NFL Playoffs Conference Championship opening lines and market analysis

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) prepares to throw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Tyler Boyd during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Cincinnati.
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Jared Smith


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Jared Smith, a versatile host and analyst with over 10 years of experience in sports media and two decades as a sports bettor, has joined the Pickswise team as a lead betting analyst. Smith will serve as a full-time content creator, producing informative and engaging content every day across multiple platforms.

Wow. What a weekend. All four NFL Divisional games had made field goals at the buzzer to either win or send it to overtime. Road underdogs went 3-1 straight up and against the number, needing a Mahomes miracle to avoid the sweep.

The stage is now set for the final four with the Chiefs and Rams opening as home favorites on Championship Sunday. I will break down each game, offer some analysis on where I think lines could move and any early bets to get ahead of the market.

Be sure to check back later this week as I reveal my official plays for Championship Sunday. Best bets went 3-1 in the Divisional Round and 8-3 +5.50 units so far this postseason.

*Odds via Westgate SuperBook

Cincinnati Bengals vs Kansas City Chiefs

Sunday, 3:00 pm ET

Opening line: Chiefs -7, Total 51

This total steamed up quickly to 53.5, which is no surprise after the fireworks we saw from the Chiefs on Sunday night. Considering the total in Bills/Chiefs closed around 54, and the Bengals defense is much weaker than the Bills, I would imagine 53 being a relative floor for the number this week, and it will continue to see heavy traffic to the over.

I’m willing to make an early 1-unit buy on the over, and worst-case come back on the under at 54 or higher on game day as the flood of over money pushes this up at least a half-point or so.

As for the side, I will put my Chiefs futures action to work here. I have a 0.5-unit on KC to win the AFC at +700 and a full unit to win the Super Bowl at +1175. That’s essentially a 0.5-unit money line bet on the Chiefs at +700, which is a very strong position.

I will likely be protecting that position with a 2-unit bet on the Bengals spread, setting up a possible middle where the Chiefs win but don’t cover. I’m in no rush to make that bet, and will be tracking the market closely this week.

If you take into account recency bias, I can certainly see the public leaning in hard on Kansas City after what they saw Sunday night, perhaps enough to push this line to 7.5. If so, that would be an appealing buy-in point on the Bengals.

San Francisco 49ers vs Los Angeles Rams

Sunday, 6:30 pm ET

Opening line: Rams -4, Total 47

The Rams opened as 4-point favorites before early money on the Niners pushed it down to 3.5. Then later on Sunday night, I even started to see a couple of juiced 3’s pop up in the market. That seems like a reasonable settling price considering the Rams were favored by 3.5 points in this same spot just over 2 weeks ago.

The sharp money has favored San Francisco all season long, but now the public is also starting to buy in after their miraculous win at Lambeau, which could make them a huge liability this Sunday.

“Of these games, I think the Niners will be a bit more of a trendy dog than the Bengals,” said TwinSpires Trading Analyst Zachary Lucas. “Things could change but I think we’ll need the Rams.”

Just like the Chiefs game, I plan to let my futures action work for me in this game. I have a 0.5-unit on the Niners to win the NFC at +1500, which makes Rams money line the natural hedge. However, with the market trending towards San Francisco, I’m in no rush to get to the window.

This Week’s Early Bets:

Bengals @ Chiefs Over 53.5 -110 (1u at BetMGM)

Read our betting reaction to the most insane Divisional Round EVER!

Pickswise is the home of NFL Picks. Check out our latest playoff picks and round-by-round analysis as well as our free Super Bowl predictions.

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