NFL

Scott’s Seven NFL Picks: Conference Championship Games

By Scott Kacsmar

The NFL playoffs have reached Championship Sunday, putting the No. 1 seeds (49ers and Ravens) up against the teams that kicked this season off way back on September 7th (Lions and Chiefs). We have some creative NFL picks for both games, including some tips for safer picks with better odds.

Earlier this week, we looked at Patrick Mahomes’ dominant history as an underdog and in games against the Ravens and other elite defenses, and why the Buffalo game could be a blueprint for how Baltimore approaches this battle of the top two scoring defenses. We also noted how Detroit’s ability to score, contain the run, and Dan Campbell’s willingness to embrace the underdog role gives the Lions a fighting chance in San Francisco to reach their first Super Bowl.

In recapping our divisional round picks, the failure of the Houston offense to do anything in Baltimore torpedoed about half of our picks for the week. Buffalo possessing the ball for 37 minutes also limited how many yards Patrick Mahomes threw for. Also, our game script of the 2006 AFC Championship Game was not right as it was the Chiefs who trailed at halftime and came back to win instead of Buffalo. But we were right in the 49ers and Packers both scoring 20 points, and thankfully the Baker Mayfield-Jared Goff shootout lived up to expectations and we hit that parlay (+309).

Each Friday, we will share seven NFL picks that we are including in our bets for the weekend. These can be prop picks, spreads, totals, alternate lines, moneylines, teasers, same game parlays, etc. We like to think outside the box instead of just telling you to pick a 10-point favorite to win. You can play the picks separately or parlay your favorite choices together.

Note: Picks are ranked in order of confidence (highest to lowest).

1. Sunday Bankroll Builder

You see these a lot on social media for NBA games, and while bankroll builders are not my favorite bets to do, here is an attempt at one using the games this weekend. It is a 5-leg parlay with +110 odds:

  • Patrick Mahomes 200+ Passing Yards
  • Lamar Jackson 150+ Passing Yards
  • Rashee Rice 25+ Receiving Yards
  • Brandon Aiyuk 40+ Receiving Yards
  • Amon-Ra St. Brown 40+ Receiving Yards

Injuries probably tank these more than anything, but if everyone stays healthy, it should be a good day for these players.

  • Patick Mahomes has passed for 200 yards in 16-of-18 games this year, and you can blame Marquez Valdes-Scantling dropping a 50-yard touchdown against the Eagles for it not being 17-of-18.
  • Lamar Jackson has passed for 150 yards in all 17 games this season.
  • Rashee Rice has had at least 3 catches and 29 yards in 16-of-18 games this season as he’s emerged as the clear No. 1 wideout in Kansas City.
  • Brandon Aiyuk has had at least 40 yards in 14-of-17 games this year.
  • Amon-Ra St. Brown has had at least 49 yards in 17-of-18 games this year, only dropping below this number with 21 yards in Chicago.

We’ll have more details for bigger prop bets on several of these players below, but this is just a bankroll builder to get something going for the Super Bowl in February.

Scott’s NFL Pick: Parlay – Patrick Mahomes 200+ Passing Yards & Lamar Jackson 150+ Passing Yards & Rashee Rice 25+ Receiving Yards & Brandon Aiyuk 40+ Receiving Yards & Amon-Ra St. Brown 40+ Receiving Yards (+110 at FanDuel)

2. Chiefs-Ravens: 21 in the Bank  

Kansas City’s team scoring total is over/under 20.5 points and we cannot help but like the over here. The Chiefs had their share of struggles this season offensively, but so much of it was self-inflicted mistakes with all the drops, the fumbles, a few head-scratching interceptions from Mahomes, and the penalties of course.

We know the wide receiver play would leave something to be desired, but late in the year, this offense is finding itself again by running things through its best players: Travis Kelce, Rashee Rice, Isiah Pacheco, and of course anything Mahomes can create off script.

The Chiefs have only scored over 20.5 points in 10-of-19 games this year, but they have scored at least 25 points in Mahomes’ last 3 starts, and that’s even with settling for a lot of field goals. They are moving the ball and they haven’t had as many deadly mistakes.

This team has left a lot of points on the field this year. You can go back to opening night when drops by Kadarius Toney cost the Chiefs a solid 10 net points at the very least in that 21-20 loss. He dropped a pass that would have had them in game-winning field goal range right away.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling dropped a 50-yard touchdown against the Eagles in that 21-17 loss, the same quarter after Kelce lost a fumble in the red zone. Then Kelce’s greatest play of the season, the lateral against Buffalo to Kadarius Toney, didn’t even count because Toney lined up offsides.

But even last week, the Chiefs could have scored 34 points in Buffalo had they not give Mecole Hardman the ball at the goal line where he fumbled on first down through the end zone. Earlier this year, Mahomes slid short of the end zone against the Jets to run clock instead of going for 30 points.

There has been a lot of evidence of this offense coming close to firing on all cylinders. We know the Ravens have the No. 1 defense, but they also haven’t faced anything quite like the Chiefs with Mahomes. The closest comparison would be Matthew Stafford and the Rams, and they scored 31 points in Baltimore in Week 14.

We’ll just take 21 from the Chiefs to hit the over at better than even odds. Keep in mind, Mahomes has led the Chiefs to at least 22 points in 15-of-16 playoff games in his career.

Scott’s NFL Pick: Chiefs Over 20.5 Points (+104 at FanDuel)

3. Everyone Is Scoring 15 or 20 Points

For our next pick, we have a 2-leg parlay for the games where we expect scoring from both teams. There will be no Brock Purdy elbow injury after 4 snaps this year, leaving the 49ers without a quarterback to throw the ball.

  • Chiefs-Ravens: Both Teams Score 15 Points
  • Lions-49ers: Both Teams Score 20 Points

We just explained in the previous pick why we like the Chiefs to go over 20.5 points, so we obviously like them for at least 15 in this game. But the Ravens should also clear that too as they have scored at least 19 points in every game this year except for the two 17-10 losses to the Steelers.

The last of those games was played with backups and in heavy rain. It could rain during this game too, but it shouldn’t be as heavy as that day in Week 18. But that was part of the reason we went down to 15 points instead of going all out for both scoring 20, because you never know when the top two scoring defenses are involved. But Baltimore’s 10-point effort in Pittsburgh had more to do with dropped passes early in the game, so if we’re not too worried about that stopping the Chiefs from scoring 15 points, then we’re not going to worry about it for Baltimore either.

In the NFC game, the 49ers have shown some defensive vulnerability in games against the Cardinals, Ravens, and Packers late in the season. The Rams also played them well this year. The Lions have the ability to run and throw, and Jared Goff has been playing very well since the Chicago loss in December. It should be nice weather and not have the rain of last week’s San Francisco game too. The Lions are going to have to score at least 20 points to win this one, and probably higher than that unless the defense is going to put on a memorable show.

With the way the Lions have been defending, it would be a shock if the 49ers, who have scored at least 17 points in every game this year, don’t get at least 20 points. Regardless if Deebo Samuel plays, they have so many weapons and the Lions have allowed over 315 net passing yards in 5 straight games, an NFL record. Look for Brock Purdy to be sharper this week and the 49ers will find their way to 20 points too.

Scott’s NFL Pick: Parlay – Chiefs-Ravens Both Score 15 Points & Lions-49ers Both Score 20 Points (+184 at FanDuel)

4. Lions-49ers: Passing Fest

Next, we have a 6-leg parlay in a game that should be very offensive with all the talent involved on both sides. We’re just going to assume Deebo Samuel (shoulder injury) suits up and plays, but it really doesn’t change the picks either way.

  • Brock Purdy Over 274.5 Passing Yards
  • Brock Purdy Over 1.5 Passing Touchdowns
  • Brandon Aiyuk Over 80.5 Receiving Yards
  • Jared Goff 250+ Passing Yards
  • Amon-Ra St. Brown 70+ Receiving Yards
  • Jahmyr Gibbs 3+ Receptions

The last 5 quarterbacks to face Detroit have all thrown for at least 345 yards, an NFL record. It has continued in the playoffs with Baker Mayfield and Matthew Stafford both posting big numbers and throwing multiple touchdowns.

Both defenses are among the best at stopping the run, so this could be a game for the passers to shine, assuming they cut back on the awful throws that could be intercepted. But Purdy should be able to light this defense up on what may be a quieter day from Christian McCaffrey on the ground. We like him for 275 yards and a couple of touchdowns.

The easiest way to put the Deebo question to rest is for Brandon Aiyuk, who led this team in receiving yards, to step up and have a dominant game against one of the worst secondaries in the NFL. Aiyuk only had 32 yards last week, his lowest total in any game with Purdy as his quarterback this year. Look for him to explode against this defense that cannot cover any wide receivers right now. He is still Purdy’s best route runner and leading receiver.

On the Detroit side, Jared Goff is averaging over 270 yards down the stretch of the season and has gone over that number in both playoff games. We’ve already seen Joshua Dobbs and Drew Lock pass for over 260 yards against the 49ers this year. They have a great defense overall, but that doesn’t mean you can’t throw on them. They were arguably better in 2019, 2021, and 2022 on defense than they are right now.

Goff’s leading receiver is Amon-Ra St. Brown, who has been so consistent this year. He has hit 70 yards in 15-of-18 games, including both playoff wins. Look for him to take advantage of this secondary that is the weakest part of the San Francisco defense.

Finally, the last time these teams met in 2021, Goff completed 8 passes to both of his running backs. That shouldn’t happen again, but Jahmyr Gibbs has caught 4 balls in both playoff games, and he’s usually good for 3 catches a game. This is a matchup where the Lions could be down big and have to throw to catch up, so dump passes to their best receiving back makes sense. The 49ers allowed the 6th-most receptions to running backs this year.

Scott’s NFL Pick: Same Game Parlay – Brock Purdy Over 274.5 Passing Yards & Brock Purdy Over 1.5 Passing Touchdowns & Brandon Aiyuk Over 80.5 Receiving Yards & Jared Goff 250+ Passing Yards & Amon-Ra St. Brown 70+ Receiving Yards & Jahmyr Gibbs 3+ Receptions (+816 at FanDuel)

5. Chiefs-Ravens: A Couple of MVPs  

We have a 4-leg parlay for the rare matchup of (presumably) multi-time MVP winners who both have top-ranked defenses. But our parlay says the defenses will not win out in this matchup:

  • Lamar Jackson 80+ Rushing Yards
  • Lamar Jackson Anytime Touchdown Scorer
  • Patrick Mahomes 275+ Passing Yards
  • Patrick Mahomes Over 1.5 Passing Touchdowns

Lamar Jackson rushed for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns last week against the Texans. When he last played the Chiefs in 2021, he did the same thing in that game, his only win against Kansas City. But if he is to win this one too, he needs to make full use of his legs, especially on the scrambles that extend drives and kill the hope of a defense.

Do not expect huge passing numbers from the Ravens in this game. The Chiefs defend better than ever, the pass rush is great, and the Ravens may want to borrow some of what the Bills did last week with Josh Allen running the ball and getting his backs heavily involved while they controlled the clock. Allen also scored 2 touchdowns on runs in that game, and Jalen Hurts had 3 rushing touchdowns in the Super Bowl against the Chiefs last year. Jackson needs to find the end zone himself at least once in this game if Baltimore is going to have a good day.

As for Mahomes, he has passed for at least 343 yards and 2 touchdowns in all 4 meetings with Baltimore in his career. This is arguably the best Baltimore defense he has faced yet, but he is playing very well right now, the deep balls are starting to fall, and he hasn’t taken a sack or thrown an interception in four of his last five playoff games going back to last year.

Mahomes’ passing line has dropped to 240.5 passing yards in this one. You could take the over on that line and Jackson’s over for 66.5 rushing yards for a safer pick. But I think both quarterbacks put on a show and do the most for their offenses.

Scott’s NFL Pick: Same Game Parlay – Lamar Jackson 80+ Rushing Yards & Lamar Jackson Anytime Touchdown Scorer & Patrick Mahomes 275+ Passing Yards & Patrick Mahomes Over 1.5 Passing Touchdowns (+1024 at FanDuel)

6. Underdogs Rule: We’re Going Back to the Start   

The 2018 season was the last time both road underdogs won on Championship Sunday. Jared Goff was the winning quarterback with the Rams in New Orleans, and Patrick Mahomes lost at home to the Patriots. Both games went to overtime too.

Since then, at least one home team has won every round. But these are matchups where the underdogs can prevail on the road and that is our pick here.

The Chiefs obviously have a great defense this year, they’ve had success against Lamar Jackson in the past, they have a strong pass rush, and they have not allowed anyone to score more than 27 points all year. They also adjust very well and can come back on a team.

They also have Patrick Mahomes, who is putting together one of the best resumes in NFL history as he is 13-3 in the playoffs, 8-3 as an underdog, 12-2 against top 5 defenses, and 3-1 against the Ravens in his career. Make the situation tougher and Mahomes’ numbers seem to get better as he has better stats on the road than he does at home, and he has better stats in the playoffs than he does in the regular season now. He won’t be intimidated by Baltimore’s defense, and as long as the Chiefs don’t kill themselves with mistakes, they have a great shot to pull this out.

As for the Lions, you never know how aggressive Dan Campbell might be. He could go for an onside kick to start the game or third quarter for all we know. You know he’s got some 4th-down ideas in mind, and the 49ers have not been at their sharpest on either side of the ball in the last month. The Lions shut down the run as well as anyone, so Chrisitan McCaffrey should not run wild on them like he does most teams. Amon-Ra St. Brown is having a great postseason with Goff consistently getting him the ball, they have a capable backfield to balance the offense, and you never know when Brock Purdy is going to throw a pick parade. The Lions just have to capitalize and catch a few breaks along the way.

You can water it down by taking both underdogs, Chiefs +3.5 and Lions +7, against the spread (+292 at FanDuel), but we think both road teams can pull off the upset this week and get us back to the game that started the 2023 season. Just with Travis Kelce and Chris Jones this time (and Taylor Swift beefing with Eminem).

Scott’s NFL Pick: Parlay – Chiefs ML & Lions ML (+960 at FanDuel)

7. Chiefs-Ravens: Let’s Run That One Back    

Last week, we had our narrative that the Bills were going to come back from a halftime deficit and finally slay the Chiefs in the playoffs. It was a nod to the way the 2006 Colts finally beat the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game after getting them in a home playoff game. It was also similar to how the 1994 49ers beat Dallas in the same situation.

But it didn’t quite work out. In fact, the opposite happened as the Bills took a late 17-13 lead into halftime and the Chiefs came back to win 27-24. Right idea about the team leading at halftime losing, but it was the wrong team as Buffalo is seemingly cursed in January, especially on special teams.

But we were forcing a narrative on that game. This week, the matchup really does dictate a hot Baltimore start followed by the Chiefs making their adjustments and winning the game late.

In the regular season, the 2023 Ravens outscored opponents by 142 points in the first half, the highest by any team since the 2015 Panthers. That was almost double the number of the Chiefs (plus-75) this season.

  • The Ravens allowed the fewest points in the first half this year (152).
  • But the Chiefs allowed the fewest points in the second half (126).

If the Chiefs can survive the early push and get this game into the fourth quarter, they have a great shot to win. They know how to adjust and come back on teams.

  • Since 2022, the Ravens have blown 7 leads of multiple possessions.
  • Patrick Mahomes has already led the Chiefs to 16 comeback wins after trailing by double digits in his career, including four times in the postseason.

To water this one down, you could just take Ravens -2.5 first half spread (-130 at FanDuel). The Chiefs have trailed by at least 4 points at halftime in 5-of-7 starts for Mahomes going into Sunday. Another option would be to take the Chiefs as the fourth quarter 3-way winner (+140 at FanDuel), meaning they must outscore the Ravens in the fourth quarter (no tie).

But this one does set up well for the Ravens to look good early and the Chiefs to come back late for another Super Bowl berth.

Scott’s NFL Pick: First Half Winner/End of Regulation Winner Parlay – Baltimore Ravens 1H/Kansas City ML (+950 at FanDuel)

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