NFL Conference Championship Best Bets: Expert Picks & Predictions For Sunday (1/26/24)

NFL Conference Championship best bets and expert picks for the weekend slate. Find best bets for the NFL Conference Championship featuring Chiefs vs. Ravens and Lions vs. 49ers.

NFL Conference Championship Best Bets

Just four teams are left standing in the NFL, and we’re onto the conference championship slate which features two exciting matchups. In this article, you can find best bet breakdowns for both games. Our staff broke down both conference championship games in depth on our Lineups YouTube page with game picks and player props so be sure to check that out. Let’s get to work.

Jacob Wayne’s Record: 31-23-1 (+6.7 units)
Kody Malstrom’s Record: 22-16 (+4.5 units)
Will Schwartz’s Record: 20-26-1 (-7.7 units)

Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens

After a sluggish first half in the divisional round against the Houston Texans, Lamar Jackson lit a fire under the team and they came out with their hair on fire in the second half. They ended up dominating for the remainder of the contest, reminding the league why they are considered one of the best teams in the NFL.

They now face Patrick Mahomes who is already making his sixth appearance in the AFC Conference Championship after a shocking win at Buffalo. The Chiefs may seem daunting due to their success in the playoffs as of late, yet the Ravens are in a prime position to make their return to the Super Bowl with sizable advantages on both sides of the ball.

Especially on the defensive end as the Ravens have excelled at limiting opposing pass success. They come into the contest ranked first in Def Pass DVOA, second in Def Pass EPA, fourth in Def Pass Success Rate, and second in Def Adjusted Sack Rate. With Marlon Humphrey expected to make his return, their secondary gets a much needed boost in production as well.

With Humphrey making his return, that allows the Ravens to use him in singular coverage against Rashee Rice while sending help side coverage towards Travis Kelce. By being able to slow down both Rice and Kelce, that dares the Chiefs to try and consistently beat them with someone else which will result in little to no success.

On the other side of the ball, the Ravens have a sizable advantage with their ground game against a weak Chiefs front seven. The Ravens have been a dominant running unit all season long, coming into the contest ranked first in Rush DVOA, second in Rush EPA and Success Rate, and sixth in Adjusted Line Yards.

That is a sharp contrast from the Chiefs front seven, a unit that ranks 27th in Def Rush DVOA, 28th in Def Rush EPA, 16th in Def Rush Success Rate, and 25th in Def Adjusted Line Yards. This allows the Ravens to keep Mahomes off the field by bleeding time off the clock as well as limiting the potential for turnover worthy plays by abusing the run.

With the current spread passing through the key number of -3 for the full game, I turned my attention towards their first half number as you can get it at the widely available -2.5. The Ravens have massive advantages on both sides of the ball and will be in a position to dominate time of possession as well as keep Mahomes off the field. They can’t play with their food this time around, needing to set the tone from the opening kickoff.

Best Bet: BAL 1H -2.5

Patrick Mahomes passed his first playoff road test with flying colors, putting up one of his most efficient postseason performances against the Buffalo Bills. He deserves all of the credit he’s receiving for getting the job done against a solid opponent in a brutal environment with a mediocre supporting cast, but there’s definitely reason to believe that this week’s road trip will be completely different.

For starters, you can argue that the Chiefs still have a head coaching advantage- and would over any team in the league- but the gap isn’t nearly as large as it was last week. Sean McDermott is a fine coach, even if he leverages some weird motivational metaphors, but he doesn’t touch the level of Super Bowl champions Andy Reid and John Harbaugh, both of whom have been at the top of this league for over a decade.

Once we dig a layer deeper, it’s clear that the Ravens have a net coaching advantage, even if Reid is a tiny notch ahead of Harbaugh, which again, is highly debatable. Matt Nagy, the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator, is one of the worst in the business. After ruining the start of Justin Fields’s career, he has made Mahomes look more average than anyone could have ever imagined, even given the Chiefs’ roster erosion. He’ll be going up against Mike Macdonald, one of the best defensive minds in all of football.

On the other side of the ball, it’s less of a stark difference; Steve Spagnuolo is very experienced and solid at his job. On Baltimore’s side, in year one after hopping up from the University of Georgia, Todd Monken has transformed this Ravens offense and simultaneously established himself as a top offense-runner in the sport.

Now, let’s get into some numbers. To put it bluntly, the Ravens are the runaway best team in the NFL and are playing at home with a rest edge, after enjoying a first-round bye and coasting by the Texans relatively unscathed. Their defense is the league’s best by DVOA, as is the team overall, with the offense ranking fourth. Specifically, their rushing offense and pass defense are tops by that metric, meaning that they’ll have a great chance to control the football on offense and get off of the field on defense.

This is a solid Chiefs team, but their receiving talent won’t get it done against that Baltimore secondary, and Roquan Smith can completely blanket this version of Travis Kelce. On defense, the bottom-five run-stopping unit is simply not going to work against Lamar Jackson, Justice Hill, Gus Edwards and even Dalvin Cook. The dominant ground game will soften up KC’s excellent pass defense and create opportunities for Monken’s improved air offense; the script is set perfectly for Baltimore to dominate.

To add fuel to the fire, it’s looking like the Ravens could be welcoming star tight end Mark Andrews back into the lineup. They’re also featuring some celebrity guests like team legends Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Jonathan Ogden, as well as the greatest athlete to ever live, Michael Phelps.

The team is physically ready to go, and motivation is high as the franchise hosts a conference championship game for the first time, against the defending champs no less. I’ll never call for a true blowout of Mahomes and Reid, but don’t expect KC to lead at any point in this one.

Best Bet: Ravens -3.5

Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers

Not only did the Lions get their first playoff win in 30 years, but they have now secured two wins in a row in the same postseason for the first time since 1957. It has been a magical run for the Detroit faithful, a fanbase that was long overdue some success for their cheerful hearts. The Lions now have their toughest test against the 49ers, one that may be closer than the spread implies.

Should the Lions want to cover the spread, let alone get the win, then they will need to make the 49ers offense one-dimensional for the opening snap. They certainly have the run stopping metrics to at least slow down star running back Christian McCaffrey, coming into the contest ranked first in Def Rush DVOA, fourth in Def Rush EPA, eighth in Def Rush Success Rate, and sixth in Def Adjusted Line Yards.

The Lions also have a massive advantage against the 49ers interior offensive linemen, a unit that has been a thorn in their side for a majority of the season. Collapsing the middle forces their offense to rely heavier on bounce outs, giving the Lions an advantage knowing they can cut McCaffrey off by screening down the outside.

As for the pass attack, that is a worrisome area for Detroit as they continue to struggle in coverage. Their secondary ranks near dead last in Def Pass EPA and Success Rate, now having to go against the most efficient pass attack in the league. Luckily for them, Deebo Samuel is trending towards sitting out with his injury, giving them one less weapon to deal with.

Deebo Samuel is a potential massive loss for the 49ers offense as they suffer a sizable dip in production without him. Their ATS and SU numbers reflect that sentiment per my colleague Jacob Wayne as the 49ers are 1-4 SU and 0-5 ATS in games played without Deebo Samuel.

As for the Lions offense, Detroit will be in a position to abuse the ground game as that has been a weakness for the vaunted 49ers defense. San Francisco comes into the contest ranked 15th in Def Rush DVOA, 24th in Def Rush Success Rate, and 26th in Def Rush EPA. That gives an edge towards Detroit who fields one of the best run blocking units in the league as well as Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery running behind them.

By abusing the run, that limits turnover worthy plays through the air and keeps drives alive. That also simultaneously keeps Brock Purdy and the 49ers offense off the field, limiting their number of possessions as well. With less scoring opportunities comes a higher chance of this key number cashing, giving value towards the Lions at no lower than +7. They have the tools to remain competitive, as well as potentially getting the upset victory.

Best Bet: Lions +7.5

With so many games in these playoffs affected by weather, let’s take the over in a game that will take place under the California sun. We all know that Jared Goff does better at home in the dome, but suffice it to say that the Bay Area native and Berkeley alum should be good to go in the balmy Santa Clara weather.

On paper, this is a great offensive matchup as well. The Niners are the league’s top offense by DVOA, while the Lions are fifth by the same metric. The Niners’ greatness is multifaceted, as DVOA has them on top of the league in terms of passing offense, and second for the run. They’re tops in both categories for EPA and success rate, making this a truly remarkable unit statistically.

The Lions are a solid, balanced group also, they’re fourth in rushing offense DVOA and seventh for the pass. David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs give them two very good and very different options on the ground, while Goff has plenty of solid targets, from Amon-Ra St. Brown at wideout to star rookie tight end Sam LaPorta and even Gibbs himself.

The Detroit defense is good at stopping the run- better than anyone else as per DVOA- but NFL rushing leader Christian McCaffrey is frankly not stoppable. More importantly, the Lions’ secondary is a nightmare, and cannot do anything to slow McCaffrey, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel- if he’s healthy.

On the other side of the football, the Lions should be able to run the ball well against a very imperfect and imbalanced Niners front seven. This unit has lifted the team’s DVOA against the run to just 15th in the league, and their success rate 24th.

Detroit will have to go to the air eventually to keep pace with San Francisco, but their ground game dominance should be sufficient to get them on the scoreboard enough to contribute to this total.

When you consider how much the Niners should be able to score, not too much will be asked on the Lions’ part to hit this over. San Francisco should have no issue scoring a touchdown per quarter or more, likely leaving the Lions with the modest task of simply cracking the 20-point plateau.

Best Bet: Over 51

Best NFL Betting Promo Codes

I've been a huge sports fan for as long as I can remember and I've always loved writing. In 2020, I joined the Lineups team, and I've been producing written and video content on football and basketball ever since. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. My goal is to tell enthralling stories and provide meaningful insight on the sports I write about while helping you cash some bets along the way.

Hot NFL Stories