The NFL playoff semifinals are here and the NFC and AFC Championship games this weekend feature the top seeds in one game and a rematch of last year’s conference title game in the other. Each matchup is rife with storylines and the sports books expect each game to be close. In fact, for just the third time in the Super Bowl era, neither Conference Championship game has a team favored by three points or more.
Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles host Nick Bosa, Brock Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday afternoon. Mike Shanahan and the 49ers have not lost since before Halloween while Nick Sirianni and the Eagles have lost just once this season with Jalen Hurts under center.
The AFC Championship game Sunday evening is, as mentioned, a rematch of last year’s game. Kansas City seeks revenge at home against Cincinnati after losing in OT last year. A win by Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs would send them to their third Super Bowl in the last four seasons. A win by Joe Burrow and the Bengals means back-to-back trips to the Super Bowl for Cincinnati and a shot at their first Super Bowl win in franchise history.
Our NFL staff at NBC Sports EDGE have done a deep dive into these games to find their favorite plays of Championship Sunday. They offer them on everything from sides and totals to player props. The group includes Jay Croucher (@croucherJD), Vaughn Dalzell (@VMoneySports), and Lawrence Jackson (@LordDontLose). Tail (or fade) as you see fit.
Kickoff: January 29 at 3:00 p.m. ET (FOX)
Site: Lincoln Financial Field – Philadelphia, PA
Philadelphia Playoff History: 24-24 (3 Super Bowl appearances, 1 win)
San Francisco Playoff History: 37-23 (7 Super Bowl appearances – 5 wins)
Series History: San Francisco leads the all-time series with Philadelphia having won 20 of the 35 meetings with one tie between the two. The Eagles have hosted 17 of the games with the 49ers claiming victory in 11 of those. These teams have met just once in the playoffs. Back in the 1996 NFC Wild Card Game (12/29/96) Jerry Rice and Steve Young each scored touchdowns to propel San Francisco to a 14-0 victory against Philadelphia.
Note: If the current line stands, this game will be the first in which Brock Purdy is the underdog. He is 6-1 ATS thus far in his young career. Jalen Hurts is 9-2-1 ATS as a home favorite in his career and a whopping 7-0 ATS as a single-digit favorite at Lincoln Financial Field.
Croucher: George Kittle OVER 3.5 Receptions and Miles Sanders UNDER 6.5 Receiving Yards
The Eagles concede an above-average amount of receptions to opposing tight ends, and in a game where the Niners will likely be throwing, expect Brock Purdy to target his favorite weapon.
Miles Sanders has gone under this number in five straight games, never topping one target in any of those games, and the Niners are elite at defending running backs in the passing game.
RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl 2023
Dalzell: Dallas Goedert UNDER 47.5 Receiving Yards (-115)
The 49ers have had the best defense against Tight Ends in the NFL for the last two seasons. Opposing Tight Ends as a unit average Under 40 yards per game against San Francisco yet books want Dallas Goedert to get almost 50 himself.
Last week against the Giants, Goedert caught five passes on five targets for 58 yards and a TD, so this line could be a little inflated. He went Under 47.5 yards in three out of four games to end the regular season.
There are so many options in this offense on the ground and through the air ranging from AJ Brown, DeVonta Smith, Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott, Zach Pascal, Quez Watkins and Goedert. I would play this down to 44.5 receiving yards.
After ripping off that long list of skill position players without even mentioning Jalen Hurts, you can understand why I am also leaning Eagles ML as well.
RELATED: 49ers Super Bowl history
Jackson: Eagles to win by 1-13 points (+310) and A.J. Brown most receiving yards (+210)
Go big or go home. What I saw in the 49ers/Cowboys’ game last week is a Dallas team that played more than good enough to win except at one position. Despite the turnovers and failure to capitalize on a turnover, the Cowboys lost to the 49ers by seven points. The Eagles’ defense is good enough to match what the Cowboys did against the 49ers especially when it comes to rushing the passer. Furthermore, do not expect the Eagles’ offense to be as careless and unprepared offensively as Dallas was against the best defense in football. If you like the Eagles to win, it only makes sense to sprinkle this in.
A.J. Brown only gathered in 22 yards of receptions last week as he frankly was not needed much against the Giants due to the Eagles’ success rushing the ball. Prior to that he had gone four straight games with at least 95 yards receiving. Earlier this week he made some (non-diva) comments about getting the ball and it should be his time against the 49ers. The Niners are the second-best run defense in football so the Eagles will (and can) get it done through the air. Look for the Eagles to flip the script on the game plan and do what works this week which means a solid day for Brown.
Kickoff: January 29 at 6:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
Site: Arrowhead Stadium – Kansas City, MO
Kansas City Playoff History: 18-21 (2 Super Bowl wins – 4 Appearances)
Cincinnati Playoff History: 10-15 (3 Super Bowl appearances – 0 wins)
Series History: These two teams had never met in the postseason prior to last year’s AFC Championship Game. In that game the Bengals defeated the Chiefs in overtime by the score of 27-24. Cincinnati and Kansas City have met 31 times in the regular season with the Bengals having won 17 of the games.
Note: With the line shifting towards Kansas City, the Chiefs have now been favored in 15 straight playoff games. It is the longest streak by any team in the Super Bowl era. Patrick Mahomes has never been a playoff underdog. He is the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to be favored in each of his first 13 playoff starts.
Croucher: Kansas City Chiefs ML (-115) and Jerick McKinnon Over 27.5 Rushing Yards (-115)
Coming into last week the Bills and Chiefs were rated as approximately equal, and the Bills closed 6-point favorites at home to Cincinnati. Naturally, Cincy’s impressive performance and the injury to Patrick Mahomes has to reduce the line significantly from -6 but going from -6 to Pk is an over-adjustment. The Chiefs should be 2-point favorites here.
Jerick McKinnon played 44 of 68 snaps last week and is more trusted in pass protection than Isiah Pacheco. A running back playing 65% of snaps in Kansas City’s offense should not be set as low as 27.5 rushing yards, particularly if Mahomes is limited.
Dalzell: Joe Burrow OVER 24.5 Completions (-122) and Kansa City Chiefs ML (-115)
Burrow completed 23 passes on 36 attempts last week and did not throw a pass from the 12-minute mark until the end of the game, hitting his Under 25.5 completions and 38.5 attempts, barely. I like Burrow to go over his 24.5 and 25.5 completions line in the AFC Championship as I do not expect Joe Mixon to recreate his 100-yard performance, which last week was only his second such outing of the season. At 23 completions in each of the two postseason games, expect that number to increase here.
For the game winner, I will take the Chiefs to extract revenge on the Bengals after losing the AFC Championship Game, 27-24 in OT last season. Patrick Mahomes is healthier than most expected entering this game.
Kansas City has a chance to reach the Super Bowl for the third time in four years, while Cincy is looking to make back-to-back trips to the Super Bowl. I think this line adjusting to a pick-em or -1 for Kansas City is incorrect. I would make this -3 to -3.5 for the Chiefs.
RELATED: Bengals Super Bowl history
Jackson: Isiah Pacheco OVER 47.5 rushing yards (-115) and Will the team that scores the first points win the game? NO (+140)
While the Bengals’ run defense is not a pushover, this prop is simply too low. Do not be fooled by the Bills’ lack of success on the ground last week against Cincinnati because they cannot run the ball against anyone. J.K. Dobbins was able to gain 62 yards on 13 carries against the Bengals in the Wildcard Round. The week prior, Kenyan Drake ran for 60 yards against the Bengals. Pacheco has gone over 55 rushing yards in nine of his last 10 games and should get enough carries to do so again. This one is not hard.
Let’s switch it up a bit and have a little fun for some plus money. The Bengals and Joe Burrow have won the last three games against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs (including the playoffs). In only one of these games (Week 13 of the 2022 season) did the first team to score go on to win the game. Basically, when you have two juggernauts, it does not matter who scores first. Taking the team who scores first to win is currently set at -200 and not is worth that risk.
Enjoy the games and enjoy the sweat.
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