NFL Picks Conference Championship Round (2021 regular season)
NFL PICKS (CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND)
BY PROFESSOR MJ
Written Wednesday January 26th, 2021 at 11 AM Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed)
What an incredible weekend we had last week, where all four games came down to the final play. I’m sorry for those of you who have a heart condition because those games were certainly not good for your health, but boy, were they entertaining to watch!
It’s now time to focus on the Conference Championship Round before the big game finally comes to us. For many years, the Super Bowl has been the most lucrative day for me, thanks to the incredibly high number of proposition bets that are being offered to us.
Every year, I spend between 50 and 100 hours tracking lines from various online sportsbooks in my special Excel spreadsheet that calculates a fair line for each prop bet, and tells me where the nice bargains are. Last year, I found 34 good value wagers and those plays combined for a 24-10 record that translated into an 18.32-unit gain. See all detailed bets here.
That means that if you had risked $100 on each play, you would have earned a net profit of $1832. And that was despite not being able to find more good bets on Saturday and Sunday since I had an appendicitis after getting hit by COVID-19 last year. I am pretty sure I would have found at least 10 more.
The year before, my long-time followers will remember how I traveled to Las Vegas and made a series of videos showing my quest to finding good Super Bowl prop bets in sin city. I ended up bringing back home $8330 USD of profit.
I often mention that if someone wanted to buy just one or two things from me during a whole year, I would strongly recommend grabbing the following two special packages:
- My Super Bowl prop bets;
- My NFL win totals before each season begins.
So stay tuned next week when I launch my Super Bowl prop bets package, as I hope to bring you once again at least 30 smart bets. I have already received a few emails from long-time fans who simply cannot wait to get those great betting tips.
Until then, let me unveil my NFL picks for the AFC and NFC championship games for the upcoming weekend. Enjoy the read!
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: CINCINNATI BENGALS AT KANSAS CITY (-7)
Let me reveal right off the bat my pick for this game: I am taking the Bengals to keep it close enough to cover the 7-point spread. I don’t necessarily believe they will make it to the Super Bowl, but I think the Chiefs winning by 8 points or more has less than a 50% chance of happening.
Joe Burrow was sacked nine times in Tennessee last week. His offensive line is not performing very well, so Kansas City will be tempted to blitz. However, Burrow has been outstanding against the blitz all season long.
It is nice when you can pressure the opposing QB within a few seconds of the snap, but you also need to have cornerbacks that can keep up with the wide receivers. That’s where the plan may fail for the Chiefs, as the Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd trio is much superior to the cornerbacks that will cover them. On top of that, safety Tyrann Mathieu was the victim of a concussion against the Bills, and he is at risk of missing the game.
Granted, the Chiefs offense is also very likely to score a bunch of points. It may come down to which defense plays better. My choice goes to Cincinnati, whose defense is a bit underrated. Again, I’m not saying the Bengals will pull off the upset, but I like my chances that they will either win outright, or lose by a maximum of seven points.
Cincinnati has beaten the spread the last five times they were road underdogs, and they are also 5-0 the last five occasions where they faced a team with a winning record.
The numbers are equally good on Kansas City’s side, though. In fact, they are 6-0 as home favorites and 6-1 against teams with a winning record. Something’s gotta give!
I have heard of a couple of trends that may be a source of concern for the Chiefs. After scoring 30 points or more, K.C. is 5-11 ATS. And after allowing 30+ points, which is also the case after surrendering 36 to the Bills last week, they are 1-6 ATS in the following match.
Finally, the Chiefs will be at home for the third straight week, but Cincy benefits from one additional day of rest after playing last Saturday.
So, my final decision is to grab the Cincinnati Bengals as 7-point dogs in a game that is projected to be highly entertaining.
Pick: Bengals +7
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS AT LOS ANGELES RAMS (-3.5)
I still don’t know how the 49ers managed to win in Green Bay despite the very suspicious quarterback play. Jimmy Garoppolo looked very shaky in that game, not only because of his ugly interception in the red zone, but also due to several wobbly checkdown passes that came close from being a pick-six. Over his past four outings, Jimmy G has now thrown 2 TD passes versus 6 interceptions. That’s abysmal.
On L.A.’s side, Matthew Stafford also experienced some interception issues towards the end of the regular season. Indeed, he threw 8 picks in the final four games of the season. However, he came back to his early-season form during the playoffs, as evidenced by his 4 TD passes versus 0 interception against Arizona and Tampa Bay. He also added a couple of rushing touchdowns in the postseason.
The QB comparison is one of the main reasons why I have to put my money on the Rams. The Niners have been able to get by shaky QB play recently, but they cannot win forever under such conditions.
San Francisco won both meetings this year, and even won the past six meetings between these two clubs! Total yardage during this season’s matchups has been completely in favor of the 49ers. In total, they have gained 784 yards versus 543 for the Rams. That is certainly worrisome for Rams fans.
A key aspect for this game will be whether San Francisco’s defensive line can keep its domination over the Rams’ offensive line. They were able to get pressure 21 times without blitzing that much in the two regular season meetings. The good news for L.A. is the fact that left tackle Andrew Whitworth is on track to play after missing the game in Tampa last week. That is pretty vital since his backup, Joe Noteboom, suffered a strained pec last week so they really need Whitworth on the field against Nick Bosa.
Also, there may not be any home-field advantage for Los Angeles here, as Niners fans may outnumber Rams fans. But that is not certain yet, given the ticket policy change where you cannot buy a ticket if your zip code is outside the greater L.A. area. It will be interesting to see which team has the most fans in the stands this Sunday.
I already told you that I am taking the Rams against the spread, even though I just mentioned some elements that favor the Niners. Let’s now present a few things that may give an edge to Los Angeles.
First, Kyle Shanahan’s squad will be on the road for the fourth straight week, which is not ideal at all. As a matter of fact, they played at Los Angeles, Dallas, Green Bay and Los Angeles again.
Secondly, the injury news are more promising for L.A. than San Francisco. I told you about Andrew Whitworth likely suiting up this Sunday, and the Rams appear to have a good chance of getting safety Taylor Rapp back on the field as well.
On the Niners’ side, you probably saw how Deebo Samuel and Trent Williams were really banged up during the Green Bay game last week. Williams was seen using crutches after the game and his status is uncertain for this week. As for the star wide receiver, Deebo has a sore knee. Both players are key components to the Niners offense and I suspect both will be on the field, but they are not 100% and could end up not finishing the game against the Rams.
So, in the end, I am taking the Rams laying 3.5 points at home. I do believe they will finally solve the puzzle and snap their six-game losing skid against San Francisco. Playing on the road for the fourth consecutive week, having their most dangerous playmaker banged up and the bad QB play will finally catch up for the 49ers.
Pick: Rams -3.5
Thank you for reading these NFL predictions and I’ll see you again next week to discuss the 56th Super Bowl that will take place at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles!
(Sports Betting Expert / University Professor / PhD in statistics)