Bettor’s Playbook: NFL Conference Championship Betting Picture Is Set

Written By Dave Bontempo on January 24, 2022
NFL Conference Championship Game


New Jersey online sports bettors pause, take a deep breath and ponder the NFL’s encore of a weekend for the ages. The conference semifinals featured three road dogs prevailing on the game’s final play and the lone favorite winning an epic overtime shootout.

Gamblers rode a roller coaster like no other.

A blocked field goal and punt changed one game. A 24-point comeback marked another. A pick with 20 seconds remaining decided a third and one of the greatest finishes in NFL history marked a fourth.

It brings this:

Two rematches to decide the NFC and AFC representatives for Super Bowl XLI on Feb. 13.

NFL Conference Championship Sunday

Here is the NFL Conference Championship schedule for Sunday, Jan. 30.

AFC Championship Game 

Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs, 3:05 p.m. ET (CBS)

NFC Championship Game

San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams, 6:30 p.m. ET (Fox)

DraftKings Sportsbook installed the Chiefs as a solid favorite and the Los Angeles Rams as a medium-sized chalk.

Here are four questions and betting considerations for the NFL conference championship round.

NFL Conference Championship odds at NJ sportsbooks

1. Did the Chiefs already play their Super Bowl?

The defending AFC champs seized an unbelievable 42-36 overtime thriller over the Buffalo Bills.  It was a game neither team should’ve lost.

Here are the palpitations both teams dealt bettors in the final two minutes and overtime, which started with Kansas City leading 26-21:

  • 27-yard touchdown pass from Josh Allen to Gabriel Davis, on 4th and 13, with 1:54 to go, puts Buffalo up 27-26.
  • Buffalo two-point conversion to Stefon Diggs to make the score 29-26.
  • Kansas City’s 64-yard touchdown from Patrick Mahomes to Tyreek Hill with 1:02 left puts Chiefs up 33-29.
  • Another Allen to Gabriel TD pass, with 13 seconds to go, looked like the dagger. Buffalo 36, Kansas City 33.

But Kansas City drove 44 yards in three plays, setting up the game-tying field goal to force overtime.

The Chiefs took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards to the win, capped by a Mahomes to Travis Kelce touchdown.

There were 25 points scored inside the last two minutes, 31 points in roughly half a quarter, including overtime.

There was 344 yards of total offense in 13 minutes.

Roller-coaster winner: Kansas City moneyline, -2 spread and over 55 total. Some NJ gamblers got a handsome return on wagering on any of the four weekend games to see overtime.

So who were the losers? Buffalo bettors who had this game in their pockets twice, before it vanished.

It will be interesting to see if the Chiefs can summon the same emotional focus against Cincinnati.

2. Do Bengals bettors think they have a gift?

Cincinnati won a thrilling 34-31 home shootout on Jan. 2 the Chiefs. It took away the No. 1 AFC playoff seed for Kansas City and gave Cincinnati the NFL AFC North title.

With the change in venue, this game could have landed in the – 3- or -4-point range, but Cincinnati gamblers may see a spread that seems out of line to them.

Quarterback Joe Burrow tossed for 446 and four touchdowns in the first game. Ja’Marr Chase exploded for 266 receiving yards.

That combo, whether Cincinnati exploits it or Kansas City shuts it down, will be a major betting focus of this game.

As for how Cincinnati got here, the Bengals played an excellent defensive game to subdue the Tennessee Titans 19-16 as a 3.5-point underdog.

Burrow passed for 348 yards and established a record that brought former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb into focus.

When Burrow survived nine sacks to escape with a playoff victory, he eclipsed the mark set by McNabb in 2003. McNabb endured eight sacks but the Eagles prevailed over the Green Bay Packers.

The Bengals defense decided the game, notching three interceptions responsible for at least a nine-point swing.

Joe Mixon had 105 all-purpose yards as a running back and receiver. Prop players may want to target his production as split between rushing and receiving.

Chase eclipsed 100 yards for the second straight playoff week but has not scored. He also had a 57-yard reception, cashing in for gamblers betting whether he’d have one over 50.

Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel faces criticism for trying a two-point conversion with the score 6-6 in the second quarter. It failed. Tennessee could have been nursing a one-point lead rather than needing a field goal to win. And they would have avoided Ryan Tannehill’s third interception that came off a late pick. That set up the game-winning field goal.

Burrow has been cool under fire. The Bengals grew from the 26-19 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders before knocking off the top-seeded Titans.

Evan “Money Mac” McPherson won the game with a 52-yard field goal on the final play. Keep an eye on props for his point totals in the game.

3. Are the 49ers  a spoiler or simply that good?

The 49ers did two unlikely things in their victory over the Green Bay Packers.

First, they knocked off the NO. 1 seed at Lambeau Field as a 5.5-point underdog at DraftKings.

Second, they did it without scoring an offensive touchdown.

No way.

Play Aaron Rodgers, put two field goals up for offense and win. Talk about long betting odds.

What happened? The Niners blocked a field goal at the end of the first half, keeping a 7-0 deficit at halftime.

With less than five minutes remaining in the game, trailing 10-3, they blocked a punt and scored.

The 10-point swing, unlikely as it was, proved significant in the 13-10 triumph.

San Francisco matched what it did against the Rams in the regular-season finale. It hung around long enough to avoid being knocked out early and came on to win the game late.

In the last 10 quarters, the Niners have only yielded 34 points. They beat the Rams, Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers on the road. It is the most impressive three-game stretch by one team against elite opponents this year.

They have the most consistent defense of the four remaining teams.

4. Will Rams finally tame the Niners?

The Niners have beaten the Rams six straight times.

If the Rams don’t go to the Super Bowl, they will remember not putting San Francisco out of its misery in Week 18. The Niners needed a win just to make the postseason and trailed the Rams 17-0 just before halftime.

But San Francisco would prevail 27-24 in overtime. The Rams only needed one first down to put the game away late. They didn’t get it and lost. However, they have since won two playoff games. So have the Niners.

If the Niners triumph again, they will have used the Rams both to get into the playoffs and into the Super Bowl.

For this week, however, the Rams will savor a win they nearly coughed up.

Four fumbles, right as they were trying to put the dagger into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, resulted in a 27-3 lead that became 27-27 in the final minute.

Fortunately for Los Angeles, Cooper Kupp had a monster game with 173 yards. That included a 70-yard touchdown reception and a 44-yard last-second completion to set up the game-winning field goal.




Dave Bontempo Avatar
Written by
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and others. He writes about all major sports in the booming legal New Jersey sports betting industry. Dave also hosts the Why Eagles Why podcast. Dave is a member of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame and the Atlantic City International Boxing Hall of Fame.

View all posts by Dave Bontempo