NFL Conference Championship betting tips: Bet now or bet later?

The Big Game

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN – JANUARY 16: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers leaves the field following the NFC Divisional Playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field on January 16, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Rams 32-18. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

DALLAS (COVERS) — The wildest NFL season in history is down to its final four teams with betting lines for the AFC and NFC Championships hitting the board Sunday.

But just when you thought the 2020-21 campaign couldn’t get any nuttier, the best player in the league is a question mark for Championship Weekend. That could leave the odds for the AFC title game looking very different come Sunday.

Getting the best of the number is always the sharpest NFL betting strategy, especially when there are only two games on the board. These are our top NFL betting tips for the spreads and totals to bet now and which ones to bet later.

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (-2.5): Bet Now

Patrick Mahomes’ status for the AFC Championship Game has gamblers tuning into Kansas City sports talk radio, getting cozy with local beat reporters, and even following Mahomes’ fiance on Instagram. Anything to get that edge.

As of Sunday night, the chatter – at least from the medical expertise of Chiefs head coach Andy Reid – is that Mahomes is OK and “passed all the deals that he needed to pass.” Whatever the hell that means. 

While that may not be an official medical thumbs up, it was enough to slide the opening spread of Kansas City -1 (which played ping pong between K.C. -1 and +1 for a few minutes) to -2.5 and -3, depending on the book. 

The lookahead line for this potential matchup climbed as high as K.C. -5.5 at offshores shops after the Bills’ listless win over the Baltimore Ravens Saturday. And midway through the Browns-Chiefs game on Sunday, some Vegas shops were hanging an early spread of -4 before Mahomes left due to a concussion in the third quarter.

If you’re buying into the coach speak and early line moves and think Mahomes is back under center next Sunday, get this one now—especially under the key number of a field goal, although it will cost you as much as -125 juice. Or better yet, grab Kansas City moneyline as low as -150 and put your mind at ease when it comes to any spread movement between now and Sunday’s 6:40 p.m. ET kickoff. 

If Mahomes gets the green light, expect this spread to go through a field goal and close somewhere close to -4, as Buffalo has looked far from dominant in its two playoff wins. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3.5) vs. Green Bay Packers: Bet Later

The Buccaneers pulled a Randy Orton and sent Drew Brees out to pasture (possibly) in the Divisional Round, forcing four turnovers and sticking that mighty New Orleans offense in mud in the second half.

Tampa Bay allowed only 190 passing yards and checked Brees to 19-of-34 passing with one touchdown to three interceptions. In fact, 56 of those total passing yards came on a TD bomb from Jameis Winston. Now, the Bucs’ fifth-ranked pass defense in DVOA at Football Outsiders turns its attention to Aaron Rodgers.

Green Bay was a 3-point favorite on the lookahead line before Sunday’s Divisional Round game and hit the board as official 3.5-point chalk on the opening line at most books (although the Superbook in Las Vegas opened Packers -4.5 and were instantly hit with Tampa action). With the forecast for Lambeau calling for classic Cheesehead weather, early money moved the juice on the Packers to -3.5 (-115) and some shops are already dealing -4.

If you’re not afraid of a little snow and are backing the Buccos in the NFC Championship, wait it out and see if you can get Brady & Co. at +4 or more.  

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Green Bay Packers (Under 52): Bet Now

The Packers take on another hard-hitting defense in the Buccaneers this Sunday after laying waste to the L.A. Rams’ vaunted stop unit in the Divisional Round. But it’s not just Tampa Bay that could be working against the points in the NFC Championship.

The extended forecast for Green Bay, Wisconsin is calling for snow and wind (gusts up to 24 mph) with temperatures in the low 20s (with a feels-like temp of 14 degrees) this Sunday. That could shorten the deep pass attacks of both of these explosive playbooks and force some miscues on offense.

The Packers and Bucs could lean on the run games more if the wind and visibility play a problem. And while Tom Brady is used to these bad weather games, his current offense isn’t. Tampa is a vertical route-running team that thrives on air yards (third in NFL in completed air yards) rather than short passes and yards after the catch – standard gears for slick, snowy surfaces.  

The total hit the board as high as 52 points at some books while others led with 51.5. Given all the hype around the potential “Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field”, the Under could be the popular play out the gates. If you’re on board with a lower-scoring NFC title game, get ahead of that move now. But as always, keep an eye on the forecast as there’s an entire week for this mess to blow over.

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