Austin Montgomery's Conference Championship Game Picks


Credit: Kansas City Chiefs

Time has flown by, we have the last football Sunday before the Super Bowl.


Championship weekend, the final four. We've got the four teams competing for their place in the Super Bowl. Kansas City is looking to make their third straight Super Bowl appearance, while Joe Burrow and Cincinnati are trying to continue their Cinderella story. Los Angeles is trying to be the second team in NFL history to host the Super Bowl in their own stadium. San Francisco needs to beat Los Angeles a ninth straight time to make it to their second Super Bowl in three years. Two action packed games that will be fun to enjoy.



So, let's get to the picks - as always they're presented by DraftKings Sportsbook, which has a hell of an offer for first-time users this weekend.


Cincinnati at Kansas City


Spread: Kansas City -7 (-120)


Total: 54.5


Neither Cincinnati or Kansas City should be here. Credit to Patrick Mahomes for moving the ball down the field in 13 seconds, but they took advantage of an all time defensive breakdown by Buffalo. They got the lucky side of the coin toss. You can’t convince me that Buffalo wouldn’t have ended the game if the shoe was on the other foot. On the other side, Cincy was the first team to ever win a playoff.


On the other side, Cincy was the first team to ever win a playoff game while allowing seven sacks. While many think the Cincy offense is elite, their offense has just a 39% success rate. Their offense only ranks 18th in DVOA at the end of the regular season. But thankfully for Cincinnati, this matchup against Kansas City’s defense is perfect for them. Joe Burrow had the best QBR in the NFL when facing a blitz. Kansas City blitzes at a top eight rate in the NFL. Kansas City defense has improved, but they are still vulnerable in the back end of the secondary. They still rank 29th in rushing success rate and 23rd in passing success rate on defense.


Joe Burrow is a gamer, he knows he needs to move the ball down the field. Cincy’s best bet for success will be hunting the big play. Using big protections, throwing the ball on first down. This sits well for Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase in one on one coverage. Most importantly, Kansas City defends empty formations with zero coverage. Cincy has run empty on nearly 15 percent of their snaps in the postseason. I expect that to increase in this game greatly.


Offensively for Kansas City, they are going to do what they do. KC ranks 3rd overall in offensive DVOA and they are playing a Cincy defense that ranks 19th in DVOA and 24th against the pass. When these two met in Week 17, the Chiefs led 28 to 17 at the half and looked like they were heading for a rout. They went on to score just three points in the final 30 minutes of game time and lost after a few horrid calls and rookie Ja’Marr Chase‘s explosion. Kansas City needs to do a better job keeping Mahomes in rhythm. Cincy committed eight guys in the box to stop Derrick Henry last week, and Ryan Tannehill didn’t beat them enough on explosive passing plays. Kansas City is a massive upgrade to the offenses Cincy has faced. If KC is aggressive early, I think they will put up a big number.


I can see this as a game where KC gets up early. There will be a lot of points scored. I do like the matchup with Cincy’s offense.


I also do not want to bet against Mahomes with this Cincy defense so we will opt for the Cincy team total.


The pick: Cincinnati team total over 23.5

San Francisco at Los Angeles


Spread: Los Angeles (-3.5)


Total: 45.5


We have an NFC West rivalry to decide who represents the NFC in the Super Bowl. Although LA gets to play this one at home, the fans should be nervous. Many LA season ticket holders are selling the tickets to the point where Sean McVay had to publicly ask fans in the press conference to attend the game rather than selling them. Don’t be surprised if there is a lot of red in Sofi.


On the other hand when Sean McVay has been a favorite over Kyle Shanahan, it hasn’t turned out well for McVay. San Francisco has won each of his last six clashes with Sean McVay — five of which came with the 49ers as outright dogs.


So, how is this going to play out? Both teams rank out pretty similarly and match up well with each other. On defense San Francisco ranks seventh overall in DVOA while Los Angeles ranks fifth. Los Angeles ranks eighth overall in offensive DVOA while San Francisco ranks fifth. Both teams struggled with turnovers on offense, and present scary pass rushes.


So who has the edge? Not really anyone.


So maybe San Francisco has some value with the points. Instead we go with the first half under route.


Shanahan and McVay both script their first few series, and each coach knows each other's tendencies. San Francisco will be able to stop the really down run game for Los Angeles. San Francisco ranks second overall in rush defense DVOA. They may be able to put Stafford in third down and long. On the other side, San Francisco will have success running the ball against an Los Angeles run defense that ranks 12th in DVOA. That means long systematic drives that keep the ball away from Matt Stafford.


A lot of weird things can happen in the second half, from turnovers, to overtime, and that typically ruins unders. Which is why we will stick to predicting a low start to this one.


Give me under in the first half.


The pick: Rams/San Francisco first half under 22


Follow Austin on Twitter @AMontgomeryLive

 

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