During the NFL season, Stadium sports betting analyst Nate Jacobson will break down every single point spread. Here are his thoughts on Championship Weekend.
49ers at Eagles (-2.5): Right after the 49ers’ 19-12 win over the Cowboys last Sunday, the Eagles opened as a -1 or -1.5 favorite for the NFC Championship game. Unsurprisingly, the number quickly moved to -2.5 by the end of night, and that’s the market we’ve seen all week.
Any concerns about the Eagles entering the playoffs were quickly forgotten, as they dominated the Giants 38-7 on Saturday night. While the 49ers beat the Cowboys, they were outplayed in the first half and benefitted from mistakes by Dak Prescott. The 49ers wore out the Cowboys’ defense in the second half, but it was not a convincing win from a team who is currently on a 12-game winning streak.
The biggest concern for the Eagles going into last week was the health of Jalen Hurts’ shoulder after he missed two games late in the regular season. Hurts seemed fine in last week’s win, but he also wasn’t asked to do much. Ultimately, my opinion of the Eagles doesn’t change for this game because I expected Philly to play well against an overhyped Giants team, so seeing them as the favorite after a dominant performance is not a shock.
Because of the slight change in the public’s perception of both teams heading into this NFC Championship matchup, I believe there’s line value on the 49ers, but I would need San Francisco to reach +3 to bet them. One reason I’m hesitant to bet the 49ers is because of Brock Purdy’s inexperience. The last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft has defied the odds with a 7-0 record as a starter since taking over. I mentioned last week that the Cowboys’ defense would be a huge step up in class, and Purdy struggled against a talented pass rush at home. The Eagles also have a strong defense, and on top of that, this game will be on the road, marking Purdy’s third start away from Santa Clara.
The combination of Purdy possibly struggling and Hurts not being 100 percent against a very good 49ers defense has me interested in the under for this game. The total was bet up from 45.5 to 46.5 earlier in the week with temperatures predicted to reach 50 degrees in Philadelphia. I can see both defenses dominating the offenses early on. While Kyle Shanahan is a great play caller, he can get conservative with his game management and settle for field goals like we saw last week. Those factors lead me to bet under 23 in the first half.
Pick: Under 23 1H (-105)
Bengals at Chiefs (-1): The most important factor in the NFL playoffs is the health of Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes. He suffered a high ankle sprain in the first half of Kansas City’s win over the Jaguars on Saturday, missing most of the second quarter before gutting it out in the second half. Before trying to make sense of the point spread for this game, it’s vital to know what this line would be if Mahomes was at full health.
Last week, the Bengals closed as high as +6 at the Bills. Cincinnati’s well-publicized o-line issues were baked into the number against a Buffalo team who was the betting market’s darling. It was evident immediately that the Bengals’ o-line would not be a concern, while Cincinnati DC Lou Anarumo put together another impressive playoff game plan in a 27-10 win.
Even though Cincy dominated that game, it’s still telling that the Bengals were a six-point underdog to the Bills. The difference between Buffalo and Kansas City with a healthy Mahomes is minimal. So even if you upgrade the Bengals off that performance, the Chiefs would still be over-a-field-goal favorite at home if Mahomes wasn’t injured.
Once Mahomes finished last week’s game and reports revealed that he would play in the AFC Championship with his injury, bettors quickly moved the Bengals from +3 to -2.5 by Tuesday. Money then came in on the Chiefs after footage of Mahomes practicing was released, which is why Kansas City is now a small favorite. I’m worried that Mahomes won’t be able to finish the game due to pain or a potential injury aggravation.
There’s value on the Chiefs in the first half with Mahomes likely to feel less pain than he would later in the game. While the Bengals have beaten the Chiefs three times since Jan. 2, 2022, the Chiefs got out to big leads and led by 11 points at halftime in two of those games. Another reason for targeting this first-half bet is that Kansas City’s offense is more than prepared to face a defense that they are extremely familiar with.
The Chiefs’ pass rush should be able to take advantage of the Bengals being down three starters on the offensive line. The Bills couldn’t do it last week, but that may have been caused by a slick playing surface due to the snow. While the weather will be chilly in Kansas City on Sunday, there isn’t precipitation in the forecast. Everything lines up for a wager on the Chiefs to be winning at halftime of this game.
Pick: Chiefs Moneyline 1H (-115)