For the first time since the merger the conference championship games will feature the four best offenses in the NFL. Plus, each matchup includes the No. 1 vs. No. 2 seed in each conference. No wonder the oddsmakers in Vegas expect high-scoring games in both contests. In fact, this will be the first time in the Super Bowl era that both conference championship games will sport over/under totals of 55 points or more.
New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs (-3)
Sunday, 6:40 p.m. ET
Pick: Chiefs -3
Over/Under: Over 55
The AFC championship game features a rematch between the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots, two teams that slugged it out in a wild 43-40 shootout back in Week 6. But unlike that game the Patriots will be the underdogs on Sunday and it will be the first time since 2016 the AFC championship game will not be at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
This will also be just the seventh time New England has been an underdog in the playoffs with Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady running the show; they are 3-3 against the spread as underdogs in the six games prior.
In an admittedly small sample size of playoff games away from Gillette Stadium (seven) Brady has shown a decline in performance on the road compared to either at home or at a neutral site, though that’s not unexpected. His completion rate is solid (57 percent) but his 8-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio is mediocre and his overall passer rating on the road (75.9) is nowhere close to what we would expect from a five-time Super Bowl champion quarterback who has produced passer ratings of 93.1 at home and 98.0 on neutral fields.
Brady is just 1-3 against the spread against the Chiefs overall since Reid took over as coach in 2013 and 2-2 against the spread against the Eagles when Reid was the head coach in Philadelphia from 2001 to 2012.
Weather will also be a factor. According to Meteorological Scientist Dr. Michael Ventrice, both teams may have to contend with subzero temperatures at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday night, an “arctic blast” that helped drive the game’s total down from 57.5 to 55 in just a few days.
According to the National Weather Service, the coin-toss temperature on Sunday afternoon in Kansas City is expected to be between 8 and 11 degree Fahrenheit with the wind chill, making this potentially one of the coldest games ever at Arrowhead Stadium: The Chiefs have hosted five games at Arrowhead where the temperature was below 10 degrees; two of the four with totals still hit the over and three different games they covered the spread.
|Year||Week||Point spread (result)||Over/Under (result)||Temperature (°F)|
|1972||13||Pick 'em (covered)||none given||8|
|1983||16||2.5 (covered)||43 (over)||1|
|2000||16||3 (covered)||47 (under)||9|
|2008||16||3.5 (did not cover)||37.5 (over)||10|
|2016||15||-6 (did not cover)||43 (under)||1|
This isn’t isolated to solely games in Kansas City. Since 1990, the first year the NFL’s playoff format expanded to 12 teams, there have been five playoff games with a total of 55 points or more with four of those games going over. There have been 78 postseason games played outdoors in temperatures below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1990 and the over has gone 40-37-1 in these games, covering by 14 points per contest. There were also three postseason games played outdoors over the last 27 years in temperatures at or below zero and the over hit in two of those games.
Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints (-3.5)
Sunday, 3:05 p.m. ET
Pick: Saints -3.5
Over/Under: Over 56.5
The New Orleans Saints are 3.5-point favorites against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC championship game, making this the 13th time this season, including the playoffs, Drew Brees and the Saints are at least three-point favorites. Only two teams, the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots, were favored by at least that much in more games this season. However, the Saints are 6-7 against the spread in those matchups.
High expectations have followed Coach Sean Payton and Brees since they were first united in New Orleans in 2006 and the team has lived up to them with a 6-0 record at home in the playoffs, yet they are just 2-4 against the spread in that span. And this will be only the second conference championship hosted by New Orleans in franchise history, the first a 31-28 victory over Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings, a score that barely cost the Saints the cover (3.5-point favorites).
That may be a reason to favor L.A., however, Evan Abrams of the Action Network notes Brees is 10-1 against the spread when facing a team that’s averaging at least 30 points per game — the Rams scored 32.9 points per game during the regular season and put up 30 against the Cowboys in the divisional round — covering by an average of almost nine points per game.
The Rams' young quarterback, Jared Goff, has a smaller resume to evaluate. He’s been at least a three-point road dog four times in his three-year career and has covered just once, a Week 4 regular-season matchup against the Dallas Cowboys in 2017. And, according to Abrams, since Goff’s first NFL start in 2016, he’s the least profitable quarterback against the spread vs. Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks (3-9 against the spread).
Regardless of the end result, the over/under total of 56.5 indicates an expectation of a high-scoring affair. Since 1990, the first year the NFL’s playoff format expanded to 12 teams, there have been five playoff games with a total of 55 points or more with four of those games going over, including both games with a total of 57 or higher. Sunday will also be the third time the NFC championship game will feature a total of 55 or higher, with the previous two games (both starring the Atlanta Falcons) going over the total in 1998 and 2016.
In addition, there have been 20 NFL matchups since 2002, the first year the league expanded to 32 teams, with a total of 57 or higher and 15 of those went over.
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