It's been a long NFL season but here we are in Conference Championship week with just three games left to watch and bet on.
There are no more Cinderella stories left in the playoffs with the final four teams being four of the best teams the league had all season long. The Baltimore Ravens will host the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship and then the San Francisco 49ers will host the Detroit Lions in the NFC Championship.
Just like the Wild Card Round, we split the Divisional Round going 2-2 with my bets. That brings my playoff record to 5-5 for -0.14 units. Let's see if we can't go 3-0 in the final three games.
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NFL Conference Championship Best Bets
Chiefs vs. Ravens prediction
I begrudgingly took the Chiefs in the Divisional Round, and I'm happy I did, but this time I have to go against them and lay the points with the Ravens. If styles make fights, then the Ravens are the obvious bet in the AFC Championship.
The biggest weakness for the Chiefs' defense is their inability to stop the run. The Chiefs rank 25th in opponent yards per carry, giving up 4.5 yards per rush. They also gave up 4.7 yards per carry to the Bills last week. If you look at some more advanced metrics, they're 28th in opponent EPA per rush and 15th in opponent rush success rate.
That's bad news for them this week considering no team runs the football more than the Ravens and few teams run the ball better. They average 5.0 yards per carry and come in at third in both rush EPA and rush success rate.
On the other side of the ball, the Ravens enter with arguably the best pass defense in the league, allowing just 5.2 yards per pass attempt, the best mark in the NFL.
The Ravens also currently boast the second best red zone defense in the NFL, allowing teams to score a touchdown on only 40.82% of red zone trips against them. That could be the difference maker in this game as the Chiefs red zone difference has been a sore spot for them this season, coming in at 19th in red zone touchdown percentage.
I'll lay the points with the Ravens and do the unthinkable by betting against Patrick Mahomes as an underdog.
Pick: Ravens -3.5 (+100)
Lions vs. 49ers prediction
I'm cheering for the Lions in this game. It's the best story left in the NFL Playoffs and you have to be happy for Detroit fans. Unfortunately, I have to bet with my brain and not my heart.
I still believe the 49ers are the best team in the NFL and a lot of metrics would back that up. They lead the league in Net Yards per Play at +1.6 and now they get to host a Lions team that has struggled on the road all season. Detroit has a Net Yards per Play of +0.6 when playing at home, but that drops down to -0.3 on the road.
Their offense averages a half yard per play less when playing away from Ford Field.
Then there's the Lions' defense, which is one of the worst in the NFL. The team allowed the Rams to gain 7.7 yards against them in the Wild Card Round and then allowed the Buccaneers to average 6.8 yards per play against them in the Divisional Round. Allowing your opponent to outgain you by that much is unsustainable, especially now that you have to face the best offense in the NFL.
The 49ers lead the NFL in yards per play, EPA per play, and success rate. They're going to feed on this Lions defense. In order to keep pace, Detroit's offense may need to score on every possession, and I don't think they can do that on the road.
With the line getting below the magic number of 7.0, I'll lay the points with San Francisco.
Pick: 49ers -6.5 (-115)
Odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.
You can check out all of Iain's bets here!