NFL Conference Championships: Sides & Totals

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers looks toward the sidelines during the 4th quarter of the NFC Divisional Playoff game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on January 22, 2022 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Image Credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Each week, BetPrep NFL Sharp “Tommy The Hitman” discusses every game through the eyes of a professional sports bettor with host and 30-year sports talk radio vet Jody McDonald of CBS Sports Radio.

Here are some recent highlights from the latest episode of Hot Read Hits, the official NFL podcast of BetPrep.

With so few games, we need the lines on the games to have value and they do not. So our only play this week is actually a player prop. But I’ve included my notes to enhance your ability to forecast and enjoy each game.

Bengals at Chiefs: Sunday 3 p.m. ET

The line on this game is Chiefs by 7 with the O/U at 54.5. I have no play in this game.

Joe Burrow is a blitz crusher: Largest increase in yards per attempt vs. blitz compared to when not blitzed this season (including playoffs) is Burrow, who is +3.41 YPA vs. blitz. The Chiefs are an aggressive defense by nature and necessity due to personnel. They blitz on 28.1% of dropbacks (eighth), and play man coverage on 34.8% of plays (eighth). We have talked about blitzing Burrow at your own peril this entire season in this weekly space, In that Week 17 matchup the Chiefs dialed down the blitz to 22.2% of Burrow’s dropbacks and he made them pay on those plays, completing 6-of-9 passes for 92 yards (10.2 Y/A). Burrow was also 10-of-14 for 156 yards (11.1 Y/A) when the Chiefs played man coverage in that game.

The Bengals are throwing way more: Bengals have six games all season with a pass rate over expectation over 1.5%, and four of them have been in the last four games with starters.

Patrick Mahomes on fire: Last seven games Mahomes has 72.2% completions, 320 yards per game, 20 TD’s and 2 INT’S. Kansas City has scored 28 or more points in each of their previous seven games. They have averaged 46.1 yards per drive while scoring on 64.2% (43-of-67) of their possessions with a touchdown on 44.8% (30-of-67) over that span, all tops in the NFL over that span.

The Chiefs defense is good against bad QB’s, struggling vs good ones: They are predicated on created turnovers and we have seen the three quality quarterbacks they have faced since their bye (Justin Herbert, Burrow himself, and Josh Allen) score on 17-of-31 possessions while posting 428, 475, and 422 yards of offense.

49ers at Rams: Sunday 6:30 ET

The line here is Rams by 3.5 with the O/U at 45.5.-46.

The Niners of course have won six straight wins against the Rams and were underdogs in five of those matchups. In those six matchups, the 49ers have outscored the Rams 26.5 to 18.0 while out-gaining them 364.0 yards to 285.7.

The only thing I like in this game is a player prop: Jimmy Garoppolo under 232.5 passing yards.

Garoppolo in his last four games has 10 turnover-worthy plays, two big-time throws.

Since the second half against Dallas, Garoppolo is 14-30 passing, 170 yards, 5.7 YPA, 0 TD, 2 INT.

The 49ers hide Garoppolo against the Rams: Jimmy G has thrown for 75% completions and 9.8 YPA against the Rams this season, and has four-straight games against the Rams with 8 YPA. However, they hid him against the Rams, as they had their lowest and third lowest neutral pass rate games of the season against them. Part of the reason Garoppolo may have been successful against the Rams is that this season he’s third in EPA per play on throws over the middle between 0-15 air yards. The Rams rank 28th in EPA per play against those pass attempts.

The Rams’ defense vs. the run is strong. They have allowed 3.72 yards per carry to backs (fourth). Of course, the 49ers’ most dangerous runner is NOT a running back, it’s WR Deebo Samuel.

The San Francisco defense is on fire: San Francisco has won six of their past seven games. They have not allowed more than 24 points in any of those games, with games against the Bengals, Cowboys, Packers, and these Rams as part of the sample (all top-10 in points per game). They limited those four teams to scoring on 33.3% of their drives (14-of-42) and a touchdown on 19.1% (8-of-42) of drives.

Matthew Stafford is elite against the blitz, but SF isn’t blitzing: The 49ers do not blitz much at all, checking in 28th in the league in blitz rate (18.9%). In Week 10, the 49ers blitzed Stafford on just 4-of-44 dropbacks (9.1%) and on just 6-of-37 dropbacks (16.2%) in Week 18. Stafford was 8-of-9 for 105 yards (11.7 Y/A) and two touchdowns on those dropbacks as opposed to averaging 5.9 Y/A with two touchdowns and four interceptions when the Niners did not blitz. They have pressured passers on 35.8% of dropbacks (sixth).