We’re down to pro football’s Final Four.
How can the trends and injury reports help us for this week’s Conference Championship NFL picks?
We had a feeling those Divisional Round betting trends were a bit sketchy.
That whole thing about home teams covering on Saturday and road teams on Sunday? They split the cash 1-1 ATS last week.
And the Philadelphia Eagles didn’t let their 2-7 ATS playoff slump versus NFC East teams stop them from whipping the New York Giants (+8 away) 38-7.
As for the injury report, the Cincinnati Bengals (+5.5 away) had little trouble putting away the Buffalo Bills 27-10 despite the absence of LT Jonah Williams (knee) and RG Alex Cappa (ankle), and despite the return of Bills WR Isaiah McKenzie (hamstring). Well played, Cincinnati.
This week’s injury news has already shaken up the NFL odds for Sunday’s Conference Championships, so let’s see what the latest word is from sick bay and whether the betting trends have something more useful to tell us this time around.
Mahomes Puts in Full Practice
This is the story of the week, and the latest update at press time will be good news to Kansas City fans: QB Patrick Mahomes (high-ankle sprain) practiced in full Wednesday. “Ready to go,” Mahomes told reporters, as he prepares to take on the Bengals this Sunday night.
Bettors aren’t so sure.
They moved Cincinnati from +1 at the open to –1 on the NFL lines at Bovada Sportsbook (visit our Bovada Review); the consensus reports at BMR’s top-rated sportsbooks show 83% of early bettors pounding the Bengals.
But we are seeing some clawback since the update on Mahomes, making Sunday’s AFC title game a pick ‘em at other locations.
No Practice for Williams and Cappa
Let’s stick with this game while we’re at it because the news from Wednesday’s practices wasn’t as good on the Cincinnati front. Both Williams and Cappa were kept off the field, and are considered day-to-day at this point. Aren’t we all?
“Every day that passes makes it probably a little more difficult, but we’ll see,” head coach Zac Taylor told reporters when asked about the status of Williams and Cappa – two of his best offensive linemen.
The Bengals, who also lost RT La’el Collins to a torn ACL in Week 17, actually did remarkably well against Buffalo’s front seven with a makeshift line including reserves Jackson Carman and Max Scharping.
Kansas City’s defense isn’t nearly as good, but the Bills did have a specific weakness with run blocking at the second and third levels that RB Joe Mixon (105 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries) took full advantage of.
Maybe those express lanes won’t be so wide-open for Mixon this Sunday.
It’s Underdog Season
Now we get to the good stuff, trend-wise. The NFL Conference Championships are when recreational bettors really start pouring into the marketplace, and they sure do love betting favorites – enough so that the underdog is 5-5 SU and 7-3 ATS over the past 10 games.
This is a spot where underdogs used to suffer; they went 44-57-1 ATS in the previous Conference Title games during the Super Bowl Era. But the tide has definitely turned, and we can thank the mainstreaming of NFL betting for that.
Does it really matter this year, though? These four teams are all pretty much at the same level, with San Francisco the biggest dog in the yard at +2.5. That’s like being the world’s tallest small person.
NFC Goes Over
There are some compelling trends that suggest Sunday’s NFC title game might go Over the posted total of 46.5 at Bookmaker.
The Over is 14-5-2 in these games dating back to 2002, and 12-2 in the last 14 games with a total of at least 46 points.
Sunday’s total did open at 45, but the trend in question deals with the closing NFL lines, and there’s 71% consensus on the Over as we go to press, so maybe the sharps are taking recent history into account.
Full disclosure: We didn’t recommend either side of 45.5 in our NFC Conference Championship preview.
McCaffrey Misses Practice
Let’s put a bow on this by updating you on the Niners and the absence of running backs Christian McCaffrey (bruised calf) and Elijah Mitchell (groin) from Wednesday’s practice session.
Both are expected to play Sunday, as are WR Deebo Samuel (ankle) and LT Trent Williams (rest).
DE Charles Omenihu will also reportedly play for San Fran despite getting arrested Monday on suspicion of misdemeanor domestic violence, having allegedly pushed his girlfriend to the ground while they were arguing.
Interesting how these things get brushed aside this deep into the postseason.
Bet accordingly, and may the prolate spheroid be with you.
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.