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Conference Championships - Vegas Lines, Over/Under Picks & Predictions


Welcome to the NFL Conference Championships round breakdown here at RotoBaller! We had a big Divisional round last weekend, going 6-2 and will look to keep the positive momentum rolling into Sunday.

The two matchups we have in front of us aren't what most fans were hoping to see when the playoffs began, but that doesn't take away from the intrigue or change the way we need to go about handicapping the proceedings.

There are a lot of moving pieces to begin any NFL week, so I will update this article as pertinent information comes to light. Without further ado, let's jump right into this week's festivities.

Editor's Note: Get any rest-of-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive DFS Tools, Lineup Optimizer and Premium DFS Research through the Super Bowl. Sign Up Now!

 

Tennessee Titans vs. Kansas City Chiefs (-7.0): O/U 53

For the most part, I feel like I've had a relatively stable run here during the playoffs, which includes going 6-3 on my personal wagers throughout the first two weeks. However, I can't seem to get this Tennessee Titans team pinpointed correctly. I posted New England as one of my bets of the week during the Wild Card round and wrote about what I thought would be their eventual demise last weekend against Lamar Jackson and company.

Gambling is a tricky career path at times because it is all about your perception and power rating against the posted spread or total. That might not sound that complicated on the surface, but where it becomes complex is when it comes to whether or not you should adjust your numbers on a team or standpat to your initial belief.

A casual bettor will look at these situations and almost always act with the same sense of overreaction. What have you done for me lately, and what have I last seen from this squad are monikers that sometimes allow casinos to exploit the irregular bettor into trap bets that seem too good to be true. A professional gambler is more willing and able to see past the bait and switch mentality, but it doesn't mean they don't have faults of their own.

There is a possibility I am falling into the latter condition here, but I find it difficult to change where I had these two teams ranked coming into the playoffs. From a pure power rating perspective, I had the Chiefs as the best team in the NFL on a neutral field, and I don't really see a reason to change that fact. The slow start they had against the Houston Texans might have almost derailed their season, but I do believe they showed just how powerful of a system they can be during their frantic comeback last Sunday.

Recoveries of that nature generally cause one of two things to happen during their next game. We either see their full potential unlocked because they have built confidence and overcome their most significant hurdle, or we get the classic letdown spot that every team is trying to avoid at this part of the year. I think Patrick Mahomes is a different breed and has a will to win that will avoid conceding any sort of setback or disappointment, but it is something worth considering when handicapping this game.

When we look at the Titans and what they have done during the postseason, I see a team that has been given a perfect path. That doesn't mean they haven't earned that trail, but their first two contests featured an ideal game script throughout. The Patriots were unable to score a touchdown from the one-yard line that would have put them up 17-7 in the second quarter, and the Ravens fell flat on their face early. By being able to stay in the game initially, the Titans have not only been able to utilize Derrick Henry as a workhorse wrecking ball to wear out opposing defenses but also kept their unit fresh on the sidelines.

The Titans get a lot of credit yearly for their defensive capabilities, but it isn't always warranted. This year, they faced the eighth easiest schedule of passers but could only rank 23rd in the league when it came to success rate against the pass. You can't take away from them that they slowed Tom Brady and Lamar Jackson down, but how realistic were those performances? The Patriots had failed to find an identity all season on offense, and the Ravens only punted once all game, amounting to a measly 12 points - even though Jackson accounted for 508 yards of total offense.

I don't want to make it seem as if the Titans have no path to victory because they have shown they are live dogs if they take the same route that has allowed them to find success so far in the playoffs, but I can't get myself to buy into the narrative of them controlling the tempo offensively and creating enough stops defensively to enable them to find success.

Prediction: Chiefs 31 – Titans 17

Recommended Picks: Chiefs (-7.0), Under 53

A first-half under makes a lot of sense here since you would have to assume the Titans are going to try everything in the powers to avoid making this a shootout. The under for the full-game becomes a little scarier if we assume the Titans are going to have to open up the playbook at some point, but I suppose a lot of that thought process is already baked into the generous number of 53 we have been given.

 

Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers (-7.5): O/U 46.5

I continue to be a little higher on this Green Bay Packers team than most in the industry, but this is a difficult test for them to overcome. The two sides met in San Francisco in Week 12, and it was the Niners who ran away with the contest by a score of 37-8.

It is always difficult for a team to manhandle an opponent twice in a season, but when you consider the fact that San Francisco will now have back Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander on defense, as well as Joe Staley on the offensive line, well...the cards don't point favorably towards Aaron Rodgers.

All of that sounds good on paper, but things are never quite that simple. The Niners' WRs bailed out Jimmy Garoppolo last weekend against the Minnesota Vikings from having one of the worst statistical outings of all time, and he was still only able to put together a stat line of 11-for-19, throwing for 131 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

San Francisco is coming into the week off of one of their best collective team efforts of the season after holding Minnesota to seven first downs and three total points from quarters two to four, but it is important to note that Levi's Stadium doesn't carry substantial weight for their home-field advantage.

To me, this is one of those situations where sharp and square bettors alike are going to back the 49ers because it is hard to find an angle statistically that points to the dog in this spot, but I think you should be extremely careful in laying over a touchdown against Aaron Rodgers, who will have revenge on his mind for not only this season but also for San Francisco passing on him at number one overall during the 2005 draft.

If you look back historically, the best teams usually don't win the Super Bowl, and there is a weird dynamic that is coming into play here with all the outside factors, which doesn't even include the extensive relationship between these two head coaches. I think this is the perfect storm for the Packers to pull the upset and sometimes you have to dive deeper than just the numbers.

Prediction: Packers 24 – 49ers 20 

Recommended Picks: Packers (+7.5), Under 46.5

I like the under in this game because of the connection head coaches Matt LaFleur and Kyle Shanahan have with each other. They have coached under the same system three times (Texans, Redskins and Falcons), and there should be a familiarity between the two men. Both offenses have an advantage of running the football against the opposing defense, and I believe Shanahan will take a more conservative approach that doesn't allow Garoppolo to single-handily lose this game. I realize my take on the Packers is more flimsy than I generally give as a reason for an underdog having a chance to spring the upset, but it is important to note that things are never quite as simple as they seem. I'm not sure I've heard any bettor (sharp or square) take Green Bay, so maybe this is just a ship that I am going down with alone.

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