NFL tips: Best bets for the Conference Championship round
After going 6-2 in the playoffs so far, Jack Green makes his picks for the last round of games before the Super Bowl.
Los Angeles Rams @ New Orleans Saints
The Saints won 45-35 when these teams met in New Orleans in Week 9, but this weekend’s rematch should be a lot closer.
The Saints’ Michael Thomas made a 72-yard touchdown reception to seal the win in that regular season game, after the Rams had rallied from a 35-17 halftime deficit to trail by just three in the fourth quarter.
Rematches are difficult. The Saints edged past the Philadelphia Eagles 20-14 last week after thrashing them 48-7 in the regular season, and the Rams should also close the gap in their second go at the NFC’s top seeds.
New Orleans’ offense slowed down in the second half of the season, while Los Angeles’ defence has improved after some early struggles.
The Saints are unbeaten at home in the playoffs in 12 years under coach Sean Payton, so it’s not worth backing the Rams to win outright, but Los Angeles +3 is a decent bet at .
Under 56.5 total points is also a solid choice at given how both teams have performed over the past few weeks.
The Saints and Rams are often painted as explosive passing teams, but, in reality, they love to run the ball and have done so with great success all season.
Expect a more methodical approach from the two coaches compared to the 80-point regular-season shootout, with both defences impressing.
New England Patriots @ Kansas City Chiefs
Despite reaching the AFC Championship game in seven successive seasons and winning the Super Bowl in two of the last five, the Patriots surprised plenty of people against the Chargers last week.
Los Angeles were an attractive upset pick against a New England team that hadn’t looked at their best all season but, led by quarterback Tom Brady, Bill Belichick’s team raced out to a 35-7 lead and eventually won by 13.
As impressive as that performance was, a trip to Kansas City should be too much even for the Brady-Belichick combo.
The Chiefs won seven of their eight home games in the regular season, and eased past the Indianapolis Colts 31-13 last week to reach this stage.
Kansas City have the league’s best offense, averaging 35.3 points per game, which is eight more than the Patriots.
New England lost five of their eight road games this season, so Kansas City to win looks a safe bet at .
At , over 55.5 points looks the way to go in terms of the total, especially after the regular-season meeting between these teams in New England finished 43-40 to the Pats.
Kansas City will surely put up plenty more points against a Patriots team that conceded 31 or more in three of their five road defeats during the regular season.
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