Not many days out of the 365 we are given each trip around the sun can match the excitement of Championship Sunday.
You know what makes them even more exciting? Adding to our winnings. So let’s stay focused on that and cherish the day.
Overall Record*: 43-32-1, +12.42 units
*Each over/under graded to win 2 units; everything else for 1 unit. Playoffs are half
For the fourth straight season, Patrick Mahomes has guided the Chiefs to the AFC title game. Considering this streak began when he first became the starting quarterback in Kansas City, it’s time to realize Mahomes is generational.
I recognized it awhile ago simply from the gaudy numbers and leadership the former first-round draft pick would display immediately upon his arrival in the league. But what really separates Mahomes from the rest of his generation is how unstoppable he becomes this time of year.
Look at these video-game-like numbers when the football calendar flips to the playoffs: 107.2 passer rating, 3,106 yards, 25 touchdown passes and just five interceptions while completing 66.2 percent of his throws. This would be an excellent regular season for most QBs through time — yet that was in 10 games.
And this is the postseason, where legacies are etched. At this rate, Mahomes genuinely could supplant Tom Brady as the universally-considered best QB ever. He’s already in the process of potentially taking over Brady’s record of consecutive Conference Championship appearances.
Given the time of year and where this particular bout will be emanating from, how could you anticipate a non-crooked tally on the scoreboard from the Chiefs?
Not only is KC averaging a mesmerizing 33.2 points per game in the playoffs with Mahomes behind center, they also regularly light up opposing defenses just whenever playing at Arrowhead. In fact, in 38 career games (including postseason) in front of Chiefs faithful, Mahomes has led his squad to 31.1 points on average.
Eight of those home games took place in the playoffs and, remarkably, only once did the Chiefs not top 30 points scored (and that one contest saw Mahomes play barely more than the first half). With how Mahomes is in his usual rhythm right now, based on how hot he’s been running the last two months, we have to surmise 30 points is about the floor for Kansas City.
But what about the Bengals? Going two-for-two cashing unders in their pair of playoff contests up to this point, one might figure they’ve been more defensive.
While the D has been solid, the offense continues to pace Cincy, as Joe Burrow continues to solidify his standing as one of the best young quarterbacks in recent memory. At least if how the second-year sensation has looked the whole campaign is any indication. More likely than not, it is.
Burrow was so good this season that his 108.3 passer rating beat every QB1 except Aaron Rodgers (111.9). To put into perspective how terrific the LSU product was, that’s nearly 10 points higher than what Mahomes ended up with.
There should be no question Burrow wields one of the better supporting casts around him. Joe Mixon has long been an underrated tailback and the WR trio of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd ranks up there among the best.
This combination has translated to success right away, with the Bengals being tied for seventh in points scored each week (27.1) this season. They put up 34 on the Chiefs a handful of weeks ago.
A final total into the 30’s isn’t even needed from Cincinnati. That’s what we’re anticipating from the other side, and so long as the Bengals prove to be a quality enough dance partner while KC is applying their usual mastery on offense, this game will carry enough to go over.
Lastly, let’s appreciate that the weather won’t be of the usual harsh variety when NFL football typically takes place in Kansas City at this juncture. Temperatures are expected to hover above 40 degrees.
Like in an early-season Arrowhead Stadium affair where I stressed how important this number is (and got a push instead of a loss out of it) in over/unders, I’m buying a half point to have 54 and highly recommend that you do the same. Pick: OVER 54 (-120)
Normally, when a division rivalry sees one team sweep both regular season matchups, taking the other team in a third encounter during the playoffs isn’t the wisest choice.
There can be an exception here, however, with how dominant the Rams have been en route to reaching this point. First, they trampled Kyler Murray all evening in the first-ever Monday Night Football playoff game, before last week taking down Tom Brady in perhaps his final ever NFL action.
San Francisco has traveled an intriguing road as well, beating two conference heavyweights (Cowboys, Packers) in their own right, despite a quarterback playing below mediocre now.
Granted, it’s only been two ball games, but the numbers are still telling when weighing how Jimmy Garoppolo injured the thumb on his throwing hand only a few weeks ago to the point where he’s going to need surgery in the offseason. So, that means he’s playing at considerably less than 100 percent — a tough task for anyone about to square off with the dangerous Rams D.
In his prior two performances this postseason, Garoppolo barely reached 300 passing yards collectively and registered fewer than seven yards per attempt. Given his condition at the moment, I don’t think he’ll stray far from that output, indicating LA imposing its will.
Matthew Stafford, meanwhile, is just showcasing what the world has been missing out on all those years he was on the sidelines come playoff time. He’s managed 10.3 yards per pass attempt en route to connecting on four touchdown passes compared to zero interceptions. Altogether, he has a 131.5 (!) passer rating
Evidently, we are indeed witnessing long-awaited greatness and I’m willing to bet on that when all he has to do is cover a minuscule spread. The x-factor for me in helping enable this run is Odell Beckham Jr.
The 29-year-old is finally — like his quarterback — getting the chance to shine brightest on the sport’s biggest stage and he’s predictably been making the most of it. Cooper Kupp may be drawing the most attention but that only makes Beckham’s presence more fatal for the opposition.
Join me in entrusting that the Rams can keep moving the ball at their pleasure. Garoppolo at less than full health contributes to a ceiling that can’t top LA. I also strongly suggest buying the hook. Pick: RAMS -3 (-130)
Teasers are toughest when working with the fewest games. We’ll proceed with one on Championship Sunday nevertheless.
First, let’s just shoot for a straight-up Chiefs victory, backing an (already) all-time great QB in his most comfortable setting: Arrowhead Stadium in January.
The tendencies suggest another explosive performance from KC today. Can the Bengals keep up? I don’t think they can.
Yes, Cincinnati did beat them in their regular season meeting earlier this month but there’s a significant difference compared to playoff action. As special as Burrow has looked already, I sense this being more of a learning experience for the 2020 No. 1 overall draft pick. Plus, Mahomes always rolls in these showings, hence why he’s 8-2 in the postseason.
For the second half of Championship Sunday, we’ll look to the total rather than the spread. With an extra touchdown (and extra point) being added, that under in 49ers-Rams looks deliciously tempting.
Though LA boasts one of the most complete offenses in pro football, they’re about to tangle with a premier defense that just continues to excel — and one that’s done a nice job opposite Matthew Stafford. The Niners limited the former Detroit Lion to a measly 78.9 passer rating, easily his lowest mark against any of the fellow NFC West residents this year.
Obviously, the Rams bring an outstanding defensive unit as well. Put them up against anyone and you’ll always like their outlook. Put them against an offense who’s starting QB is playing hurt and that enhances their odds of a good outing.
Attached to a total of 53, the Rams just need to prevent any sort of scoring outburst. Knowing that Jimmy G is still playing with an injured thumb on his throwing hand, that looks like a good bet. Garoppolo didn’t fare well in either round.
As already emphasized in our best over/under bet of the week, there’s going to be a healthy amount of scoring taking place in Chiefs Kingdom today. No matter who wins, we can predict the type of action.
If Cincinnati emerges victorious and pulls off the monumental upset, well, it would require a monumental performance from their starting signal-caller. If KC wins, which seems more likely, that points to Burrow and Co. having to play catch up.
Either way, there’s plenty of meaningful data to suggest why we can look to the Bengals to go to the air often today. The evidence that sticks out most to me is the fact that in the nine games this year the Bengals yielded more than 20 points, Burrow averaged 36.7 passing attempts.
Factoring in Kansas City’s incredible knack for scoring with ease at home and in the playoffs, you have to think they’re guaranteed to surpass that relatively low output of 20 points. So, no matter the outcome, we know Burrow’s lowest possible amount of throws. He’ll top that. Pick: OVER 37.5 Pass Attempts (-114)