NFL Conference Championship Opening Lines and Analysis
Let’s take a look at each of the Conference Championship Round’s opening lines. Some of the lines have already seen some movement, but we will be taking a look at the teams involved and what the opening line may tell us as potential bettors. We will just be discussing the matchups; if you are looking for more concrete predictions and projections, be sure to check back throughout the week for our game picks.
All odds are courtesy of our friends at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs
Odds: Chiefs -2.5, O/U 55.5
As expected, the Buffalo Bills path to Kansas City, and perhaps even Tampa Bay for the Super Bowl, will rely just as much, if not more, on their back in form defense as it will on their explosive offense. The Bills came out on top of a defensive slugfest against the Baltimore Ravens, with their defense sealing the game late on a game-changing goal line pick-six. The Bills will need their offense to have a better showing than they did against the Ravens, but with the Chiefs unit not having the same balance of top-level talent, that should not be an issue. Buffalo should be able to score enough points to win the game, but if Patrick Mahomes is active, they will need their defense to make sure that they do not give up more than they can comfortably produce. Cole Beasley will need to be closer to full health to give the Bills passing attack the balance they have been able to rely on for most of the season.
The Kansas City Chiefs were seemingly sailing through their matchup with the Cleveland Browns, with their defense’s forcing of a late second-quarter turnover appearing to sew things up. Then the unfathomable happened, Patrick Mahomes was given a rolling neck breaker (a wrestling entertainment move) by Mack Wilson and was knocked from the game with a concussion. The Browns ground game started revving up in the third quarter, and suddenly we had a game. Kansas City was forced to rely on their defense and backup Chad Henne but saw both come up big for the defending champions. Bashaud Breeland also suffered a concussion, so whether or not these two stars get cleared may dictate where the lines go this week. If both are healthy, Kansas City is the favorite. If Mahomes is ruled out, Buffalo will be flipped to the favorite. A Breeland absence could also be massive, especially if Cole Beasley is closer to 100%.
The spread was taken off the board following Patrick Mahomes going down with a concussion and was relisted at -2.5 on Kansas City. The juice was heavily on the Chiefs, a signal that bettors expected Mahomes to be cleared in time for the Conference Championship. The spread would move to -3 by 10:00 PM EST and still sits there as of Monday morning. If Mahomes is cleared, this spread could balloon, but the more likely scenario is seeing a small rise to -3.5 to -4.5, as Bills bettors are expected to have a high volume and handle as well. The over/under opened at 55.5 but was quickly bet down to 54.5 by 10:00 PM EST. It continued to drop overnight and sat at 51 as of Monday morning. The defense was the story for most of the Divisional Round, especially in the AFC, but these are two teams who can light up the scoreboard. However, it is more than fair to question if they will be able to do so against the opponents peaking units. The total may see a slight increase if/when Mahomes is cleared and conversely may take another tumble if he is ultimately ruled out.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers
Odds: Packers -3, O/U 51
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are one win away from playing the Super Bowl at their home stadium. Tom Brady is one win away from making a loud statement that perhaps he was more than an elite system quarterback that benefited from a legendary coach and tremendous New England defenses. Unfortunately, their path to the Super Bowl will go through what is expected to be a cold Lambeau Field. Brady and the Buccaneers, despite playing their home games in Florida, are much more equipped than the New Orleans Saints (a dome team) to be competitive. Tampa Bay sputtered on offense against the New Orleans Saints, but they did not need to be at their best because their defense was. They forced four short-field turnovers, three of which the offense was able to convert for touchdowns. The Buccaneers are going to need their defense to play at an elite level once again to get past a much better quarterback, passing attack, and much deeper backfield. The offense is going to need to score enough to match Aaron Rodgers and co. Daunting tasks, but if they can click in all phases, they will be a tough out.
The Green Bay Packers embarrassed a banged-up Los Angeles Rams team, taking full advantage of the fact that Aaron Donald could not play anything close to a full complement of snaps and that Cooper Kupp was missing from the passing attack. Green Bay is playing with confidence on both sides of the ball, and no doubt feels like this is their year. They are still two tough wins away, but there is no denying that this team has a much different feel than the 2019-20 version of the team that even the casual observer believed was not as good as their record indicated. The Packers’ front seven is getting hot at the right time. If Rashan Gary can continue to make an impact alongside Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Kenny Clark, the Packers pass rush is going to cause major problems for Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive line. If the Packers’ offense can navigate the front seven and avoid costly turnovers, they should emerge victoriously.
The spread for this contest opened at -3 on Green Bay and sat there until the Buccaneers win over the Saints. The line was quickly bet up to -3.5 during the final minutes of the game and would move to -4 by 10:00 PM EST. There is enough sharp support for both sides that the spread would move back to -3.5 by Monday morning, making this a spread that could very well see-saw throughout the week. -3 to -4 is the correct band, and only a massive influx of sharp action on one side should push it out of that range. With that being said, that action is more likely to come in on Green Bay (due to playing at home) than on Tampa Bay. The over/under opened at a very fair 51 points and still sat there as of Monday morning. The juice started on the over but is now on the under at FanDuel (-115), so we could see some movement as the week progresses. There are enough casuals that only feel comfortable betting the over to keep the line in check, however, so, barring unprecedented sharp action, do not expect the number to drop below 49.5.