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NFL Conference Championships: Kansas City Chiefs-Cincinnati Bengals betting preview (odds, lines, best bets)

Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco (10) reacts after running the ball against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second half in the AFC divisional round game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

  • Bet Kansas City Chiefs -1 (-110): The handicap comes down to Patrick Mahomes and how effective he can be navigating the Cincinnati Bengals‘ pass rush. If he is as close to full health as reports indicate, then the Chiefs at slightly more than a pick-em are an incredible value this late in the season. 
  • Bet Isiah Pacheco Anytime TD (+145): He received a team-high 12 carries with a 43% team rush attempt share last week. He is Kansas City's early down back and due to Mahomes' injury, he could see an uptick in goalline carries on Sunday. 
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Let’s dive into the best bets to make for the AFC conference championship between the Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs.

Game lines

Mahomes' injury situation is dominating the betting focus, as the spread in the Chiefs-Bengals matchup is gyrating between the threes as we move toward kickoff. The opening spread sided with Kansas City but after printing +2.5s while a couple books offered +3, we have swung all the way back and now find Kansas City favored again. 

With a healthy Mahomes, there's no question that the Chiefs are the correct side at -1 — PFF’s Greenline model and the play-by-play simulation find value in that number. If Mahomes was fully healthy, PFF’s play-by-play simulation would price this closer to a -4.5 spread.

Quantifying Mahomes' effectiveness is the key to this handicap, and the play-by-play simulation offers some opportunities to look at outcomes where he doesn’t play his best. Additionally, we can also look at some upside cases involving Chad Henne if further injury forces Mahomes to not finish the game. In this approach, given considerations that Mahomes plays like a shell of himself game or Henne performs above expectation, we get a +1.5 spread with the Bengals as slight favorites. 

We can correctly assign a range of outcomes given Mahomes' effectiveness, so if practice reports, discussions with reporters and social media videos give you a strong conviction on Mahomes' injury situation, there are viable betting opportunities on this game script.

However, after reports that Mahomes' ankle sprain isn’t as serious as it was in 2019, I believe the Chiefs are the correct side, especially with the market moving back in their direction. 

Mahomes' effectiveness also has an outsized impact on the total, where both PFF Greenline and the play-by-play simulation seem to believe that too much has been made of both defenses. These are still two of the most explosive offenses in football and despite the injury situation stacking up for both offenses, both teams should still generate enough chunk plays to see this game go over the 47.5-point total. 

Pick: Chiefs -1 -(110), O47.5 (-110; bets playable to -115)

Player props

Player props continue to be one of the best approaches to betting on the NFL. If interested in macro trends from the past three seasons, check out my midseason prop article here.

One way to consistently find defined edges without blindly betting unders is by utilizing PFF's player props tool. The ability to adjust both number and price means you are always certain of the expected value for each prop bet. Let’s dive into the best player props to bet for this conference championship showdown. 


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