Last Updated: 2019-01-14
Four teams were given bye weeks by virtue of having the best records in their respective conferences. All four of those teams will play in the Conference Championship Round of the NFL playoffs. It was a weekend for home cooking and chalk in the Divisional Round, as all four favorites held serve and three of the four favorites covered. The New Orleans Saints were the biggest favorites on the board and the ones that failed to cover the spread.
The outcome for the Chargers vs. Patriots game was such a foregone conclusion that betting odds for next week’s AFC Championship Game were posted before the first half was even over. That will feature the Patriots against the Chiefs.
The Saints game, not surprisingly, had a lot more drama on Sunday. Nick Foles’s pass slid through the hands of Alshon Jeffery and into the hands of Marshon Lattimore, so the New Orleans Buckeyes advanced to host the Los Angeles Rams.
This is the first time in NFL history that the top four scoring offenses in the league have made the Conference Championship games, so we should get a lot of fireworks this week and we should get treated to an excellent Super Bowl LIII on the fast track at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Here is your Opening Line Report for the Conference Championship games:
Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints (-3.5, 57) – Slap the home field advantage on there and let the market set the number. That seems like a pretty good strategy when it comes to these two games. The Rams and Saints did play earlier this season and New Orleans won that thriller 45-35 as a 1.5-point home underdog. The total on that game was also 57 and clearly flew over that number.
Home field in the NFL is generally worth a little less than 2.5 points. The Saints at home in the Superdome in the postseason are worth at least three and the hook does imply that New Orleans is the better team. It’s hard to disagree with that.
The Rams have a long trip out to the Big Easy for this one. Things were close in the first meeting halfway through the second quarter. The Saints rattled off 21 straight points in just over six minutes to build a 35-14 lead. The Rams played better in the second half and even tied the game, but New Orleans scored the final 10 points of the matchup to escape with the 10-point win.
The Saints improved to 6-0 in home playoff games under Drew Brees with the win over the Eagles, but fell to just 3-3 ATS. Sunday’s win over the Eagles was the first home playoff game with Brees to go under the total.
The betting action for this game will be extremely interesting. This will be Jared Goff’s first career playoff road start and it comes in a very hostile environment. He also wasn’t great in the home playoff game last week or the one last year against Atlanta. The Rams rushed for 273 yards and only passed for 186 against the Cowboys. Goff was only 15-of-28 passing.
It felt like the Saints played a lot better against the Eagles than the final score would indicate. Drew Brees threw for over 300 yards and the Saints had over 400 total yards, but only won 20-14. The defense played extremely well after a slow start in the first quarter.
This is a tough handicap. A lot of public bettors are likely to take the Saints and that may end up the sharp side in this one as well.
We’ll talk about this one all week on BangTheBook Radio and have additional content at BangTheBook.com, so keep it tuned right here.
New England at Kansas City (-3, 57) – Interestingly enough, the look-ahead line for both Patriots vs. Chiefs and Chargers vs. Chiefs was -3. That is a sign of respect for the Chargers, who were out-schemed by the Patriots in a 41-28 loss. Fatigue certainly could have been a factor, as the Patriots rolled up a 35-7 halftime lead, but it is still rather interesting that the line for the AFC Championship Game did not move after New England’s sweat-free win.
The sportsbooks that offered Saturday night and Sunday morning look-ahead lines put the Patriots at -3 and that’s where the line opened. There is extra juice on the New England side after that dominant performance. There were a few brick-and-mortar sportsbooks in Las Vegas that popped a 2.5 on the Patriots, but most of the market is -3 with the extra juice.
It is worth noting that this is the first time in 68 games that Tom Brady has been an underdog. The last time the Brady-led Patriots were an underdog was September 20, 2015. Not surprisingly, they won outright.
The total on this game matches the total for the Colts vs. Chiefs game, which came nowhere near the number. The Patriots game flew over the total, as it looked like New England had a chance to take the game over by themselves. We’ll see what the weather forecast looks like as we get closer to the weekend. That could dictate what happens to the total.
We’ll talk all about this game on BangTheBook Radio this week and also have a preview for this game and some best bets and prop bets as the week goes along.
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