It’s getting close to the end, with just 3 games remaining in the 2021 NFL season. Three of the teams in action were expected to be here coming into the final 4, the other one, not so much.
The Chiefs were favourites for a return to the Super Bowl while the Rams were a hype team to make it two home Super Bowls in a row after 54 years without that happening after the Bucs played in their own stadium last year.
The 49ers were 14/1 along with the Rams to open the season, but the shock appearance here is from the Cincinnati Bengals who were as long as 150/1 to win the whole thing when the league kicked off, only the Jets, Lions and Texans were longer odds than them at the start of the season.
The current odds for the winner of the Superbowl are;
- Chiefs – 6/5
- Rams – 21/10
- 49ers – 5/1
- Bengals – 9/1
There lines available for the Super Bowl already at Paddypower where they have;
- Rams +2.5 @ Chiefs
- 49ers +3 @ Chiefs
- Rams -3.5 @ Bengals
- 49ers -2.5 @ Bengals.
Check out my NFC Preview HERE, it’s a little shorter than this one!
Whatever happens in this game I’ve got a Signed Joe Burow eclipse mini-helmet on the way thanks to winning a raffle on LockdownLids on facebook. An alternate helmet that will fit nicely next to the regular Burrow mini I’ve already got. Give them a follow and get involved!
Obviously, we’ve got Draftkings contests as usual, the full weekend slate is $5 entry, top 3 get paid, enter here – and with just a couple of games to go I’ve got Showdown slates for both games as well – $3 entry, top 3 get paid on those too – Bengals @ Chiefs and 49ers @ Rams both on the app now, check out NFL-DFS.com for some advice on how to play those this week.
Cincinnati Bengals +7.5 @ Kansas City Chiefs: 54.5
These two met each other a month ago in week 17 in the Jungle with the Bengals ended up winners thanks to going for it at the end of the game, a 34-31. That was the game that secured the playoffs for the Bengals after the Ravens lost later that day.
The Chiefs got out to a 14-0 lead before Chase went in from 72 yards to start his huge day, the rest of that half went score for score and they went in at 28-17. Now, I believe the tightening up in the second half was due to half time adjustments from the Bengals coaching staff, something they’ve done well a few times this year, other handicappers seem to think it was just the Chiefs cruising as they weren’t fussed about the #1 seed. Either way I’m still giving my team credit for restricting the Chiefs to 3 points in the second half, that wasn’t anything to do with the refs.
Yes, I am butthurt by the utter lack of respect given to them by handicappers and analysts alike this week. Just because the fucking numbers don’t say they’re the best or second-best team in the conference, they obviously don’t have a chance. The referees won that games, the Chiefs weren’t trying, the Titans were the better team last week, bla bla bla. If things go right the Bengals offense can out-score any team in the league.
Now… having said that, I did think the line was correct at 7. All 6.5s were gobbled up straight away and for me, I’ll be taking the Bengals on the other side of the hook.
Joe Burrow has more playoff wins in 2 weeks than Dak Prescott has had in 6 years. In 6 playoff games at LSU and now the Bengals he’s yet to lose.
Yeah, but Burrow was sacked 9 times last week. He was, it wasn’t pretty, he was responsible for 3 of them himself as he held the ball to allow things to happen. He didn’t fumble, he didn’t panic and throw interceptions, and yet despite going down 9 times he still threw for 348 yards and got his team the win. That offensive line performance has, strangely enough, been talked about a lot this week, it was the highest sack count of the season by some way, Adeniji at RG having a particularly rough night, it’s safe to assume they’ll be fired up and have put in extra work this week to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
The Chiefs pass-rush isn’t bad, but they don’t rush just 4 like the Raiders and Titans did, they bring the hosue and Burrow destroys the blitz. The interior of the line will have their hands full with Chris Jones and Jarran Reed while Melvin Ingram had a good game in the regular season as well, Burrow took 4 sacks for 31 yards in that matchup.
Joe Burrow is a franchise-changer though, he oozes confidence every time he speaks and that’s rubbed off on the team. He’s just got IT; that immeasurable thing that winners have. The game a month ago against the Chiefs got him and the Bengals fully in the media’s attention as he threw for 4 TDs as they CHASEd the game. He finished that one with a 148 passer rating, the highest of his professional career.
As with a lot of the Bengals numbers this year, the stats don’t entirely back up what the eyes see on a week-to-week basis, I think that’s why there’s such apparent disdain for them reaching this point of the season. Just 15th on offensive passing DVOA during the season despite having one of the softest schedules (apparently) doesn’t give the nerds confidence in this team. They are 4th (of 14) for the same stat in the post-season though.
Hmmm, I’m a little fired up here, might not be the most neutral preview ever.
The star man in the regular season game was quite obviously Ja’marr Chase who’s 266 and 3 TD performance basically secured OROY for him (and us at 7/1), not bad for a player who couldn’t catch in pre-season. Sure the Bengals would probably like a little more protection for Burrow but it’s tough to argue that this selection at pick 5 last year was the wrong choice.
Ironically his connection with Burrow may have caused a few sacks to have been taken by his boy as he waits for Chase to inevitably get free, but that’s just conjecture. It would be stunning if they left him one on one as much as they did in the earlier match between the two, and frankly it was stunning that they did in that game as he’s shown all year that he kills single coverage, I have to imagine they’ll shift some coverage towards Chase as they did with Diggs last week (as mentioned by my long lost Uncle Chuck here) – If they do that though then it opens things up for the rest of the offense and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Tee Higgins has multiple 100 yard games this year, including 4 in his last 6 regular season games, one of them against this opponent, and he notched up 96 yards off 7 receptions last week. He’s proven his worth since he was taken at the top of the 2nd round last season and can go up and make contested catches if required. Put it this way, he’s better than the Bills secondary WRs, one of which went off for 4 TDs last week.
In the slot, Tyler Boyd hasn’t had a record year, but he’s there when required and has had a few breakaway scores this year and found the endzone against the Chiefs in that matchup, he also found some space on the broken play which provided the second score against the Raiders in the wildcard round. He’s still yet to drop a catchable pass thrown in his direction this season, a remarkable stat.
The beauty of having a top-tier QB (I genuinely believe he is) and this trio of talent in the receiving game is that they will spread the ball around and find the free man, the beauty of this iteration of the Bengals is that they’re all leaders and don’t have ego’s, so they’re happy with whatever they get on the field as long as it benefits the team.
If they can’t get the ball to the guys above then tight end CJ Uzomah (yew-zah-mah). Who has had a fantastic post-season so far, the opening TD in the Raiders game as part of his 6/6 for 64 yards and 71 yards from 7 receptions last week (although his long of 32 came on a dead play to end the half) – He had a few big games in the regular season but the reliability of the most likeable man in football means that he’s been involved heavily as a safety valve for Burrow. The Chiefs have been good vs. the TE, not allowing a TD to the position in the second half of the year, although the competition wasn’t exactly elite.
Then if all of those are covered? Well just dump it off to Joe Mixon, the running back who finished 3rd in rushing yards this year and added a further 314 receiving yards in the regular season. The offensive line problems have been a bit of an issue in recent weeks, he’s not averaged over 4 yards per carry for 3 months, but he has the ability to bounce one outside and find the endzone as he did last week, add in the 79 rec. yards in the post-season so far and a poor Chiefs defense against that area and he should show in the box score this week.
The defense…now the numbers tell you the Bengals D isn’t very good, finishing the regular season 24th vs the pass and 13th against the run according to DVOA, they’ve been 2nd best against the run in the post-season though, Josh Jacobs and Derrick Henry up against them. Obviously, I will quote DVOA as it’s a useful tool, but to promote that run defense I will say they allowed the 5th fewest rush yards in the regular season. PFF have CB Chidobe Awuzie as the 2nd highest rated corner, and DJ Reader was top 5 in his position as well.
Jessie Bates has had a couple of great games and looks back to his 2020 best, while the linebackers Pratt and Wilson have been outstanding as well. Add to that the pass rush of Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard and while it might not be considered star-studded it’s been an effective defense for a lot of the year.
Ok, enough ranting about my own team and the lack of respect for them, on to the Super Bowl favourites.
Kansas City Chiefs
What more can be said about the Chiefs that hasn’t already? It’s hard to believe that a lot of people thought that they’d be found out and it would be a tough season for them. The offense despite a lot of turnovers from Mahomes was still one of the best when it came to EPA throughout the season, it just needed a little clean-up on both sides of the ball for them to turn things around and they did that.
I said a couple of seasons ago that Patrick Mahomes is the best I’ve seen play the game and despite challenges in recent years, well, recent weeks in fact, I still hold that opinion. He does things that few others can do and now hosting his 4th conference championship game in 4 years it’s tough to see that changing in the near future. The AFC as a conference is stacked at QB, the vanquished foe from last week Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow will all keep their teams challenging for years to come.
The Bills done fucked up last week by kicking into the endzone, but still they probably thought that 13 seconds wouldn’t be enough time for the opposing QB to move the ball into field goal range, well it was Mahomes and it was Kelce and that was that. Harking back to the regular season game, it was why the Bengals went for it on 4th down instead of kicking a field goal, admittedly they got “lucky” with penalties, but you just can’t give this level of talent any time to move the ball.
The best thing about the Chiefs this season has been that they have got away from just targeting Kelce and Hill as they did early in the season and have got the bit-part players into the action. The likes of Robinson, Pringle and the running backs catching the ball from the backfield have made the Chiefs a more rounded offense. It was what game-plans against them required and they have the ability and the coaching to overcome it.
When you add to the arm talent the fact that he’s one of the best scrambling QBs in the game (he led the divisional round in rushing yards last week with 69) it makes the Chiefs near impossible to slow down.
The Bengals did a good job of slowing Tyreek Hill in the week 17 matchup, allowing just 40 yards from 6 receptions to him, but he was going through a bit of a slump with, I think, niggling ankle/heel injuries but it sure looked like he was OK last week as he hit 150 and a TD and his 64 yard TD run looked like he was perfectly healthy.
Despite just 1 TD in the final 7 regular season games, Tyreek has done as studs tend to do and bounced back in the post-season with a TD in each of their games so far.
The TE is the second, or even first target in the passing game but I’ll get to him in a minute, behind Hill in the WR room there’s not a whole lot of upper-level talent, but the group they have chipped in well and tend to get the yardage and scores when required. Obviously having Mahomes throwing the ball helps, they can get free, and will invariably be found.
They say once you pop, you can’t stop and that seems to be proving true for Byron Pringle as he’s found the endzone three times in the post-season after just 5 during the regular season. He’s had 5 receptions in each game, doesn’t get the yardage as such with a high of 37 in those games. Demarcus Robinson scored in the previous game between these two, he adds a little more height to the receiving corps, while Mecole Hardman always seems to live up to his name by being very tough to catch on a good day. He scored a rushing TD last week and they do like to give him end-arounds from the backfield.
So, on to pass-catcher #2, Travis Kelce. It wasn’t a stellar season for the former Cincinnati Bearcat, but that’s judging him on his prior success, he still finished with 9 TDs in the regular season, and much like Tyreek, he steps up in the playoffs, averaging over 100 yards per game and a TD in each, of course the winner in Overtime last week. The Bengals haven’t been good against the tight end this season but did limit him to 25 yards from 5 receptions in the first match-up. It would be stunning if they managed that again, if they do, they probably win.
The running back group… I have to assume that Jerrick McKinnon will be the “main back” for them as he’s done OK in recent weeks, however the return of Clyde Edwards-Helaire last week and the possible return of Darrell Williams, it might muddle things a bit. Williams ran well in the week 17 match. Whatever happens on the ground (last week was 10 carries Mckinnon and 7 for Clyde) it seems likely that McKinnon gets most of the passing work, it’s where he’s excelled through his career. Last week McKinnon had more than double the snaps of Clyde (53 to 23).
The Chiefs defense isn’t great. Believe it or not, it actually rates worse than the Bengals! They lost Tyrann Mathieu last week with a concussion and his absence definitely helped Gabriel Davis get his 4 TDs over the middle of the pitch, but he should be back for this one. They like to blitz, using it to get pressure the 8th most in the league in the regular season, they toned that down a little against Joe Burrow, but he still killed them on it, and Chase murders one-on-one coverage, and they left him 1 on 1 for most of that huge game. You have to assume they’ll be a little more respectful of him in this one, but good QBs/Offenses have killed the Chiefs all year and I would expect that again.
Ok, so you probably expect me to predict the Bengals winning. They might do, I think it’s 35/65 towards the Chiefs. I do believe the Bengals are underrated in the media, they always have been and apparently always will be. The stats don’t suggest they’re anything other than average either, so I’m fighting a losing battle for my team to get a little respect.
But I’m not an idiot, and I do try and get winners on this page, the Chiefs really should win, it’s in their own stadium, it’s the 4th year in a row they’ve hosted the conference championship game and they are undoubtedly better coached than the Bengals are.
I just don’t think they’ll cover the 7.5, and I’m a little surprised it’s stayed that high after being at 7 all week.
It should be a high-scoring affair, we know the Chiefs can go up and down the field on anyone and can score in a heartbeat should the need arise, they’ve played two this post-season and scored 42 in each of them. They’re the best team in the league.
But they can be scored on by good offenses and the Bengals ranks as that. They won’t allow 9 sacks again, and I think they should be beating their 22.5 team total with relative ease actually.
My predictions are: Chiefs win, Bengals cover 7.5, Over 54.5.
Bets I like in this one;
- Bengals 2nd half team total o10.5 – 1/1 (Paddypower)
- Tee Higgins – 7/4 (365)
- Patrick Mahomes – 11/4 (Skybet)
- Total sacks – o4.5 – 4/6 (365)
Having a quick look at the Betbuilder type affairs.
- Mahomes and Burrow 300+ passing yards – 4/1 (Paddypower power price)
- Each team to score 2 TDs in each half – 16/1 (Skybet) – This is at various prices everywhere else, and even on Skybet, the 16/1 is in Popular RaBs at the top, don’t take the 15/2 offered further down… – It’s 8/1 on Will Hill, 17/2 at PP/Betfair