Betting the Spread: Conference Championships

by Shervon Fakhimi · Betting & Props

This is Betting the Spread: Conference Championships! If it weren’t for the Cowboys, I would’ve had a perfect week against the spread. After a 2-4 Wild Card round, a 3-1 record last week puts us at .500 heading into the conference championship games. I think the four best teams in the NFL are remaining in what should make for incredible games. Let’s see who makes it to the Super Bowl!

San Francisco 49ers vs Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5)

Over/Under: 46.5

Pick ATS: Philadelphia Eagles

When you look at these teams on paper, they’re fairly similar. Both have kick-ass offensive weapons that complement each other perfectly. Their pass rushes are tenacious. The Eagles rank No. 3 in offensive DVOA. The 49ers rank No. 6 in offensive DVOA. San Francisco is No. 1 in defensive DVOA while the Eagles are No. 6 in that department. If these teams are about the same, shouldn’t we just take the points with the 49ers?

Well, if we look under the hood a little bit, you’ll find areas that give Philadelphia the edge. Both teams are also excellent at rushing the passer. The Eagles rank No. 1 in pass rush win rate, while the 49ers are No. 5 in the category. However, the Eagles can protect better than the 49ers can. Philly ranks No. 12 in pass block win rate, while the 49ers rank No. 20. San Francisco does have an advantage running the ball. The Eagles rank No. 21 in rush defense DVOA though they have picked it up recently. Regardless, I don’t think Philadelphia would mind San Francisco running it all game with running being far less efficient than passing the ball.

Speaking of the passing game, that’s where the Eagles have a big advantage. While San Francisco’s pass offense DVOA ranks No. 3 in the NFL, the Eagles’ pass defense DVOA ranks No. 1 thanks in large part to that excellent pass rush and the cornerback play of Darius Slay and James Bradberry. San Francisco stuffs the run (No. 2 in run defense DVOA) but is a bit more susceptible to the pass than you think.

While they rank No. 5 in pass defense DVOA, they also allow the No. 11-most receiving yards per game. The 49ers rank No. 14 against the pass according to numberFire’s success rate metric as well. Jalen Hurts ranks No. 4 in True Passer Rating and QBR according to, No. 5 in EPA, No. 6 in accuracy rating, and No. 10 in True Completion Percentage. He has A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert to throw the ball to. Both of these teams are great. But Jalen Hurts is better than Brock Purdy (who has performed very well for the 49ers), the Eagles’ offensive line is better than the San Francisco’s and so is their secondary. That should be enough to get the Eagles back into the Super Bowl.

Cincinnati Bengals vs Kansas City Chiefs (-1)

Over/Under: 47.5

Pick ATS: Kansas City Chiefs

Yes, Patrick Mahomes has a high ankle sprain. He won’t be 100-percent by any means. However, I’m not going to bet against Patrick Mahomes (even though I picked Jacksonville last week and they covered. Thanks Jags!). I have reason to besides Mahomes being an alien. The first is the Bengals’ secondary is not great. They did finish No. 12 in pass defense DVOA, but they also finished No. 27 in numberFire’s adjusted fantasy points allowed metric against wide receivers and were No. 31 in DVOA against number two wide receivers.

The Chiefs weren’t much better. They ended the season No. 20 in pass defense DVOA, and the Bengals’ wide receivers are in another league compared to the Chiefs’ group of receivers. But I do think Kadarius Toney has a big game and that Mahomes, bad ankle and all, can score enough points. 

Kadarius Toney Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Toney looms as a major x-factor. Everything is small sample-size theater with Toney, but he posted a ridiculous 53.7-percent Route Win Rate according to For context, Michael Pittman Jr. ranked No. 3 among receivers with a 54.3-percent Route Win Rate. Someone will need to step up to take the pressure off Mahomes and Travis Kelce. JuJu Smith-Schuster has a tough matchup against slot corner Mike Hilton. Marquez Valdes-Scantling is just a deep threat. Skyy Moore is a separator against man coverage, but not as good as Toney, who always earns targets when he’s available. The Chiefs need to feed Toney this week.

The biggest reason why I think the Chiefs can win this game is actually on the other side of the ball. Remember how I said last week that Burrow is getting the ball out quicker, and he can work around a scotch tape offensive line? Well, he did not only do exactly that, but the Bengals’ offensive line kicked the Buffalo Bills’ ass. They deserve a ton of credit for that, but they have a tougher assignment this week. Yes, you read that right. Per Ollie Connolly from The Guardian on ‘The Mina Kimes Show featuring Lenny’ (shoutout to Mina, the best in the business), when Von Miller was healthy, the Bills ranked No. 4 in pressure rate. After his injury, the Bills ranked No. 27 in pressure rate.

Buffalo still ended up with a better pass rush win rate (No. 11) over the course of the regular season than the Chiefs (No. 15), but Miller played over half the season. The Bills’ front seven, while still talented, didn’t feature anyone near as talented as Chris Jones, who ranks No. 1 among interior defensive linemen in pass rush win rate. Jones finished with 15.5 sacks on the season, which was tied for No. 4 in the NFL. No one on the Bills had more than eight on the season.

It isn’t just Jones either. Rookie pass rusher George Karlaftis has come on strong as the season has progressed. After accumulating just 0.5 sacks in his first ten NFL games, Karlaftis has 5.5 in his last eight games. That’s an 11.6875 sack pace over 17 games. It’s worth mentioning that starting left tackle Jonah Williams and center Alex Cappa have been ruled out for this game.

This game should be a shootout. The Bengals are likely the more talented and complete team. Outside of pressuring Joe Burrow (I don’t expect the Chiefs to blitz Burrow often given the state of the Bengals’ offensive line and how much help they’ll need to slow down Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins), I’m not sure how the Chiefs will stop this offense. Mahomes is banged up, which could lead the Bengals to play more man coverage, double Kelce, and make the Chiefs’ wide receivers beat them without the threat of Mahomes’ rushing beating them. But I trust Mahomes to figure it out and Jones to bother Burrow a lot, way more than he was last week. 

I picked a Chiefs-Eagles Super Bowl in my playoff pool before this started, and I’m sticking with it. We’ll see how that looks after Sunday. Get excited for another awesome day of football!