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Red Zone Returns – Conference Championships

With only two games to search through in the NFL this week, we’ve got two lines and two props for the conference championships.

Mahomes The Underdog

On one side, you’ve got arguably the best team in the NFL this season.

“They’re 1st in total DVOA, 4th in Offensive DVOA and 1st in Defensive DVOA.” Conference Championship Preview

They dominated their Divisional Round match to win 34-10 and are playing with the Most Valuable Player in the league under centre. Playing at home, this teams is -3.5 favourites to make it to Super Bowl LVIII.

On the other hand, you’ve got one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He’s playing in his sixth consecutive conference championship game in this one. To paint a picture of his dominance, he has been an underdog only 11 times throughout his career. He has covered the spread in nine of those games.

Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens v Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs is one most people will wrestle with all week.

Do you trust Baltimore’s form and dominance on both sides of the ball?

Or do you put more value in the +3.5 for an underdog who routinely covers whenever he’s given the head start?

We faded Mahomes and the Chiefs to no avail last week. In the end, they looked like Super Bowl LVIII contenders. Sure, they’ve struggled all season and never really looked like snapping out of the funk. But, in hindsight, is anybody really surprised Mahomes found a way to win?

The Ravens deserve to be favourites and should get the job done at home. However, the +3.5 appeals. The backdoor is always open when Mahomes comes knocking as an underdog.

Best Bet KANSAS CITY CHIEFS +3.5 @ $1.94*

You Can’t Turn Tucker Away

There is no better field goal kicker in NFL history than Justin Tucker. If he runs out onto the field, he heads back to the sideline with points. His boot isn’t the factor we need to consider here.

Instead, it’s the Chiefs’ defence.

Kansas City ranks 7th in Defensive DVOA and is considered the best of the Mahomes era. It’s the side of the ball that has kept them relevant this season and allowed the Chiefs to make it this far. Most notable is their red zone defence. As the offence has struggled, the defence has ranked 8th in the red zone, giving up a touchdown on only 50% of their opponent’s visits.

If the Chiefs can turn the Ravens offence away twice, and it looks likely, Tucker needs only to kick two field goals and two extra points to tick Over the 7.5.

Best Bet JUSTIN TUCKER - OVER 7.5 KICKING POINTS @ $1.89*

Niners Ending Lions Dream

The San Francisco 49ers are relatively big favourites and deserve to be heading into this one against the Detroit Lions.

Like the injury-riddled three-game losing streak in the middle of the NFL season, there has been an overreaction to one poor game last week. There are a few reasons the 49ers struggled against the Packers. We could point to being a little bit rusty given a large chunk of the squad hadn’t played since Week 17. Returning to play in ugly conditions didn’t make things any easier. A bad game from their quarterback slowed things down further.

With all that in mind, it’s worth considering what is more likely: The 49ers fluked their way through the regular season and one bad game is enough to question their status as Super Bowl LVIII contenders, or they still managed to win while playing poorly and will bounce back here.

We’ve seen this group dominate for most of the season. While far from his best last week, Brock Purdy came up with the goods when it mattered and is unlikely to be that bad again in the conference championship.

The San Francisco offence can be trusted. Their defence among the best in the NFL and has been all season. While Detroit will be able to hang in there with the ball for periods, the defence isn’t quite so reliable.

Detroit has done a superb job of making it this far following years of disappointment. However, they’re up against a juggernaut here. This is a 49ers team ready to win right now and they should get the job done relatively comfortably.

Best Bet SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS -6.5 @ $1.90*

Brandon To Benefit

Deebo Samuel is under an injury cloud heading into this one. Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers aren’t giving away too much at the time or writing, but Samuel is expected to play.

Whether he does or not, Brandon Aiyuk shapes as a beneficiary of this uncertainty.

If Samuel isn’t available, it’s one less target for Brock Purdy to work through. Aiyuk has seven touchdowns already this season and will look good for an eighth as a primary red zone target.

If Samuel does play, his injury adds some doubt around his ability as a catcher. He will struggle to lift his arm above his head with a shoulder injury. While still effective as a rusher, Samuel might not see the same number of targets as a receiver if his shoulder isn’t up to scratch.

The Lions are a much better team defending the rush than they are the pass, too. Ranked 2nd in rushing yards allowed and 27th in passing yards allowed, it’s likely that the 49ers will lean on the passing game a bit more than usual. Again, Aiyuk is in a good position to dominate with or without Samuel.

Wide receivers have had plenty of success against the Lions of late. Mike Evans (147 yards), Puka Nacua (181 yards), Justin Jefferson (192 yards & 141 yards) and CeeDee Lamb (227 yards) have all dominated. Expect Aiyuk to be the next.

Best Bet BRANDON AIYUK ANYTIME TOUCHDOWN SCORER @ $2*

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