NFL Would You Rather? Which home favorite would you rather bet?
For the last time in this NFL season, we have more than one game to breakdown. Conference championship weekend delivers us a pair of beautiful games as both home teams are favored by less than a field goal. Today, we're breaking down both matchups and deciding which home favorite we'd rather back.
Philadelphia Eagles or Kansas City Chiefs?
The Philadelphia Eagles finished the season with a bit of limp, but they still earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC. After a bye week, the Eagles absolutely dominated the New York Giants in the divisional round, earning a 38-7 victory as a 7.5-point home favorite. This time around, the Eagles are once again home favorites. Philadelphia is a 2.5-point favorite against San Francisco. The 49ers have won 12 straight games. In the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs earned the No. 1 seed and beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in the divisional round. The biggest takeaway from that game however was the health of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who injured his ankle in the win. Mahomes has practiced all week and looked decently mobile in the clips we've seen. As a result, the Chiefs have flipped back to being a 1.5-point home favorite over the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals have won 10 straight games overall. Over the last 13 months, Cincinnati is 3-0 against Kansas City, including a victory in last year's AFC championship game. If you were forced to choose, which home favorite would you rather back?
Greg: This Kansas City line has bounced around more this week than Ryan Fitzpatrick did in his entire NFL career. Patrick Mahomes’ mobility will be limited by his high-ankle sprain, but that may not matter in Sunday’s matchup. The Chiefs lead the league in Pass Block Win Rate, while Cincinnati recorded the fourth-fewest sacks this season. Lou Anarumo and the Bengals defense won’t catch KC by surprise this time around if they start dropping eight men into coverage. Isiah Pacheco finally brings some semblance of a ground attack to Andy Reid’s team, and he’ll make Cincy pay if they’re light up front.
You know which team has been good at getting to the quarterback? The Kansas City Chiefs. They’re second in sacks and fifth in QB pressure percentage. This defense is weirder than Al Yankovic. They rank ninth in EPA per play and success rate, but 21st in points allowed per drive and 28th in YAC. Quarterbacks who have time to throw can carve this defense up. Joe Burrow’s patchwork offensive line isn’t affording him that luxury. I’m hesitantly leaning towards Kansas City. I wobble Chiefs.
You know that scene in “Avengers: Infinity War” where Dr. Strange gets all twitchy zen so he can view all the possible outcomes of their battle with Thanos? That’s what I want to do for this Eagles-Niners game. It’s not fair that we only get to see this contest played once, I want to see it played out 14 million times. This is as tight of a matchup as you can get. Philly’s top-ranked rushing attack versus a San Francisco defense that’s second in rushing success rate and first in DVOA. A Niners offense that’s fourth in EPA per play, squaring off against an Eagles D that surrenders the lowest EPA per play. The one area where there’s a significant gap is in the Niners’ run game. Philadelphia is about as good at stopping the run as they are at keeping fans from climbing greased poles. The Eagles defense is 20th in rushing success rate and faces a very long day of trying to contain a 49ers rushing attack of Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, and Elijah Mitchell that ranks fifth in that category. I’ll take the Chiefs.
Pete: The storylines in this Bengals-Chiefs matchup this week have been plentiful and all over the place, and that's been reflected in the betting line. The Mahomes injury isn't ideal for Kansas City, but I expect him to be more than healthy enough to play well on Sunday. He's fought through ankle injuries in the past and performed very well. The other narrative is that the Chiefs can't beat the Bengals. Sure, the Bengals are 3-0 against Kansas City over the last year and change, but they've had a lot go their way. Entering the fourth quarter of all three meetings, Kansas City had a 75% or greater win probability. Kansas City was a bigger favorite in Cincinnati earlier this season than they are at home on Sunday. The Chiefs were laying a touchdown in this spot a year ago. I can't help but feel like this is a good opportunity to get value on Kansas City and fade the over the top hype surrounding Cincinnati after last week's performance.
I really am having a hard time separating the 49ers and the Eagles. I've read and listened to plenty of arguments for both sides, and I think they all have legs. The biggest advantage in this game on paper for either side looks to be San Francisco's rushing attack against the Eagles' run defense. Philadelphia ranks 21st in rush defensive DVOA according to FootballOutsiders. I trust Kyle Shanahan to recognize this and keep the ball on the ground through running plays and quick screen action. However, Philadelphia has a tendency to take deep shots which is where San Francisco is most susceptible. This game intrigues me, but for the purpose of this exercise, I'm betting the Chiefs.