AFC & NFC Championship Games: Predictions and Best Bets

  • Routinely the best weekend of football all season, the 2019 AFC and NFC Championship Games shouldn’t disappoint.
  • The top-two seeds in each conference will meet in a pair of high-scoring regular-season rematches. 
  • Get the best bets and expert advice for Rams vs Saints and Patriots vs Chiefs.

Home-field advantage won the day in the Divisional Round as all four higher seeds moved on to the Conference Championships.

The Los Angeles Rams vs New Orleans Saints goes first this Sunday (3:05 PM ET, Jan 20th), followed by the New England Patriots vs Kansas City Chiefs in the evening window (6:40 PM ET). Before diving deep into both games, a recap.

I went 2-2 on picks last week, missing on the Saturday underdogs (Colts +5, Cowboys +7), while hitting on both Sunday plays (Patriots -4, Eagles team total under 20.5). Thanks to the vig, I wound up -$33.33 for the weekend. That drops my account to +$298.17 for the season.

  • Divisional Round ROI: -$33.33
  • 2018-19 ROI: $298.17

Los Angeles Rams vs New Orleans Saints

Time & Date: 4:40 PM ET, Sunday, Jan. 13th

Team Spread Moneyline Over/Under
Rams +3.5 (-115) +155 O 57.0 (-115)
Saints -3.5 (-105) -175 U 57.0 (-105)

When the Saints (14-3 SU, 10-7 ATS) and Rams (14-3 SU, 8-7-2 ATS) met in the regular season, the Rams fell behind 35-17 at halftime before roaring back to tie the game. But Drew Brees and the Saints responded with ten unanswered points of their own to seal a 45-35 win.

Both offenses played extremely well, evenly splitting 970 yards of total offense while committing just one turnover apiece.

The difference between then and now is that New Orleans has done a complete 180 in terms of offensive/defensive efficiency: the points have dried up (19.2 PPG over the last six games) but the D has become elite (18.5 PPG).

Rams vs Saints: H2H Comparison

Rams Statistic Saints
23.7% (2nd) DVOA Rating (Rank) 20.7% (4th)
8.23 (2nd) Massey-Peabody Rating (Rank) 10.05 (1st)
95.6 (1st) PFF Rating (Rank) 94.0 (2nd)

The Rams, on the other hand, are still vulnerable on defense, especially on the ground (though the front four held up well vs Dallas last Sunday, surrendering just 50 rushing yards at 2.2 YPC).

Jared Goff was able to take a backseat in the Divisional Round as LA piled up 273 yards on the ground. CJ Anderson and Todd Gurley both hit the century mark.

Don’t expect the same on the road at New Orleans. Even with DT Sheldon Rankins out, the Saints’ rush defense will hold up much better than Dallas’ did. That will put significantly more pressure on Goff, who will now have to contend with a Saints secondary that’s playing closer to its 2017 level.

I’m going to ride the Brees/Sean Payton trend (undefeated at home in the playoffs) and parlay it with the UNDER. The Saints have only gone OVER twice in their last seven games, and one of those was an anomalous 33-14 loss to Carolina in a meaningless Week 17 game.

Score Prediction: 24-21 Saints

Best Bet: Two-pick parlay at +207: UNDER 57.0 (-105) + Saints’ moneyline (-175)

New England Patriots vs Kansas City Chiefs

Time & Date: 4:35 PM ET, Saturday, Jan. 12th

Team Spread Moneyline Over/Under
Patriots +3.0 (-115) +125 O 56.0 (-110)
Chiefs -3.0 (-105) -145 U 56.0 (-110)

The Chiefs (13-4 SU, 10-6-1 ATS) Divisional-Round drubbing of the Colts (31-13) was impressive for multiple reasons. Not only did Patrick Mahomes come out en fuego in his first career playoff game, the defense completely shutdown Andrew Luck. Indianapolis only scored six points on offense in the entire game. Yes, Adam Vinatieri missed a chip-shot field goal, but nine points would still be phenomenal.

This is a unit that was routinely getting torched early in the regular season. It’s been much better of late, ranking a respectable 17th in weighted DVOA (which weighs recent games more heavily). The pass rush, which tied for the league lead in sacks (52), got to Luck three times. Luck had only been sacked 18 times all year, the best mark in the NFL.

Patriots vs Chiefs: H2H Comparison

Patriots Statistic Chiefs
14.2% (7th) DVOA Rating (Rank) 31.2% (1st)
5.21 (5th) Massey-Peabody Rating (Rank) 5.66 (4th)
94.0 (3rd) PFF Rating (Rank) 93.7 (4th)

The Patriots (12-5 SU, 10-7 ATS) were equally impressive in their 41-28 rout of the Chargers — it was 35-7 at halftime — but now they have to leave the comfort of Foxborough. They are a concerning 3-5 on the road this year compared to 9-0 at home.

The closest New England came to losing at Gillette Stadium this year was their Week 6 game vs KC (43-40). Both offenses were able to do whatever they pleased in the first game. I don’t expect that to be the case in the second. Andy Reid and Bill Belichick are both exceptional coaches. The second time around, they will both have better game-plans for stopping each other.

In my view, that gives the edge to KC. Their defense may not be better on the whole, but it has more game-breakers who are harder to scheme against. You can’t double-team Justin Houston (9 sacks), Dee Ford (13 sacks), and the criminally underrated Chris Jones (15.5 sacks). Over the years, we’ve seen that the key to beating Tom Brady is putting him under pressure

Score Prediction: 30-24 Chiefs

Best Bet: Chiefs -3.0 (-105)

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