Conference championship NFL picks: First touchdown scorer targets

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1st TD scorer picks for the NFC, AFC Championship Games

The NFL playoffs can tend to be home of the unexpected. But not for my first-touchdown system! This season, I have been tracking who’s scored first for every team and using their success rates to determine which team to target in a matchup. I wondered if that system would continue to work in the playoffs and I was not disappointed. 

In the Wild Card Round, five of six games saw the better first-touchdown team score first, with the Bengals scoring first against the Ravens as the lone outlier, which wasn’t a huge upset percentage-wise. And, this past weekend in the Divisional Round, three games featured first-TD mismatches and all three saw the better team score first. The Cowboys and 49ers had identical records, so I couldn’t find an edge in that one unfortunately. But, I would say the system correctly predicting which team would score first in eight of nine eligible playoff games so far is nothing to scoff at. It’s especially helpful if your book offers the “which team will score first” market.

 

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It’s really a shame we only have two games this week, because I think we’d all like to feel like Cameron Craig, who last week cashed a $5 four-leg first-touchdown parlay for $72,795 featuring Travis Kelce (+600), Dallas Goedert (+1200), Ja’Marr Chase (+900) and Dalton Schultz (+1500). Well done, sir!

Here are this week’s games with their first-touchdown success rates, and who I’ll be looking at betting on come Sunday. Both matchups are very close, but the records are not identical, so let’s see if we can keep rolling with the system.

NFC Championship: 49ers (12/19) at Eagles (12/18) – Sunday, 3 PM ET

The Eagles have a very slight edge in this matchup because they’ve played one fewer game than the 49ers, but that’s fine with me because I prefer them in this one anyway. That’s mainly because San Fran has had very slow starts on offense over the past few weeks. They’ve only scored the game’s first TD in one of their last four games and they’ve only put up one first-half touchdown in the playoffs so far. I just can’t put my money behind that. Christian McCaffrey has been the team’s first scorer in their last three games if you are compelled to pick who will score first for the team.

So, who will I be on? Boston Scott. He’s got three touchdowns in his last four games. If the Eagles get within 10 yards of the end zone, he seems to be their guy. I also like DeVonta Smith. A.J. Brown is dealing with a hip injury, so I’ll be expecting Smith to be their main target. He has 100+ yards in four of their last seven games and at least eight targets in all of them. He may be skinny, but he can eat! 

AFC Championship: Bengals (12/19) at Chiefs (11/18) – Sunday, 6:30 PM ET

I’ll be focused on the Bengals in this one. Their success rate is just a teeny tiny bit better than the Chiefs, but Patrick Mahomes’ ankle injury seals the deal for me. He may prove me wrong and look just fine this week, but Kansas City only managed to find the end zone one time last week after he came back into the game and essentially played on one leg. I simply can’t bet on a question mark this big.

When these teams played in Week 13, Cincinnati struck first when Joe Burrow ran it in from four yards out. I love Joey B, but I’ll be going with all parts of their three-headed WR monster in Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Those three players are responsible for 10 of Cincy’s first scores this season. The odds are long enough to bet on all three and make a profit. 

If you feel like you want to be on a Chief as well, I’d look to the running backs, Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon. Those two players scored first for KC in five of their last seven games. Of course, Travis Kelce is an attractive option as well, but is the short-shot. Boring!

Let’s finish strong and cash a couple more first-touchdown tickets before the season ends!