Down to the NFL’s final four, what’s the best bet on the board for Sunday’s two championship games? Here’s a closer look at the Tennessee-Kansas City matchup entirely from a gambling perspective.
Let’s begin with a disclaimer by stating the obvious: You don’t have to bet on this game.
Many sports gamblers who survived the long four-month haul of NFL betting fall prey to the temptation of wagering on every post-season game. This is a mistake.
Unlike previous football weekends when more than a dozen games were on the wagering menu to chose from — actually, closer to 100 if we include college football — we’re now down to just a couple of matchups. The possibilities are now far more limited. Given the intense interest in the conference championship games, identifying a discernable edge is next to impossible. Anyone who promises insider information or outlier knowledge is being dishonest. Don’t fall for the hype.
That stated, we here at OG understand most readers want information from a gambling perspective. And so, let’s now analyze the Tennessee-Kansas City matchup.
Kansas City Chiefs -7 or Tennessee Titans +7?
This point spread opened up at Chiefs -7.5. It’s been bet down to -7 at most sportsbooks.
Let’s be clear. There’s a monumental difference between the half-point line move. Capturing Tennessee at plus-7.5 is far preferable to getting only plus-7. By similar logic, capturing Kansas City at minus-7 is far preferable to laying minus-7.5. The decision to bet either side is entirely predicated on which number is available.
That said, let’s presume the prevailing point spread is a touchdown.
Facts to know:
- Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, home teams in AFC championship games have gone 34-15 SU and 28-20-1 ATS.
- The game played earlier this season between these two teams resulted in a 35-32 Titans’ win. Tennessee’s outright victory easily covered the “Titans plus-5” point spread.
- The Titans are 7-3 SU and 7-3 ATS on the road this season.
- The Chiefs are 6-3 SU and 5-3-1 ATS at home this season.
- In the 15 previous situations when a team scored 40+ points in the previous playoff game, they have gone just 11-8 SU and 6-13 ATS in the championship game. Last week, Kansas City scored 51 points.
- Longtime Chiefs’ head coach Andy Ried has a 13-14 SU record in the playoffs.
- This will be Tennessee’s fourth consecutive road game.
Andy Reid-coached teams have a history of folding at this stage of the playoffs. However, this appears to be his most talented team. Certainly, the Chiefs field an explosive offense, which as was proven last week, can put up lots of points quickly. Kansas City stunned just about everyone by overcoming a 24-0 deficit en route to a convincing 51-31 win. They are rightly favored big in this game. However, Tennessee might be the worst possible opponent for the Chiefs in this spot. The red-hot Titans have pulled off three straight road wins, all versus division winners.
The Titans’ defense has been suffocating, holding the Texans, Patriots, and Ravens respectively to 14 points or less each time. The big question is — can the Titans’ power running attack do it one more time? If RB Derrick Henry runs anything like he’s done in the last two months, that does more than help Tennessee move the ball. More important perhaps, success at running the ball keeps the Chiefs’ offense on the sidelines. Tennessee has proven itself capable of upsetting solid teams. They’ve also defeated Kanas City earlier this season and beat Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium in a playoff game two years ago.
While there’s been considerable change in personnel since then, Tennesee looks like a very attractive underdog getting plus-7. At plus-7.5, they are absolutely worth a wager.
Over or Under 53?
The total opened up at 52 and has been bet up to 53. However, some late money has driven the total back down to 52.5 in a few spots. Let’s presume the betting total is 53 for the purposes of discussion.
Facts to know:
- The last ten AFC championship games (dating back to 2009) have resulted in 4 overs and 6 unders.
- The game played earlier this season between these two teams resulted in a 35-32 shootout. The 67-points scored in that game easily pushed the final over the total.
- The Titans’ road games this season have resulted in an even split — 5 overs and 5 unders.
- The Chiefs’ home games this season have resulted in 6 overs and 3 unders.
- Since Ryan Tannehill took over as the Titans’ starting QB, Tennessee has played 9 overs and 3 unders.
Betting this total to go over looks way too obvious. Both teams score plenty of points. Both offenses are explosive. Weather doesn’t appear to be a major factor although temperatures will be cold (20 degrees at game time). Temperatures in this range have not impacted scoring, historically speaking. No wind is in the forecast. What the total doesn’t reflect, however, is the recent play of both defenses. Both units have stepped up significantly in recent games. In the seven games since the mid-season loss at Tennesee, Kansas City has posted 5 unders and just 2 overs. The defense has allowed only 16 points-per-game.
Meanwhile, Tennessee’s defensive numbers are equally as impressive, surrendering just 18 points-per-game over their past seven contests. The total at 53 is the highest of any Titans’ game this season. The Chiefs have seen five games with a total at 53 points or higher — producing 2 overs and 3 unders. Given this total is considerably higher than average, especially for a championship game, there are compelling reasons for contrarians (gamblers who like fading the public and popular perception) to bet under.
One other statistic worth noting: QB Tannehill has completed only 15 passes in his two playoff starts this season (both wins). This is a startling stat, especially in the modern pass-crazy NFL. The Titans’ unproven passing game with the pressure gives even more confidence to the under.
The Betting Verdict:
If you must bet the game, Tennessee appears to be worth a strong look. Contrarians are advised to consider the under.
TOTAL UNDER 53