It’s been 25 years since both NFL conference championship games were evenly matched in terms of bookies.
The San Francisco 49ers are 2 1/2 points behind the Philadelphia Eagles in Sunday’s NFC Championship game. Bookmaker FanDuel.
In the AFC title game, the Cincinnati Bengals are 1 1/2 favorites on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The last time both conference championship games had a spread of less than 3 points was in 1998. The Packers were 2 1/2 favorites in San Francisco in the NFC game. The Broncos were 2 1/2 favorites in Pittsburgh in the AFC game. Both away teams won.
History is on the side of the Eagles and Chiefs. The No. 1 seed is 32-14 in conference championship games, but only 4-3 since the 2017 season, when the Eagles became the last No. 1 seed to win a Super Bowl.
Home teams are 34-18 in the NFC title game, 36-16 in the AFC.
San Francisco (15-4) – Philadelphia (15-3)
The 49ers have won 12 straight games, including seven in a row since seventh-round rookie Brock Purdy took over at quarterback after Jimmy Garoppolo was injured.
The Eagles opened 13-1 behind Jalen Hurts, earned first seed and a bye and dominated the New York Giants in the divisional round.
This game features two of the best defenses in the NFL, two of the best offensive players, and plenty of playmakers from both sides. Miles Sanders, AJ Brown, Devonta Smith and Dallas Godert for the Eagles. Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk for San Francisco.
It should be a tough physical game with teams that are no strangers to it. The Eagles are participating in the NFC Championship for the seventh time in 22 seasons and are planning their third trip to the Super Bowl in that span. They won it all after the 2017 season.
The Nines play a record 18th game in an NFC title game, the second in a row and the third in four years. There are 7-10 of them in total.
The advantage of the home field is the difference. Purdy only started twice in Seattle and Las Vegas. Philadelphia is just different. The Eagles have a hostile fan base that doesn’t give up.
Cincinnati (14-4) to Kansas City (15-3)
Joe Burrow is 3-0 up against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, including last year’s overtime victory in the AFC Championship Game also played at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Bengals are a slight favorite because Mahomes has a high ankle sprain. He recovered from the injury to help the Chiefs defeat Jacksonville last week, but that should no doubt limit his ability to do superhuman things on the field.
The Chiefs are in their fifth straight AFC title game with all five players at home. They are 2-2 this stretch with one Super Bowl win.
Prior to last season, the Bengals had not won a playoff game in 31 years. They are now 5-1 over the last two seasons with Burrow in the lead. He has a lot of help from Ja’Marr Chase, Ty Higgins and Joe Mixon.
The damaged Cincinnati offensive line held up well against the Buffalo. The Chiefs will try to take advantage this week.
The chiefs will have to protect Mahomes and give him time to stay in his pocket so he doesn’t try to run on a lame ankle. Expect Mahomes to target fellow All-Pro Travis Kelsey quite often. Kelce had 14 catches last week.
Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo devised a formation to confuse Josh Allen and held Buffalo’s dynamic offense to just 10 points. He’ll have to do it again against one of the best play-callers in the NFL.
Kansas City’s Andy Reid coaches his 10th conference championship game, but only has one Super Bowl trophy on his mantelpiece. At some point, he will need Mahomes’ magic.
If anyone can be spectacular with an injury like his, it’s Mahomes.
BOARDS, 30-27 years old
Last week: Straight up: 4-0. Against spread: 2-2.
Season: Straight up: 179-101. Against the spread: 140-135-5.
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