The Conference Championships are here, and we nearly had two battles of the top teams in each conference. However, the Tennessee Titans crashed the No. 1 vs. No. 2 seed party as the No. 6 seed in the AFC, and they did so by dominating the No. 1-seeded Ravens from start to finish. Though just one of the four games in the divisional round was decided by less than 15 points, the weekend surely was not void of drama. The Chiefs became the first team in NFL history to win a playoff game by at least 20 points after trailing by at least 20 points. They scored 41 unanswered points against the Texans, tying the Jets who also scored 41 straight in a Wild Card game against the Colts in 2002.
Both the AFC and NFC Championship games are rematches of games played in the regular season. Bettors will certainly look to those matchups for insight into how this weekend will play out. Let’s take a look at the lines for Sunday’s games, and try to get into the minds of how the bettors will wager on them.
Here is a look at the early Conference Championship lines and predicted movement (odds courtesy of FanDuel).
Sunday, January 19th – 3:05 PM EST
Tennessee Titans vs. Kansas City Chiefs (-7.5)
Predicted Movement: What can the Kansas City Chiefs do for an encore? It takes a lot of offensive firepower to turn a 24-0 deficit into a blowout. Their 24-point comeback was the fourth largest in playoff history. However, it would not be wise to fall that far behind the Tennessee Titans. If they do, they can expect more than a full dose of Derrick Henry. Henry is the first player to rush for more than 175 yards in two games in the same postseason. His 561 rushing yards in his first four career postseason games is the most all-time. In today’s age of passing offenses, the Titans have won back-to-back road games with Ryan Tannehill throwing for a combined 160 yards.
Tennessee and Kansas City met in Tennessee in Week 10, and the Titans prevailed 35-32. It was Patrick Mahomes’ first game back from the dislocated kneecap he suffered three weeks prior. Mahomes looked more than fine, throwing for 446 yards and three touchdowns. The Chiefs lost despite outgaining the Titans 530-371, as Derrick Henry had a monster day on the ground, running for 188 yards and two touchdowns.
This sets up as a typical “pros vs. joes” game. While both teams won big last week, the Chiefs did it in a more eye-popping fashion. Patrick Mahomes’ five touchdowns are likely to jump off the page more than Derrick Henry’s production. However, sharps will be enamored by the “workmanlike” performances of the Titans. In addition, sharps tend to favor underdogs in games where the teams have met before. Look for more public money on the Chiefs early in the week to drive the spread up to possibly -8 or -8.5. However, there would surely then be buyback on the Titans if the number got that high. Either way, there will never be enough support on the Titans to move this under the key number of seven.
The most movement is likely to come from the over/under. The total is already sky-high for a playoff game, but it is also exactly the same total that the Chiefs and Texans kicked off at. The fact that the Chiefs scored 51 last week and that these two teams combined for 67 points in the regular season suggests that the total could tick up some. This would likely be a case where pros and joes would be on the same side. The only way the over/under would go lower than it is now is if the forecast for Sunday called for high winds or inclement weather.
Sunday, January 19th – 6:40 PM EST
Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers (-7)
The San Francisco 49ers were the healthiest they had been on defense in quite some time against the Vikings. It showed, as they shut out Minnesota in the second half. San Francisco held Minnesota to 147 total yards and just seven first downs. Head coach Kyle Shanahan had to love the game script, as they attempted just 19 passes to 47 runs. Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers are headed back to the NFC Championship for the first time since 2016. Packers fans had to hold their breath, however, as they nearly blew a 28-10 lead. Seattle clawed back to 28-23, but Aaron Rodgers converted two third-and-longs on the last drive to seal the victory.
These two teams met in Week 12 on Sunday Night Football, where the 49ers won a laugher by 37-8. The 49ers sacked Aaron Rodgers five times and held him to 104 passing yards. The craziest thing about that statistic is that Rodgers still completed 20 passes, but he was forced to target check-down options on a lot of them against a fierce 49ers pass rush.
If the Packers had not been outscored by 13 points against the Seahawks in the second half, this spread would likely have been a tad lower. However, the Packers’ vulnerability, combined with their blowout loss in San Francisco earlier this year, makes for a big spread. The 49ers opened as 6.5 point favorites against the Vikings last week, and they were bet up to 7. However, the number never moved off the key number for the rest of the week. Given how each team looked last week, there is no chance this number goes lower than seven. The only move would be to go from -7 to -7.5 if there was enough public support on the 49ers.
As far as the over/under goes, the only direction for it to move is down. Weather should not be a factor in San Francisco. However, the 49ers have all their pieces back from a defense that ended the year second in total yards allowed. Both of these defenses ranked in the top-nine in scoring defense to end the regular season as well. On top of these statistics, sharps like to play unders in games where the teams have familiarity with one another. Look for this total to tick down slightly before kickoff.