Tampa Bay +165 at Green Bay
» The Packers need the run game to effectively run their offense, which moves the ball best with play-action looks. All in all, Green Bay’s straight drop-back passing game is unremarkable and with only one reliable receiver — a bit predictable.
That’s why I’m betting Tampa Bay in this game. They’re the more well-rounded team, and I think their defense — which was best in the NFL against the run — will force Green Bay out of their play-action passing game, either by an early advantage (the Packers are elite front-runners) or by effectively stopping the run in the early goings of the game.
The Packers, unlike the 49ers (who run the same kind of offense) of last year, do not have a good enough run game to defy stacked boxes and still accumulate a 5, 6-yard-per-rush clip.
No, the run game suits a larger purpose, and without it, the Packers can’t put their 30 points per game on the board.
And when that happens, folks will see that their defense isn’t anything impressive.
It’s certainly soft enough for Tom Brady to cut apart.
The Bucs’ run exists now, and that should provide Brady all the cover he needs to cut up Green Bay’s defense, which plays dime (six defensive backs) more than any other team in the NFL. With the emergence of Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay can attack Green Bay in heavy two-tight-end packages that are equally deadly via the run and pass.
And Brady is so good at getting the ball out fast, the one positive of the Green Bay defense — its pass rush — shouldn’t be able to get home.
(The same cannot be said for Rodgers, who is likely to meet Shaq Barrett many times on Sunday.)
Tampa Bay is, straight-up, the better team in this game. And the cold weather won’t affect Brady in any way. He’s the difference in this contest and I’m not betting against him.
Buffalo at Kansas City UNDER 54
» The rationale for this bet is quite simple: Mahomes is a better quarterback than Josh Allen.
Don’t get me wrong, Allen is fantastic, but he’s not Mahomes.
That’s it. That’s the game.
Neither defense is worth writing home about. Buffalo might have a slight advantage on that side of the ball — Kansas City has the worst red-zone defense in the NFL — but the Bills’ lack of a pass rush is kneecapping. Neither team can run the ball well and home-field advantage is marginal at best this season.
Again, the answer as to who wins this game is straightforward. Ignore Buffalo’s winning streak or Kansas City’s inability to cover this season — this is QB vs. QB, and I’m going with Mahomes.
And while Mahomes’ lack of practice time and turf toe are concerns, no doubt, there isn’t an offense that can put up points in bunches like Kansas City. Not even an offense led by the MVP runner-up this season. I’d rather sit this one out, the choice is easy if I’m making one.
Check out our other Conference Championship round content
- First-look betting preview from Geoff Ulrich
- NFC Conference Championship betting preview from Matt LaMarca
- AFC Conference Championship betting preview from Geoff Ulrich
- DFS Big Three from James McCool