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And then there were four. Both conference championship games this weekend feature a short home favorite.
Here's how we're betting the games.
Packers-Buccaneers over 51.5
I couldn't pass up this opportunity to play another Packers over. They're far and away the best unit in football and have cashed six straight postseason overs with Aaron Rodgers under center. I'd expect more of the same script against the Buccaneers this Sunday.
These two offenses average more than 33 points combined in the first half. If Green Bay - which paces the NFL at 18.6 - can get out to an early lead, there's no way Tampa tries to run the ball and take it out of Tom Brady's hands.
There should be a whole lot of passing attempts and a boatload of points for two top-three DVOA offenses. This number was generous when it opened, and I'd still be content with playing the over at anything better than 52.
Packers -3.5 vs. Buccaneers
I’ve lost count of how many people have told me to "bet the Bucs" over the past month. Whether it’s on a week-to-week basis or in the futures market, this team is getting a ton of love, and this week has followed the same script. How could you not back Tom Brady as a 'dog, right?
I'll tell you how.
The Bucs remain one of the most overrated teams in the league. Brady is the GOAT, and this offense has been rolling, but the team as a whole just isn't on the same level as the Packers. Tampa's cruising largely because of its schedule, with its last four regular-season games coming against teams with a combined 20-44 record. The Bucs then beat Washington in the first round despite Taylor Heinicke picking apart their brutal secondary, which wasn’t exposed last week because of the simple fact Drew Brees couldn’t throw more than 10 yards downfield. Jameis Winston came in for one play and torched them for a 56-yard touchdown pass.
Just imagine what Aaron Rodgers will do to this secondary. Rodgers and Matt LaFleur are two of the best in the business at making adjustments, so we can expect them to have an answer for the Bucs' blitz packages that worked so effectively in their first meeting in October. The Packers didn't have Allen Lazard for that game, and it came before the Marquez Valdes-Scantling resurgence. Green Bay boasts the league's best offense in DVOA and the Bucs' defense hasn't seen anything like it.
The Packers are going to score at will in this game, and Tampa simply won't be able to keep up with Antonio Brown out and Mike Evans shadowed by Jaire Alexander. I've been preaching this for two weeks and there's no way I'm going back on it now: last weekend’s game at Lambeau Field was the true NFC Championship Game.
Bills +3 at Chiefs
I've been backing the Bills fervently since March, and I'm willing to go down with the ship in their biggest game of the year.
There's an argument to be made Buffalo will be the best team on the field in Sunday's matchup. The Bills rank No. 1 in weighted DVOA - the Chiefs rank sixth - and they are slotted higher in season-long DVOA, PFF team grades, point differential, and mostly every other advanced metric. They've covered nine of their last 10 and have won seven contests by double digits amid an eight-game outright win streak.
Buffalo's offense has outpaced Kansas City's this year, and it holds a clear advantage on defense and special teams. The one area Chiefs bettors can claim a definitive edge is at quarterback, which is complicated by two factors: Patrick Mahomes enters Sunday at less than 100%, and his play has been matched this season by Josh Allen, anyway.
I know it's hard to bet against Kansas City in this spot, but the Chiefs haven't looked like themselves for the better part of three months now, and I'm not buying they'll suddenly flip a switch in this spot. They didn't do so a week ago with a healthier quarterback against weaker competition, and Sunday will pose a much stiffer test.