NFL Betting: Conference Championship Preview

NFL Betting: Conference Championship Round

After a round where the underdogs ruled the weekend, the favorites came back with a vengeance in the Divisional Round. All four favorites won outright in the Divisional Round with three of them covering. That sets up a pair of conference championship games between the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, both rematches from the regular season. It should be a classy Sunday of action, so let’s take a closer look at both games and their betting odds.

Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints
Odds: Saints -3.5

This is a rematch from Week 9 when the Saints won 45-35. The game was a tail of two halves as the Rams trailed 35-17 at one point before coming all the way back, and then getting outscored 10-0 to end the game.

The main difference in the second meeting could be a couple of key injuries. In the first meeting, the Rams were without cornerback Aqib Talib and he’s a huge difference maker. Saints wideout Michael Thomas went off for 211 yards and a touchdown in that game. However, in games that Talib started this season, the Rams’ defense has the third-best opponent passer rating (74.5) and allowed just eight touchdowns versus 12 interceptions. That was the best touchdown-to-interception ratio in those contests. When he was out, the Rams allowed opposing passers to compile a 111.6 rating (third-worst).

The other key injury here is that the Saints lost Sheldon Rankins in the Divisional Round. He was in the midst of a career year, compiling eight sacks. Not only that, he’s one of the team’s chief run stuffers and the Rams enter with the league’s third-best ground game. The Rams are averaging 232.3 rushing yards over their last three games.

These two injuries could really change the course of the rematch.

New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs
Odds: Chiefs -3

For an eighth straight season, the Patriots are back in the AFC Championship Game. At this point, why expect anything else?

This game is a rematch from a Week 6 game in New England where the Patriots won 43-40. The Patriots won on a last-second field goal, but the Chiefs should feel pretty good about their chances in the rematch.

For starters, they made a slew of mistakes in the first showdown, turning the ball over twice and taking five penalties for 58 yards (Patriots took none). And the Chiefs were just 2-for-5 in the red zone, while the Patriots were 4-for-6.

Secondly, the Chiefs are at home in this game and their defense plays much better at Arrowhead Stadium. As maligned as they were, the Chiefs defense coughed up 34.6 points per game on the road, but just 17.4 at home. The Patriots were similar, allowing just 17.9 at home compared to 24.0 on the road.

New England – as a team – was much weaker away from home. They are a perfect 9-0 at home this season and just 3-5 in away games. While they were a +105 in point differential at home, they were a -19 on the road.

But do you really want to bet against Tom Brady in the playoffs, with Bill Belichick on the sidelines, playing in the cold (snow storm is expected)?