Now do you believe in the 2023-24 version of Patrick Mahomes? He looked every bit the NFL’s best player in the dramatic divisional round win over the Buffalo Bills.
There is only one MVP for this season, though, and it’s Lamar Jackson. The Baltimore Ravens quarterback crushed the doubters last week with an exceptional performance.
So which guy is going to blink?
We’ll present our case, a play on one of these teams and a bonus bet below.
Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens
Time, TV: 3 p.m. ET, CBS.
Odds: Ravens -4, total 44.5 (DraftKings).
Aspiring handicappers can use AFC Championship Game betting statistics to back either team.
There is a great deal of information — and we’re going to inundate you with the numbers — so take the stats you like the best.
The momentum is on the Ravens’ side, with the line being bet up to -4 from an opening number of -3.5.
For Kansas City: Mahomes is terrific in the underdog role. Sunday marks the sixth time he and the Chiefs have opened at +3 or higher. He is 5-0 against the spread in those games, including one in 2020 against the Ravens.
For Baltimore: The Ravens are catching the Chiefs in a strange-stat situation. Teams in a game immediately after facing the Bills, as KC did last week, are 24-41-1 ATS over the past four seasons, including 5-11-1 ATS this season. And teams who beat Josh Allen in the playoffs are 0-4 straight up in the next game.
There were questions about Jackson’s playoff shortcomings — he’s not one to consistently cover as a home favorite. Jackson is 29-10 straight up but only 16-23 against the spread when favored at home.
And this is not great for those hoping to bet on the Ravens to cover: Of 220 quarterbacks — as home favorites — in games spanning the past two decades, Jackson ranks 211th against the spread.
And then he went out last week and played lights out.
Speaking of lights, Jackson backers can take solace in this betting stat: He’s 16-6 straight up and 14-8 ATS in night games. He’s won eight consecutive night games straight up.
And at home, Jackson has won eight of 10 straight up and is 6-4 ATS.
Mahomes is certainly the main hurdle, but Jackson is saying all the right things this week.
“I don’t like competing against him at all,” Jackson said with a laugh. “He’s a great quarterback. It’s a no-brainer; he’s definitely a Hall of Famer.
“I believe it’s two up-and-coming greats going toe to toe, like a heavyweight fight, a heavyweight matchup. That’s what I see.”
Kansas City will be without standout guard Joe Thuney, but Isiah Pacheco says his toe injury will not prevent him from playing.
Sunday’s game is the Ravens’ first conference championship game since their Super Bowl-winning run in 2012.
The Chiefs have won at least two playoff games in five consecutive seasons and Mahomes is 13-3 as a playoff starter.
The Ravens plan to make that 13-4 by keeping possession and accentuating the ground game; Jackson accounted for 100 yards rushing by himself last week against the Texans.
Baltimore sits third in both EPA (Expected Points Added) per rush and rushing success rate, and are No. 5 on Pro Football Focus’ ranking of rushing grades.
Much has been made of the Chiefs’ defensive improvement, but against the run, KC is 28th in EPA per play allowed. According to Pro Football Focus, they receive a run defense grade ranking of 18th.
The question boils down to whether the Chiefs’ commitment to stop the Ravens’ ground game will cost them when Jackson — in play action — gains traction throwing the ball.
Can Zay Flowers, Mark Andrews, et al make winning plays? The likely answer is “some of the time.”
With that tepid endorsement, we’ll follow with a similar sentiment: Patrick Mahomes is too good to be on a team suffering a playoff blowout, but Lamar Jackson and the home-field advantage are too good to dismiss.
The bet: Ravens adjusted spread -2.5 (-175 at BetMGM).
The Ravens looked dominant on defense; the Chiefs believe they can hold down the Baltimore ground game.
The second-half unders in KC games this season, according to Action Network, are a staggering 17-2.
Parlay that with a near-sure thing and hope Mahomes stays upright.
The bet: Two-leg parlay, the second-half UNDER 21.5 points with Mahomes to throw for 200+ yards (+164 at DraftKings).
–Field Level Media
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