Championship weekend is almost upon us, with two tight contests on the slate to determine who will represent each NFL conference in Super Bowl LVII.
Both games look like they’ll come down to the wire, with the home team favored by less than a field goal.
After Chiefs’ starting quarterback and presumptive league MVP Patrick Mahomes suffered a high ankle sprain in the first half of the Chiefs’ divisional round matchup against Jacksonville, Kansas City has the second-best odds (+260) at DraftKings’ Kansas sportsbook.
Here’s a look at the field and some of the betting lines ahead of this year’s conference championship games.
A Look at the AFC
The Chiefs, one win from playing in their third Super Bowl in the past four years, have long been the favorite to win it all this year. They’re narrow home favorites over the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship game with the line set at -1.0 at most sportsbooks: without much of a spread to bet on (and with the potential for a push without a half-point margin), Vegas thinks the game is a toss-up.
Cincinnati stormed past favored Bills on the road last week, winning 27-10, while Kansas City managed to survive heavy underdog Jacksonville 27-20 as Mahomes missed most of the second quarter and saw his mobility limited to the pocket in the second half.
Mahomes told reporters at practice on Wednesday that he wouldn’t let his injury prevent him from playing. He’s already returned to a full practice schedule, listed as a full participant.
“It’s doing good,” Mahomes said. “[I’m] ready to go.”
Even without a hobbled Mahomes, recent history favors Cincinnati. Quarterback Joe Burrow hasn’t lost to Mahomes in his career, going 3-0 over the past two seasons, including an upset overtime victory on the road at Arrowhead Stadium in last season’s AFC Championship game.
When playing the Bengals, the second half has spelled disaster for Kansas City. Burrow led a last-second, game-winning field goal drive in their first meeting before overcoming an 11-point halftime deficit to punch Cincy’s ticket to the Super Bowl.
The Bengals beat the Chiefs 27-24 in December, with Burrow leading a pair of fourth-quarter scoring drives in the come-from-behind victory.
Burrow v. Mahomes is becoming the 2020s version of the Brady v. Manning rivalry, with two superstar quarterbacks with offensive weapons aplenty and an opportunistic defense to back them.
A Look at the NFC
The books like Philadelphia (-145) better than they do Kansas City, but with the spread at -2.5, it’s still expected to be a tight game against San Francisco. The 49ers have continued to roll even with seventh-round pick and third-string quarterback Brock Purdy thrust into the starting job.
Purdy looked star-struck at times in the divisional round against Dallas, completing 19 of 29 passes for 214 yards and no touchdowns in the face of the Cowboys’ aggressive pass rush. He got the job done, but the Eagles’ fast-moving offense could spell disaster for the Niners if Purdy continues to struggle.
Both Philadelphia and San Francisco have stacked rosters from top to bottom on both sides of the ball. The biggest difference just happens to be at the most important position, with Eagles’ quarterback Jalen Hurts in the thick of the MVP race until late December when he missed two games with a shoulder injury. Purdy hasn’t yet lost a game as a starter, catapulting himself into the offensive rookie of the year conversation after just three regular season starts, but that streak won’t last forever.
He has the pieces around him to succeed but has played just one road game in his career: watch how he performs in front of one of the most hostile fanbases in the NFL.
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