NFL picks against the spread for AFC, NFC conference championship games originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The NFL playoffs have reached the final four, and championship weekend features two phenomenal matchups between evenly matched and supremely talented teams.
The AFC Championship Game is a repeat of last season. The Kansas City Chiefs are hosting the Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium, where the AFC North side won in overtime last year.
The NFC Championship Game is back in Philadelphia for the first time since 2004 as the Eagles host the San Francisco 49ers. It will be the 49ers’ third NFC title game appearance in the last four years. They lost 20-17 on the road against the Los Angeles Rams last season.
Here are our picks against-the-spread (ATS) for the conference championship games (all times ET). All lines are via DraftKings Sportsbook.
Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs (-1.5)
Time/TV channel: Sunday, Jan. 29 at 6:30 p.m. on CBS
Pick: Bengals +1.5
Why are the Chiefs only 1.5-point favorites at home in the AFC title game? Well, the high ankle sprain Patrick Mahomes suffered in last week’s Divisional Round win over the Jacksonville Jaguars is a concern for Kansas City. A limited Mahomes would be a huge problem for the Chiefs offense. Mobility is an important part of his skill set, and his ankle injury could have a meaningful impact in that area.
But the Bengals are a good pick here regardless of Mahomes’ health. Cincy dominated the Buffalo Bills 27-10 on the road in the Divisional Round. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow threw for 242 yards and two touchdowns, while running back Joe Mixon carved up the Bills defense with 105 rushing yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. It was a well-balanced attack for a Bengals offense that’s been red hot during the team’s 10-game win streak.
Let’s also consider the fact that Burrow is 3-0 against Mahomes in his career, including a Week 13 victory in Cincinnati earlier this season and an AFC title game triumph last year at Kansas City.
The Bengals are 13-3 ATS in their last 16 games and they are 7-1 straight up in their last eight matchups versus the Chiefs. Cincy is also 5-1 ATS in its last six meetings with Kansas City.
Arrowhead stays “Burrowhead” on Sunday as the Bengals defend their AFC crown and advance to another Super Bowl.
San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5)
USA TODAY Sports
Time/TV channel: Sunday, Jan. 29 at 3 p.m. on FOX
Pick: Eagles -2.5
It’s pretty hard to pick against the Eagles right now. They went 14-3 in the regular season and then dominated the New York Giants 38-7 in the Divisional Round. If Jalen Hurts was still bothered by a shoulder injury, it didn’t look like it. The potential NFL MVP racked up 184 total yards with three total touchdowns and zero turnovers in the rout.
This NFC title game is a matchup between two elite defenses. The 49ers defense ranked No. 1 in yards allowed per game, No. 2 in rushing yards allowed per game and No. 1 in points allowed per game during the regular season. The Eagles defense ranked No. 2 in yards allowed per game, No. 1 in passing yards allowed per game and No. 8 in points allowed per game.
Where the Eagles have the advantage — and it’s a small one — is on offense. Hurts is a better quarterback than Brock Purdy. Philly also ranked No. 5 in rushing yards per game and No. 3 in points scored per game. This is a well-balanced, efficient offensive machine. A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith arguably are the best wide receiver duo in the league and will be tough to stop.
The 49ers are 2-8 ATS and 3-7 straight up in their last 10 games against the Eagles. Philly also has won eight of its last 10 games at Lincoln Financial Field.
This has all the makings of a close game. Given the Eagles’ edge on offense and home-field advantage, they are a safer pick in this spot.