. Even with two duds in the postseason, Boyd has still posted double-digit DraftKings points in 56% of his games this season.
Thanks to a price of $4,200 and DraftKings’ full-PPR scoring, he is viable in cash games there. Higgins posted a line of 3/62/0 against the Chiefs in the first matchup. He tends to smash more against zone-heavy defenses and will be highly rostered, so he is best utilized in game stacks with Burrow or Mahomes. Bengals WRs not named Chase, Higgins or Boyd have run one route this postseason, with that route run by Mike Thomas. He and Trent Taylor are even less appealing than Kemp on Showdown slates.
C.J. Uzomah’s route participation percentage has jumped to the 89% mark this postseason after hovering in the 70s for most of the regular season. Despite a quiet game in the first meeting, Uzomah thrives against man coverage, averaging 1.69 yards per route compared to 0.99 versus zone. The Chiefs were 18th in DVOA against TEs in the regular season. Uzomah is expected to be the least popular starting TE on the slate, making him the best option in GPPs. Drew Sample ran a route on 11% of Burrow’s drop backs in the Divisional Round and 22% in the Wild Card Round; he is viable only as a single-game dart throw.
I’m normally keen on targeting fantasy DSTs against Burrow, who led the league in sacks taken during the regular season and took 11 more in two postseason games, but the Chiefs DST is projected to be the most highly rostered DST, by far, so I’m fading them. The Bengals are an intriguing pivot if not going with one of the DSTs in Rams-49ers, as the Chiefs offense has nine games with multiple turnovers this season. The Bengals are expected to be on just 10-20% of rosters this weekend.
- Cash Plays: QB Patrick Mahomes, RB Joe Mixon, WR Tyler Boyd
- GPP Plays: QB Joe Burrow, RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, WR Tyreek Hill, WR Ja’Marr Chase, WR Tee Higgins, WR Byron Pringle, WR Mecole Hardman, WR Demarcus Robinson, TE Travis Kelce, TE C.J. Uzomah, DST Cincinnati Bengals
- QB Patrick Mahomes $7,400 vs. CIN
- RB Joe Mixon $6,800 at KC
- RB Elijah Mitchell $5,900 at LAR
- WR Cooper Kupp $8,800 vs. SF
- WR Tyler Boyd $4,200 at KC
- WR Van Jefferson $3,900 vs. SF
- TE George Kittle $5,000 at LAR
- FLEX Cam Akers $5,000 vs. SF
- DST San Francisco 49ers $2,800 at LAR
- QB Patrick Mahomes $8,800 vs. CIN
- RB Joe Mixon $8,200 at KC
- RB Elijah Mitchell $7,000 at LAR
- WR Cooper Kupp $9,700 vs. SF
- WR Van Jefferson $5,200 vs. SF
- WR Jauan Jennings $4,900 at LAR
- TE George Kittle $5,800 at LAR
- FLEX Cam Akers $6,200 vs. SF
- DST San Francisco 49ers $4,200 at LAR
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