Last weekend’s divisional round of the NFL playoffs made for riveting viewing, but I’m still struggling to grasp some of what we witnessed.
How did the Titans sack Joe Burrow nine times, put the clamps on the Bengals’ running game, and still lose?
How did the Packers allow the 49ers to block two kicks?
How did the Buccaneers let Rams WR Cooper Kupp get behind their defense for a long gain in the final minute of regulation?
How did the Bills let the Chiefs drive 44 yards in 10 seconds?
I don’t have answers to these questions, but I have a greater degree of certainty about my favorite player props for Sunday’s conference championship games. Here we go …
- Last week’s bets: 4-3
- Season record: 65-47
Patrick Mahomes OVER 289.5 passing yards
Never mind that Mahomes failed to hit this number in 12 of 17 regular-season games. He’s a different cat in the postseason. In eight career playoff games at Arrowhead Stadium, Mahomes has cleared this number six times, averaging 318.8 passing yards. In playoff wins over the Steelers and Bills the last two weeks, Mahomes has averaged 391 yards. This Sunday, he’ll be facing a Bengals defense that ranks 24th in Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) metric and 18th in opponent passer rating. I feel confident backing the young maestro in this one.
Ja’Marr Chase OVER 87.5 receiving yards
Chase has gone over 100 yards in four of his last five games, and the only miss was a meaningless Week 18 contest in which he played five snaps. Chase went up against the Chiefs in Kansas City earlier this month and lit them up for 266 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He was targeted 12 times that day, and he’s seen double-digit targets in three of his last four meaningful games.
Cam Akers UNDER 59.5 rushing yards
Akers has a tough matchup this week against a 49ers defense that limited opposing RBs to 3.6 yards per carry and 76.6 rushing yards per game during the regular season. Last Saturday in Green Bay, the Niners held Packers RBs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon to 66 rushing yards total and only 31 rushing yards over the final three quarters. When the Rams and 49ers squared off in Week 18, San Francisco limited Akers and Sony Michael to 46 combined rushing yards on 26 carries. In two playoff games, Akers has averaged 2.5 yards per carry, failing to hit this number both times despite hefty carry totals. It’s fair to wonder whether the Rams might dial back Akers’ usage and mix in Michael a little more after Akers lost a pair of fumbles against the Buccaneers last week.
Elijah Mitchell OVER 70.5 rushing yards
Mitchell has averaged 23.1 carries and 91.9 rushing yards over his last seven games, with his 17 carries against the Packers last week qualifying as his lightest workload over that stretch. Mitchell has beaten this number in five of his last seven games, and he’s beaten it in both of his previous games against the Rams, with 27-91-0 rushing in Week 10 and 21-85-0 in Week 18.
Tyler Higbee UNDER 41.5 receiving yards
Strangely, the 49ers gave up six TD catches to tight ends during the regular season, and Higbee had three of them. But we’re betting a yardage prop here, not a TD prop. Higbee averaged 37.3 receiving yards a game during the regular season and 34.5 receiving yards in two games against the 49ers. The Patriots were the only team to allow fewer receiving yards to tight ends during the regular season than the 49ers. Opposing TEs averaged 34.2 receiving yards per game vs. San Francisco.
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