NFL Conference Championship Games: Opening Lines and Thoughts

NFL Jan 18, 2021

The National Football League got the two coveted match-ups they wanted:  

First, we'll see a classic duel between legendary quarterbacks in the NFC.  Second, we'll feast on what are easily the best two teams in the AFC, including the hottest team in the league playing versus the defending Super Bowl champion.  

It's an an ideal Sunday for football fans and a made-for-gambling attraction certain to attract a huge volume of wagers.

SPREADS.CA opened its book online this past Sunday with lines that indicate two very close games are expected.  However, the line has since moved on one of the games and at least one game total is dropping.  This is largely based on uncertainty about just how serious the injury to Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes may be.  If he's not 100 percent ready to play, that's likely to impact the line in a huge way.

Here's a look at the opening numbers and where they may headed before kickoff next Sunday:


Packers by -3.5

Total:  51

There's no public team here, since both the Packers and Bucs have devoted fan followings, especially with G.O.A.T. Tom Brady's addition to the team mix.  Hence, the pointspread is likely to stay about where it openned, which is Green Bay minus 3.5.

That said, look for this number to shade slightly toward Tampa Bay as gametime approaches, perhaps shifting to -120 to the vig on the Bucs side getting +3.5 points.  It's unlikely to see the line drop to 3 (or rise to 4) unless there's a big COVID-related development.  Anything short of news that impacts either Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady is unlikely to move the numbers.  Any injuries to Green Bay WR Davante Adams, or Tampa Bay receivers Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski would move the line line, perhaps a point.  But all the key starters appear healthy six days from kickoff.

It's also worth noting that both quarterbacks are known for excelling in cold weather conditions.  So, even if frigid weather comes into Lambeau Field by gametime, don't expect either team to gain much of an advantage.  The Packers would probably love for the weather to deteriorate given Rodgers' excellent results in the cold.  Nonetheless, Brady and Gronk aren't going to be intimidated by a thermometer.

What could move a number is wind, snowfall, and blizzard conditions that might impact the game total (and halves and quarters totals, in addition to offensive player props).  There's probably some value to fading high numbers on any of these betting opportunities now, because if conditions worsen as the weekend approaches, those numbers are likely to fall.  All the totals-related numbers can only go one way – down.  They won't go up.

So, that's the best early week advice – looking at totals and props to go under the betting number.  If weather does become a factor, it might even be possible to create some attractive middles.

More to come later in the week.


Chiefs by -3

Total:  54

This line opened at several sportsbooks at -4 and was even -4.5 at some places.  It's now down to -3.  The total has also dropped by a half-point to a point (opened at 55 in some places).

The main line mover here is the condition of QB Patrick Mahomes.  The former MVP missed nearly the entire second half of last Sunday's game with a concussion.  He's certainly going to start the championship game, but one must be a little wary about his condition.  Certainly, Mahomes will do everything to downplay the injury (if it's a factor) in order to suit up and get on the field.  That said, even Mahomes at 75 percent is a dangerous prospect.  I'd rather have Mahomes at 75 percent than backup Chad Henne at 100 percent, even though the journeyman backup played well in the divisional playoff win.

Buffalo comes into this game as the hottest team in the NFL.  They're also a public darling, having been out of serious playoff contention for so long.  Look for Bills moeny to keep this number from going up to +3.5 or +4, though it's possible for the line to move if there's absolutely certainty Mahomes is 100 percent.

Like the NFC title game, weather could also be a factor.  Kansas City is subject to the same cold fronts and storms that invade the Midwest from Canada.  If a storm develops and Kansas City gets hit with severe cold and/or snow, one expects the offensive numbers to decline.

Accordingly. like the Bucs-Packers match-up there's implied value to fading high numbers on any of betting opportunities now, because if conditions worsen as next Sunday approaches, those numbers are likely to fall near game time.  All the totals-related numbers can only go one way – which is down.  Take advantage of this now.  Also, since Mahomes' injury could be more serious than is reported (small chance, but possible) that would really make the totals and props take a plunge.

Later this week, we'll post more on both games, including some recommendations on props.  

Big takeaway:  Watch the weather reports in both cities.  That could be a big factor in late January as to several wagering outcomes.