NFL Conference Championship Best Bets

Kansas City (+4.5) vs. Baltimore

A Kansas City offense that seemed to be falling asleep at the wheel for most of the season is finally waking up in the NFL playoffs. Patrick Mahomes, the quarterback who was not as sharp while dealing with a variety of problems around him, is playing with more of an edge.

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The Chiefs totaled 409 yards and 26 points in the wild-card round against Miami before finishing with 361 yards (7.7 per play) and 27 points in the divisional round at Buffalo. Mahomes passed for a combined 477 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions and no sacks.

However, in today’s AFC title game, Mahomes and the Chiefs will be facing a Ravens defense that’s a different animal. Baltimore is a beast compared to the injury-riddled and weaker defenses the Dolphins and Bills put on the field. The step up in competition is significant, so Kansas City has been faded in the betting market all week.

But the Ravens will need to step it up, too, because they are not facing a rookie quarterback and a Cinderella opponent that’s just happy to be here. Baltimore did not prove a lot by taking out the Houston Texans last week in a game that was tied at halftime.

It’s important that the Chiefs have Isiah Pacheco healthy and running like a battering ram, as he did in the first two rounds. Pacheco carried the ball a total of 36 times for 186 yards, while Kansas City averaged 146.5 yards on the ground, but the Ravens are far more difficult to run against. On the flip side, the Chiefs’ run defense has some holes, and Lamar Jackson is the most explosive running quarterback in the league.

The Chiefs’ concerns are obvious, which is why they are underdogs. It might feel comforting to lean on Mahomes’ 9-1-1 ATS record as a ‘dog in career, but that record is not all that relevant, considering he was beating teams well below Baltimore’s level.

Still, this stage is a new experience for Jackson. The Chiefs are playing in their sixth straight AFC title game, and that experience should count for something.

Mahomes will need to be Superman to get the road win. (My only prop play on this game is Mahmes Over 27.5 rushing yards, the number posted at Circa Sports.) The Chiefs might come up short, but I’m betting on Mahomes to do everything he can to keep this within striking distance late in the fourth quarter. I bet on Kansas City in its first two playoff wins and will stick with Mahomes again.

Conference Championship Best Bet: Chiefs +4.5

Ravens/49ers moneyline parlay (-110)

I bet this parlay last week, when the price was higher at -200, and was lucky to survive a scare with San Francisco. The 49ers also could be forced to sweat this one out, but they have all the playmakers needed to expose a Detroit defense that was shredded through the air by the Rams’ Matthew Stafford and the Buccaneers’ Baker Mayfield. While the Lions’ run is a great story, and they were helped with home-field advantage in the first two rounds, this is likely the end of the road.

It would not be surprising to me if each favorite escapes by a field goal, and this bet also serves as a hedge/middle shot on my Chiefs’ spread play.

Conference Championship Best Bets: Ravens & 49ers moneyline parlay (-110)