Four NFL favorites dominated the stats and rolled to the divisional round wins this past weekend. That sets up potential shootouts in two conference championship games as the top four remaining seeds led the league in scoring this season.
The Chiefs (35.1), Rams (32.8), Saints (31.5) and Patriots (27.2) were the four highest-scoring teams. The Patriots (67.7) and Rams (66.8) ranked top three in the league in offensive plays per game this season. The Saints (63.6) and Chiefs (63.2) also ranked in the top half of the league. None of those four teams’ defenses ranked in the top 12 in total yards against or yards-per-play.
This year’s NFL Playoffs marks the sixth straight season in which no team that played on Wild Card Weekend will reach the Super Bowl.
Conference Championship Odds
(Odds updated 1/16/19)
LA Rams at New Orleans Saints (-3)
Both the Saints (31) and Rams (30) rolled up at least 30 first downs in their divisional round wins over the weekend. The Rams had 459 yards at 6.0 yards per play including 273 rushing yards in beating Dallas 30-22. The Saints struggled early and fell behind the Eagles 14-0 before getting the offense untracked to roll up 420 yards at 5.9 yards per play in a 20-14 win. The Saints (-8) were the only favorite of the four remaining teams that failed to cover the point spread in the divisional round.
The Saints beat the Rams 45-35 in Week 9 at New Orleans. The Rams closed a two-point road favorite and the over/under was bet down to close at 57. In that shootout, the Saints had 487 yards at 5.9 yards per play while the Rams racked up 483 yards at 8.2 yards per play.
The Saints’ offense was more balanced, but the Rams had to recover from a 35-17 halftime deficit and both quarterbacks Jared Goff and Drew Brees passed for more than 345 yards and at least 9.6 yards per pass play. Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp had five catches for 89 yards, but he won’t play in the NFC Championship due to a season-ending ACL injury in the Nov. 11 win over Seattle.
There was virtually no disagreement with the prices at NJ sportsbooks on Monday morning. Only Caesars and PlayMGM gave a half-point extra value to the Saints. If lines move this week, we would expect it to lower the total, given the two strong defenses playing over the stretch.
New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs (-3)
This is just the second time New England has been a playoff underdog since 2007. The Patriots have been favored in 23 of their last 24 postseason games overall. New England lost at Denver in the 2014 AFC Championship 26-16 as a 5-point underdog. The Broncos had league MVP Peyton Manning at quarterback that season, and now the Chiefs have this year’s MVP in QB Patrick Mahomes.
According to Bet Labs data, teams averaging at least 30 points per game (KC) playing a team averaging less than 30 points per game (NE) are 15-22 ATS since 2003. However, the Chiefs won and covered in that role this past weekend in their 30-13 win over the Indianapolis Colts.
The Patriots are 0-3 in road playoff games since the 2007 AFC Championship game, losing all three times against QB Peyton Manning.
The Patriots beat the Chiefs 43-40 on a last-second field goal in Week 6 in Foxboro. New England was a 3.5-point favorite with closing over/under of 59.5. Kansas City had 446 yards total offense at 8.4 yards per play. The Chiefs only had possession of the ball for 23:51 and ran 53 plays. The Patriots rolled up 500 yards offense at 6.7 yards per play. New England ran 75 plays in 36:09 minutes of possession time. The NFL average this season was between 5.5 and 5.6 yards per play.
The weather is worth monitoring as game day nears in Kansas City. A winter storm is in the forecast with a 70 percent chance of snow and rain on Sunday.
The line on this game is the same across the board. The value comes in the total. For example, DraftKings, PlaySugarHouse and 888Sport offered a half-point extra value to the under on Monday, while William Hill offered a full point.
The two conference championship game winners will advance to Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. A record over/under will be set at the dome with a posted total in the 60s. The 2017 Super Bowl had a record over/under closing at 57.5 in the Patriots 34-28 overtime win over the Falcons.