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Full disclosure: I started the season extremely hot and cooled off towards the end of the year. I made eight Wild Card bets and went 3-5. Still, I’ve hit on nearly 59% of my picks this season (44-31, 58.7%). I took the Divisional Round off to look at my process and I’ve come back to the table with NFL betting picks for Conference Championship Sunday.
Sometimes you have to take a break and examine your process. I feel good about my analysis, even in the down weeks, and the best thing to do is get right back on the horse. Hitting on over 58% of picks has made our NFL betting selections profitable this season, and I feel a strong finish coming.
That said, here we go…
Wild Card Weekend NFL Betting Picks (3-5)
George Kittle Over 43.5 Receiving Yards ❌
Geno Smith Over 15.5 Rushing Yards ✅
Jamycal Hasty Over 10.5 Rushing Yards ❌
Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars Under 47.5 ❌
Josh Allen Under 50.5 Rushing Yards ✅
Minnesota Vikings -3 Over New York Giants ❌
Justin Jefferson Over 91.5 Receiving Yards ❌
Ja’Marr Chase Over 6.5 Catches ✅
NFC Conference Championship Betting Picks
San Francisco 49ers (+2.5) over Philadelphia Eagles
Everyone assumes Brock Purdy’s inexperience will eventually show up. The sharps are betting the Eagles hard because of it. While I’m not going to pretend like there aren’t some bumps in the road coming for Purdy at some point, don’t forget that Jalen Hurts is just as prone to issues in big games.
Hurts lost his first career playoff start last season and played very poorly. He played well enough last week, but the outcome was never in doubt. The team easily protected him and a big lead and he didn’t need to do much other than not completely fail.
This game will be close. I’m taking the Under because I think it’s going to be a defensive game and a slugfest. Because of that, I also like to grab the points in a contest I expect to be close. I also believe Hurts will make a mistake that costs his team. Don’t forget that Hurts is dealing with a shoulder injury. It cost him two regular season games and he’s not 100% healthy.
The San Francisco 49ers are the most talented team in the NFL from top to bottom. I think to beat them it’s going to take elite quarterback play. I just don’t believe Hurts is elite and his injury hampers him even further. I like San Francisco to win outright, but I’ll take the points for insurance. I’ve been waiting for the line to get to 49ers +3, but books know that people are going to jump all over that.
And we will.
San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles Under 46.5 Points
Vegas is begging you to take the Over here. Bettors love backing the Over, especially in big games. This is a matchup between the league’s second-highest scoring team (Philadelphia, 28.6 points per game) and the league’s fourth-highest scoring offense (San Francisco, 26.8 points). Yet, the line is just in the mid-40s.
Yes, both teams have excellent defenses (San Francisco led the league in scoring defense, 16.4 and Philly was sixth at 19.5) but this has more to do with how this game will be played. Kyle Shanahan is a notoriously conservative coach. With the Eagles boasting a historic pass rush, they are going to try and run the ball. A lot. With Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell and even Deebo Samuel mixing in, you would too.
Plus, Brock Purdy showed some limitation throwing downfield last week against Dallas. With the Eagles pass rush, it’s going to be a lot of quick passes. Quick passes are easier to complete, and thus, keep the clock moving.
The Eagles are going to try to run, too. As mentioned, Jalen Hurts is still nursing a shoulder injury. This has all the makings of a more old-school football game between two teams trying to establish the run and play good defense. I don’t think Nick Sirianni will be as aggressive, especially facing a conservative opposing coach. I think this is a field position battle that stays Under the total.
AJ Brown Over 69.5 Receiving Yards
This is a “squeaky wheel get the grease” handicap. Brown showed frustration with his lack of involvement (three catches, 22 yards) in last week’s win over the Giants, despite the Eagles absolutely blasting the New York Giants. If the Eagles are going to reach and/or win the Super Bowl, they need to keep their best offensive player happy.
Despite winning last week, the 49ers allowed CeeDee Lamb to catch 10 balls for 117 yards. Brown is better than Lamb, the Eagles just have more options. DeVonta Smith looked to take over as the go-to guy late in the season. But, with the season on the line, expect Brown to get the ball. They didn’t trade a first round pick to have Brown watch from the sideline in the biggest game of the season.
Miles Sanders Under 50.5 Rushing Yards
You just can’t run on San Francisco. Unless your name is Josh Jacobs, who ran over everyone this season. Since the 49ers bye week, only two teams rushed for 100+ yards total, the Raiders and the Seahawks. I expect Jalen Hurt to be heavily involved in the run game, plus Philadelphia likes to mix in Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott.
With four options in the run game and facing the league’s second-best rush defense (79 yards per game), I don’t think there will be enough volume for Sanders to get over 50 yards rushing.
AFC Conference Championship Betting Picks
Cincinnati Bengals (+1) over Kansas City Chiefs
I’m going to take the bait. I have to back the red-hot Cincinnati Bengals. They haven’t lost a football game since October. Joe Burrow is 3-0 against a HEALTHY Patrick Mahomes. Although I think the Chiefs will still be able to put up some points, I don’t think they’ll be able to keep up with the Bengals.
The Jaguars stayed competitive after the Mahomes injury and Cincinnati is far more talented than the Jags. The biggest question mark is the Bengals beat up offensive line. They held up against Buffalo, but the Bills can’t rush the passer like the Chiefs can. Neither Alex Cappa nor Jonah Williams practiced on Wednesday and that’s not a great sign.
But the Bengals seem to have something figured out against the Chiefs defense. Burrow was sacked 19 times in last year’s playoffs, but only once by the Chiefs. Kansas City only got to Burrow once in this season’s game, as well. Granted, the Bengals were healthier then, but they appear to know how to block the Chiefs and get the ball out of Burrow’s hands quickly.
The Chiefs just don’t have the athletes in the second and third levels of their defense to hang with the likes of Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, who I think should both eat in this one. I’m backing the Bengals to make it back-to-back Super Bowl appearances.
Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs Over 47.5 Points
I think this line is below 50 because of the Patrick Mahomes injury. All three games between Burrow’s Bengals and Mahomes’ Chiefs have seen at least 51 points. Last season’s AFC Championship was a 27-24 Bengals victory. Burrow’s Bengals average 24.6 points in the playoffs against AFC opponents.
They’re going to score. It’s the obvious uncertainty with Mahomes, but the team managed to score 27 points last week against Jacksonville and even Chad Henne led them on a touchdown-scoring drive. Andy Reid will have a gameplan designed to work around Mahomes’ obvious physical limitations and the Chiefs will still do their share of scoring.
Patrick Mahomes quarterbacked Chiefs teams have never been held under 20 points in a playoff game against AFC opponents. In the last four AFC Championship games, the Chiefs have averaged 32 points per game. Use Mahomes’ injury to your advantage and grab a slightly deflated number.
Joe Burrow Over 17.5 Rushing Yards
As I wrote when writing up the Geno Smith rushing prop, quarterbacks need to do whatever it takes to win in the playoffs. That means rushing attempts increase as guys try to make plays to keep the chains moving.
Burrow is no stranger to using his legs to gain extra yards, especially against the Chiefs. When Cincinnati beat Kansas City in the regular season, Burrow rushed 11 times for 46 yards. That was the only game this season where he had double-digit carries.
In last year’s AFC Championship against the Chiefs, Burrow ran five times for 25 yards. Last week against Buffalo, the third-year quarterback scrambled for 31 yards. In big games, against top teams, Burrow fearlessly rushes when the situation warrants. Enough situations should arise in this game to get us over 17.5 yards.
Ja’Marr Chase Over 82.5 Receiving Yards
I expect a Ja’Marr Chase breakout game on Sunday against the Chiefs. He’s been held relatively in check this postseason, amassing under 100 yards receiving in both playoff games. Last week against Buffalo, Chase had just five catches. That broke a streak of nine-straight games with 7+ receptions. It was just the second game this season that Chase did not record at least seven catches.
Since Chase annihilated the Chiefs in his first matchup against them (11 catches, 266 yards, 3 touchdowns in the ’21-22 season), Kansas City has locked down the Bengals star. Well, as much as a team can lock down one of the game’s best. He recorded just six catches for 54 yards and a score in last year’s AFC Championship.
In Week 13 this year, Chase had seven catches for 97 yards. Buffalo held Chase to 61 yards last week in blizzard, and the Bengals dominated that game. That led to less opportunity for Chase. That could happen again this week, but I expect the Chiefs to be more competitive, even with a hobbled Mahomes.
I could give a bunch more stats. But call this a gut feeling. Chase is going off on Sunday. Book it.
Isiah Pacheco Over 6.5 Receiving Yards
Pacheco hasn’t been overly involved in the receiving game, mostly due to the emergence of Jerick McKinnon. However, in a game where Patrick Mahomes is going to be virtually immobile, dump off passes are going to be a huge part of the game plan. Expect to see a decent amount of McKinnon, but the Chiefs can’t get predictable by putting McKinnon in only in passing situations.
Pacheco sees enough offensive snaps (21+ in 11 straight games) that he’s going to be targeted in the passing game. Yes, he has only six yards receiving over the past two weeks combined. But again, Mahomes won’t be able to run. Immobile quarterbacks use their running backs in the passing game more than mobile quarterbacks. Those plays where Mahomes takes off will be changed to getting it to his backfield mate.
Prior to the past two games, Pacheco averaged 11.7 yards per catch over the previous six games. If he can maintain even just a little over half of that, we just need one catch to hit our prop. I see that happening easily.
Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @OutkickDanZ