NFL Playoffs Live Betting: How We’re Live Betting the Conference Championship Games

NFL Playoffs Live Betting: How We’re Live Betting the Conference Championship Games article feature image

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: Patrick Mahomes (center) looking to throw in the second quarter against the Bengals in the AFC Championship.

The NFL is deciding the conference champions this weekend, as the Philadelphia Eagles took care of business against the depleted San Francisco 49ers. Now, it's time for the Kansas City Chiefs to host the Cincinnati Bengals.

Today is a tricky spot for live betting, as both games were within three points on the spread. That means we'll have a hard time predicting the likeliest game flow, so we need to be quick on our feet with any potential live spots.

Still, we do have a robust data set on both teams based on a full season's worth of games. We should feel fairly confident about how they'll approach different scenarios should they arise.

Here's what we're looking for on our live bets.

The Live Bets to Watch For in the Conference Championship

Chiefs-Bengals: Unders With a Big Lead Either Way, Overs in a Close Game (LIVE BETS MADE)

This was one of the toughest live betting spots of the year. Kansas City's pace is within half a second in all scoreboard scenarios, only speeding up or slowing down slightly regardless of the game flow.

Cincinnati shows a bit more variability, but the only notable situation is that they don't speed up much when playing from behind. Truthfully, this was a game we'd shy away from during the regular season with a full slate of games on tap.

On the other hand, this was a case where we could try to catch sportsbooks "over adjusting" based on game flow. Both teams rank in the top-12 in pace during close games (those within seven points either way), creating an opportunity for the over.

However, the number we were getting was considerably more important than the scoreboard here. The total was 48 heading into the game, and after Kansas City's first possession of the second half, we got our moment.

The Bengals had fairly solid field position here. If they score, the Chiefs are going to want to take a two-score lead again before they feel comfortable. To me, this is still a close game. So we'll take the live over on 42.5.

To help make sense of the AFC championship game, I also joined Dr. Nick live at halftime for the penultimate episode of "Bet What Happens Live" of the season:

On the show, we decided to take under 25.5 receiving yards for Jerrick McKinnon, a number we would have been OK with down to 24.5.

The Live Bet We Made Earlier on the NFC Championship Game

Eagles-49ers: Overs in a Close Game, Unders if Eagles Lead (LIVE BET MADE)

All four teams playing this weekend have played slower in the second halves of games. However, that doesn't really tell us much. Given that they're (in theory at least) the four best teams in football, it stands to reason that they've spent the bulk of their second halves with leads.

Indeed, all four teams rank in the top five in time of possession when playing with a lead.

However, the Eagles still exhibit extreme splits based on both which half they're in and the score of the game. They play at the league's fastest pace when games are within seven and the fastest pace in the first half.

San Francisco plays considerably slower overall, but their fastest scoreboard split by ranking is close games. Therefore, a tight game — especially one that starts low-scoring — would have seemed to be a clear over situation. Ideally, the total would come down from the pregame 45.5. But with Brock Purdy injured and out of the game, we're probably not looking at overs anytime soon.

If the favored Eagles controlled this one, it was another ideal spot for the bet we've been targeting all year. The 49ers don't pick things up much when trailing (28th in pace of play down seven or more), and the Eagles consistently take the air out of the ball.

While we weren't expecting the Eagles to dominate here, if they were able to get a few quick scores and drive the total up, we were willing to pounce early. The dream spot was a total that breaks 50, but as always, we were set to play it by ear — especially with Purdy out and it unclear how sportsbooks might account for that in the live lines.

The Eagles scored toward the end of the first half to go up 13. With the total moving to 48.5 — over the crucial "three more touchdowns" threshold — we'll be pulling the trigger on the live under (-110).

The Josh Johnson-led 49ers offense has been abysmal, with only seven points despite a ton of solid field position. On the other side of the ball, the Eagles have as many first downs from penalties (four) as they do passing. That's unlikely to be repeated in the second half — which has the 49ers poor offense starting with the ball.

How We Approach Live Betting in General

The NFL is perfect for live betting, with the pauses between plays providing plenty of time to get bets in. This season, I’ve built a model to project the pace of play under a variety of in-game scenarios. These include first vs. second half, as well as which team is leading or when the game is within a touchdown.

The primary benefit is for betting totals. If the game is going to be faster or slower than was assumed pregame, the application is obvious. Faster-paced games tend to produce more points.

Player props also present some interesting opportunities. Sportsbooks are offering a variety of live player props, and faster or slower than expected games create obvious opportunities.

Take a look around various books before placing bets, though. There tends to be more variation between shops in live markets than there is pregame.

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