BETONLINE PRO PICKS BY BARRY WILNER: CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Clearly, the home-field “advantage” for Sunday’s conference championship games isn’t such an edge for the Chiefs or Eagles. The point spreads below show that.
What does it mean? Well, for one, the matchups are so close and the visiting teams are so strong that playing in Arrowhead Stadium or the Linc isn’t such a challenge for the Bengals or 49ers.
Also, Kansas City, hosting the AFC title contest for the fifth straight year, has lost two of the previous four. Cincinnati turned that trick a year ago and is 3-0 against the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes with Joe Burrow at quarterback.
There’s also the concern about Mahomes’ high right ankle sprain, an injury that often sidelines quarterbacks for a few weeks. Coach Andy Reid says Mahomes will be behind center on Sunday, and the star quarterback has practiced. We’ll see how effective he will be.
“He had a couple injuries in college he fought through,” Reid said. “In the NFL, with all the games you play, very seldom do you get to this point without having something. That’s just how it goes.”
As for the NFC game, the 49ers’ recent history makes them a wise choice for some. This is their third trip to the title match in four years, beating Green Bay in 2019 and falling in a tight game to the Rams at SoFi Stadium last season. So experience on this stage could matter.
The Eagles historically struggled in home conference championships, though they seemed to toss that aside with their 2017 season rout of Minnesota before moving on to beat New England in the Super Bowl.
“We know how good our fans are here and how rowdy they are, how loud they are. This place is incredible,” said Eagles coach Nick Sirianni. “You know, obviously you get the bye when you get the one seed, but you also get the home-field advantage, and they’re equally as important.”
The numbers since 2000 show AFC hosts going 15-7 at this level, NFC hosts at 14-8. Kansas City is 2-2 in that span at Arrowhead, while Philadelphia is 2-3 at home.
49ers at Eagles (-2 ½)
Our view of the Eagles is simply this: If they play their best, they should win the Super Bowl. Philly has the NFL’s most balanced team.
However, we don’t particularly like this matchup because of San Francisco’s outstanding defense — though Philadelphia’s strong D can’t be ignored. The key to beating the Eagles is negating the run game, including slowing QB Jalen Hurts. Keep the scoreboard from lighting up. Only the Niners are capable of doing that.
Bengals at Chiefs (+1)
Does anyone believe the Bengals would be favored if Mahomes was healthy? Add in the mastery Cincinnati has displayed against the Chiefs since Burrow came aboard, and the way road playoff games don’t intimidate the Bengals in any way.
So yes, we’re going with both visitors to make it to Arizona for the Super Bowl.
Wilner’s 2022 RECORD
Last Week – Straight up: 4-0. Against the spread: 1-3.
Season – Straight up: 178-85-2. Against the spread: 135-122-8.
Best Bet – Straight up: 15-5. Against the spread: 10-10. Upset Special – Straight up: 10-10. Against the spread: 11-9.