Conference Championship NFL Betting Picks: Game and Team Totals
Sunday is going to be a lot of fun. We're going to be treated to some of the best football that we've watched all season long, and a Super Bowl berth awaits the winner of each game. Our first game takes place in football's cathedral and features two of the best five quarterbacks who've ever played this game. The second game features the defending Super Bowl champs, who are 24-1 in their last 25 meaningful games, (yes, I'm throwing out Week 17 against the Chargers) playing host to this year's upstart and analytical darlings of the league.
It doesn't get better than that.
From a betting standpoint, it gets a lot better than this. There's no value left on the board, no meat left on the bone for us to exploit. These lines were bet into so heavily as the games posted last Sunday evening, and the markets have held, barely fluctuating at all during the week. Unless you have a great feel for this week or your fandom leads you a certain way, a lighter card is probably a smart way to approach things.
I'm 43-37-1 here on the season, careening off the road as the season winds down, but I'll attempt to regain control of the wheel here to finish strong.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Green Bay Packers - Over 51.5 (DraftKings Sportsbook)
This total has moved to 52 at most books, but DraftKings is holding at 51.5 despite pricing the team totals for a combined 52 points.
Tom Brady has surprised even the most passionate TB12 supporters this season, myself included. He's the only quarterback who's top-five in both average depth of target (aDOT) and quickest time to throw. Combining those two data points, he leads the league with an 8.7 aDOT on passes thrown in less than 3.5 seconds, according to Football Outsiders' tracking metrics. A strong aDOT differs from the dink-and-dunk offense that he led in New England the past few seasons, which likely had more to do with personnel than Brady's reported demise.
The teams that have given Brady and the Bucs trouble this season (New Orleans, Chicago, and Los Angeles Rams) did so because they were able to generate pressure quickly, something that the Packers struggle to do. On the season Green Bay ranked 23rd in pressure rate, and just 26th in pressure rate within 3.5 seconds of the snap. The Buccaneers have increased the amount of 12 personnel of late, and with Antonio Brown out, I expect we'll see even more of these two tight end formations from Tampa Bay. This formation allows them to be more multiple at the line of scrimmage because both Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate are strong run blockers and pass catchers, creating mismatches against Green Bay's nickel-heavy preferences.
Green Bay has the league's top offense, leading the league in EPA per play, EPA per dropback, DVOA, success rate, and points per drive. They check all the boxes. I think they'll struggle to run the ball compared to the success that they saw last week against the Rams, but Tampa has no answer for Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, who was not fully healthy for the first matchup back in Week 6.
This feels like a 31-27 game, and I can be sold on either team ending up on top.
Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs - 54
I don't have much conviction here, so I'm going to spare you a pick. I think my lean here is a Bills team total over (25.5) since I believe they're very much live to win this game outright.