ARTICLE WRITTEN BY DREW BISHOP

Chiefs 1H -4 (-115)

 From the gutter to a division title in two years, the Cincinnati Bengals have had one of the most successful rebuilds in NFL history.

After wins over the Raiders and Titans, Cincy has a chance to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl. The only thing in their way? The two-time defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs.

In the January 2nd matchup, the Bengals came back from a 14-point first half deficit to eventually defeat KC 34-31 behind big performances from Joe Mixon and Ja’Marr Chase. The Chiefs were suppressed in the second half, only scoring three points. They have not lost since.

The Chiefs enter this game as 7 point favorites, as they’ve scored 42 points in both playoff games and continue to show why Mahomes, Kelce, and Tyreek Hill are one of the best trios in NFL history.

For most bettors, the offensive fireworks are enough to take Kansas City by a touchdown. The first contest between these two teams, KC lacked execution on a lot of plays, including an end-of-half drop by Hill that would have put them up 18 going into halftime. Since that game, the Chiefs have turned on the switch and brought back the same strong unit that has helped them the past few years.

But for this matchup, I’m fading the weakest unit in these NFL playoffs: The Bengals’ offensive line.

When the Bengals selected Chase 6th overall in the 2021 draft, analysts and fans alike criticized Cincinnati’s decision, claiming that a prospect like OT Penei Sewell out of Oregon would fit the team’s needs better than the wide receiver.

Since then, Chase has achieved 2nd team All-Pro honors and proven he will be one of the best receivers in the league for a long time. If the Bengals are to win, he will play a major role like he did in the first matchup.

But are we sure they made the right decision?

Joe Burrow was the most sacked QB in the league this year, going down 51 times in 16 games. The playoffs haven’t been any better as he was sacked NINE TIMES last week against the Titans. Needless to say they could use some more protection for the franchise QB.

While the Chiefs offense is legendary, their front seven ain’t too shabby itself. While Frank Clark and Chris Jones have been wreaking havoc in the trenches all year, the addition of LB Melvin Ingram has given the defense a new ferocity.

Last time they faced, Jones had two important sacks and Clark added another. Cincy had no schematic answer for the beasts other than to get the ball out of Burrow’s hands quickly, like they’ve done most of the year against the blitz. Like previously mentioned, the offensive line has been a problem for a long time, and by not resolving it, questions remain if they can upset the Chiefs.

The Bengals have overcome this weakness upfront valiantly for the first two playoff games, but something tells me their luck has run out. The nine sacks from Jeffrey Simmons and company last week were the x-factor and allowed a stale Titans offense to have a chance down the stretch. Cincy needed the third Ryan Tannehill INT on Saturday to secure the win and I don’t expect the same carelessness from Pat Mahomes.

My greatest worry in this bet is the Chiefs tendency to win, but not cover. This year they have covered both matchups, but in the regular season and past playoff runs they have been notorious for losing spread bettors money.

However, further research indicates that KC is a strong first half team but tends to give up cheap points down the stretch. This year, they were 2nd in the league in first half points at 15 per game. They’ve also gone 10-9 ATS in the first half this year.

I don’t feel comfortable with laying 7 points in any playoff matchup. This season has been defined by parity and even if the game gets away from Cincinnati they are capable of late game points for a back door cover. That’s why I’m taking the first half line of -4 with the Chiefs. Don’t overthink it. Expect playoff-seasoned coach Andy Reid to press on the gas to start and not let up. Cash those tickets early and live bet with the profits.

Rams -3 (-120)

 McVay vs Shanahan part three is going to be a doozy.

The two coaches are former coworkers, friends, foes, and now will be opponents for the third time this year and the sixth time ever.

All six wins belong to Shanahan.

There are two types of trends in betting. The hot streak that is bound to keep winning, and the hot streak that is due to break. I believe that McVay is ready to break the 49er’s streak against his team.

For starters, let’s analyze the 49ers path to their second conference championship game in three years.

San Francisco entered the playoffs after defeating the Rams in a comeback victory in week 18. They promptly placed the Dallas Cowboys, who went above and beyond to blow the game. Whether it was leaving the punt team out after a fake, or calling a QB draw with 13 seconds left, the 49ers were able to escape thanks to errors like these.

In the divisional round they showed their grit, grinding out a 13-10 win over Green Bay in which there was one offensive TD scored. San Francisco didn’t look entirely inept offensively, but every time Mitchell, Deebo, and Kittle moved them down the field, Jimmy Garroppolo whiffed on an out route and even committed a turnover on their best drive.

Any team that reaches the final four deserves their due, they are legit. However, unlike the other three teams, the 49ers have a lot of positional strengths, but they have to cover up for the most important position: quarterback.

The 49ers, again, are legit in many facets. But betting on Jimmy G can ruin a Sunday in a moment. His accuracy issues are the greatest force driving this play. Even if Fred Warner, Erik Armstead, and Nick Bosa are doing their jobs, Garroppolo can wipe it all away with one lame duck ball that falls into Jalen Ramsey’s hands.

The Rams have the other remaining QB that is questioned for his turnover inefficiencies. Matthew Stafford has shown a penance for blowing a game with his own miscues. In the week 18 matchup between these two teams, Stafford threw 2 picks and the final sealed the game. This was the same case against tough teams like the Titans and the Ravens where the Rams talent could not overcome the possessions they lost.

But Stafford has been good this postseason. He has 55 passing attempts and 4 TD’s with no turnovers through two playoff games. I’m buying into his improvement along with the Rams treasure trove of talent.

LA has put all their chips in the center of the table for this playoff run, and a seventh straight loss to a division rival would be devastating. I see OBJ and Cooper Kupp feasting on a suspect 49ers’ secondary while Von Miller and Aaron Donald push Jimmy G into uncomfortable situations on the other side of the ball.

The line has hovered at -3.5 most of the week. I’m laying big units on the Rams today so I’m buying the extra point. I think they can win comfortably but the difference in value from 3.5 to 3 is major. You don’t want to spend the afternoon biting your nails over Jimmy G. Take the Rams with three points.

 

Photo: AP

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