Betting The NFL Conference Championships

A fast-paced week just flew by, and now we're closing in quickly on Championship Sunday in the NFL.

Today's coursework here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping will focus on handicapping angles for the NFC Championship game matching the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints, and the AFC Championship game matching the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs.

So far this week, I've heard three main angles being discussed from the mainstream and gambling media (it's getting harder to tell them apart these days). Those are...

We're in a temporary run where home teams have dominated conference championship games. In fact, over the last five postseasons, all 10 Super Bowl teams hosted their conference championship game. You have to go back to the Baltimore/San Francisco Super Bowl to find a game where a visitor made it to the big game (both of those teams won on the road to qualify). That's led many to call this a "10-0 trend" that means you should bet New Orleans and Kansas City on the money line...or that you should lay the point spreads of -3 to -3.5 because that's such a small needle for the road dogs to thread.

Personally, I'm not impressed with this trend in these particular matchups. The Rams have already played in New Orleans this season, so they won't be overwhelmed by conditions. You think Tom Brady is afraid of playing anywhere? If anything, the current forecast shows that Sunday's game in KC will be played in conditions more typical for New England.

Now, it's possible to make a case against the Pats because the team as a whole has had some bad road games this season. I would call that more of a "fade the Pats" angle rather than betting the Chiefs because of home field advantage. Kansas City played two home games in the month of December against playoff qualifiers. The Chiefs lost to the Los Angeles Chargers, and had to go overtime to beat Baltimore. They were lucky to face a dome team in sloppy weather last week in the Divisional round.

If you've forgotten the regular season results, New England and New Orleans both scored victories at home over this Sunday's opponent. Some handicappers believe that creates a "revenge" edge for the Chiefs and Rams.

I buy the aspect that first-time losers will make adjustments that could increase their chances of winning. And, that first-time winners are more prone to stand pat because they already know what worked last time. But, this particular way of looking at the game would go into the big cauldron of consideration. I wouldn't base a selection ONLY on revenge. And, I wouldn't be afraid of fading revenge if other factors pointed to the opposing side. For example, if I had 10 reasons to like the Saints -3, I wouldn't pass the game because the Rams had revenge. This topic is in the mix as part of THE MOTIVATION FACTOR, but not the driving force of the mix.

This is being discussed a lot because Brees and Brady are Super Bowl winners who have significantly more experience (particularly playoff experience) than Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes. Everyone remembers that inexperienced quarterbacks played very poorly earlier in the playoffs. DeShaun Watson of Houston, Lamar Jackson of Baltimore, and Mitchell Trubisky of Chicago all lost outright as home favorites over Wildcard Weekend.

First, Mahomes appears to be much better than Watson, Jackson, and that's worth remembering. Second, there's a danger that Brady is reaching the point of his career where physical deterioration trumps age. That happened to Peyton Manning. It might have looked more like it was happening to Brady last week if the Chargers hadn't stubbornly stuck to a zone defense! Other defenses have made Brady look old this year, rather than experienced.

For Rams/Saints, the regular season meeting was 35-all late in the game with Goff facing Brees. Obviously Goff had a good game, and can't really be blamed for that non-cover.

Let's see where we stand:
Rams: revenge
Saints: home field and more experienced QB
Patriots: more experienced QB
Chiefs: home field and revenge

No slam dunks. But, something for you to think about.

Your homework for this weekend, assuming you're already very well versed on the PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS on these rosters based on your earlier work, is to assign a point total on a scale from 1-10 for the importance of those edges.

If you think home field is HUGE, rank it anywhere from 8-10. If less important, maybe something in the 4-6 range. If irrelevant, give it a zero. Do the same with revenge and QB experience. See how those totals add up for each game. Maybe that will affect your thinking, and maybe it won't. At the very least, you won't let any weekend TV chatter clutter up you're thinking because you'll have already addressed these topics. The last thing you want is a TV pundit talking you out of a winner!

If you'd like additional help landing your final approach, KELSO STURGEON'S top plays can always be purchased at this website by credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered by calling my office at 1-800-755-2255 during normal business hours. Sign up for basketball through March Madness, and you can get my picks in the last three NFL games for a nominal charge.

The Dean of Sports Handicapping greatly appreciates your attendance and hard work. I'll see you again Monday at the usual time. We'll either review championship results, or pick up again with more college basketball discussion. Best of luck to you this weekend.