Las Vegas Expert Picks: NFL Conference Championship Sunday
Vegas veteran Benjamin Eckstein, author of America’s Line, brings three decades of experience to make weekly picks in his “Ecks & Bacon” column
LAS VEGAS — Championship Sunday on tap and we’re ready to get out the broom and sweep BOTH selections into the win column. Let’s ROCK!!!
AFC Championship Game Pick
Start with the Titans +7 points over the Chiefs. And you tell me what’s gonna change? We looked back at this matchup in Week 10 when Tennessee rumbled past Kansas City in Nashville 35-32. Patrick Mahomes put up his usual numbers, 36 of 50 for 446 yards and three TDs. On the other side, keeping with their run-first philosophy, Ryan Tannehill hit on 13 of 19 for just 181 yards and two TDs.
But the GIGANTIC number, the number that POPS and hits you right in the face is Derrick Henry’s 188 yards on the ground. Has K.C. suddenly become a team that can stop the run? Can ANYONE stop Henry? C’MON, the guy is a Marvel comic book SUPERHERO! He gobbled up 182 yards against the No. 2 defense in the NFL, New England, then roughed up the No. 3 D, Baltimore, for 195 yards.
Kansas City checked in with the No. 12 defense overall, and No. 26, yes, TWENTY-SIXTH against the run. Just sayin’. If Bill Belichick and John Harbaugh couldn’t design a scheme to stop him, how is Andy Reid, who we love, gonna put this guy in a box? Of course Andy is gonna have some wonderful, creative and delicious razzle-dazzle on his playlist, but again, OH HENRY!
And some people worry about his workload. FUGGETABOUTIT! Not only does he get stronger in the second half of each game, but he got stronger in the second half of the season when most RBs wear down. How strong? You sitting? In the last eight games, Derrick toted the rock 203 times for 1,273 yards. In ONLY eight games.
Here are your spread stats for the AFC title tilt. The Titans’ overall record is 11-7, 7-3 on the road and 5-3 as an underdog. They have gone OVER 10 times and UNDER eight times. The Chiefs’ overall record is 12-5, 6-3 at home and 10-4 as a favorite. They have gone OVER nine times and UNDER eight times.
Love the vibe that Mike Vrabel has brought to Music City, and while we’re not gonna go moneyline and call an outright upset, think this game will end with K.C. on top 31-27.
NFC Championship Game Pick
Close up shop for the day with the Packers +7.5 points over the 49ers. Gonna start out with a look back at the Week 11 matchup on this same field, when San Francisco DESTROYED Green Bay 37-8. Totally and utterly the Packers’ UGLIEST game of the season. Aaron Rodgers was only 20 of 33 for 104 yards and was sacked five times. The other Aaron, Jones, was held to just 38 yards rushing.
On the other side, Jimmy Garoppolo was steady and conservative, hitting 14 of 20 for 253 yards. And Davante Adams, Rodgers’ go-to weapon, had seven grabs, but for a total of only 43 yards. Why? Mostly Richard Sherman. Sherman lined up against Davante 16 times, and allowed just one catch for seven yards. Ouch! That’s gotta change on Sunday, and it will.
Think that Jimmy Graham will play a bigger role, and don’t see Mr. Discount Double Check getting embarrassed twice by the same team. Also don’t see the Niners holding Jones to 18 yards on the ground like they did Dalvin Cook. NO WAY, emphasis on the WAY!
Think Mike Myers in the Wayne’s World sketches, and you get my flow. If he is held to 18 or less, everyone’s invited to Casa VIC here in Vegas for the bar-b-q of a lifetime. You WILL have access to my jacuzzi, which has 88 various-style stainless steel hydrotherapy jets, but has to be limited to the first eight people that email me. Why? We only seat eight!
Here are your spread stats for the NFC title tilt. The Packers’ overall spread record is 11-6, 5-3 on the road and 3-1 as an underdog. They have gone OVER seven times and UNDER 10 times. The 49ers’ overall record is 10-6-1, 4-4-1 at home and 5-6-1 as a favorite. They have gone OVER eight times and UNDER eight times, with one PUSH.
Lemme take you back to the championship games last season, when BOTH road teams won OUTRIGHT, both in OT. Also, lemme take you back to the 2015 regular season when the Pack lost to Arizona 38-8. The Cheeseheads went back to Arizona, in the playoffs, and lost 26-20, covering the spread as a SEVEN-point dog. That’s why I’m buying Cheese but thinking the 49ers squeeze out a W by, what else, six points, 28-22.
Benjamin Eckstein is a nationally syndicated sportswriter/oddsmaker. His column, America’s Line, with the Ecks & Bacon appetizer, has run in the New York Daily News and over 100 other papers since 1988. You can follow him online at www.americasline.com. He is beloved by most, when he picks winners, and detested by others, when he picks the occasional loser. If you wanna piece of Eck, hit his email…firstname.lastname@example.org.
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