NFL Conference Championship Picks: 49ers-Eagles, Bengals-Chiefs ATS Predictions

Which teams will advance to Super Bowl LVII?

by and

January 26

The NFL final four is set, and it’s hard to debate we don’t have the best quartet battling for the conference crowns. Making picks for championship weekend, however, is easier said than done.

As Action Network noted this week, this is the first time in 45 seasons the Super Bowl favorite entering the conference championships has higher betting odds than +200. Of the four teams remaining, the Philadelphia Eagles are the betting favorites to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, but you can get them as high as +250 in the betting market.

Here’s how DraftKings Sportsbook handicaps the market entering the conference championships:

Eagles: +240
Bengals: +250
Chiefs: +270
49ers: +330

So, it’s not a huge surprise that both games are likely to close at 3 points or shorter, and it would mark the first time that has happened since 1998.’s Mike Cole and Ricky Doyle have their work cut out for them with their weekly picks. In addition to their weekly against-the-spread picks that can be found below, the duo broke it all down in this week’s episode of “The Spread,” NESN’s football picks podcast.

You can listen to this week’s episode here:

And before getting into their official ATS picks, here’s how they fared last week.

Here are their NFC and AFC Championship Game picks based on consensus betting lines from the NESNBets live odds page.


San Francisco 49ers at (-2.5) Philadelphia Eagles, 3 p.m. ET
Mike: Eagles. This game was by far the tougher of the two to handicap, which is saying something given the uncertainty and point-spread fluctuation in the AFC. These are two elite defenses. San Fran’s ranked first in both DVOA and EPA allowed, while Philly ranked sixth and fourth. The 49ers have the better top-end talent with the likes of Nick Bosa and Fred Warner, while the Eagles have a deeper group with a better secondary. So, we eventually turn our attention to the offenses. Both have performed at an elite level. When it comes down to needing to make a play, I guess I trust Jalen Hurts to do it more than I do Brock Purdy, which isn’t meant to be a slight at Purdy, who obviously has performed admirably in this run. But this represents the toughest test he has faced to this point in his young NFL career. In fact, I came to this realization while talking it through on this week’s episode of “The Spread” podcast: The Eagles are basically a better version of the Cowboys. The defense is slightly better, and the offense has a considerably higher ceiling — and they’re playing at home. Dallas gave the Niners a game last week, and if Dak Prescott didn’t throw a couple of crippling picks, we’re probably talking about an NFC East showdown this week. As long as Hurts avoids a similar fate this week, Philly should be heading back to the Super Bowl.
Ricky: Eagles. Both teams are loaded — on both sides of the ball. But the real difference resides in the trenches, where the Eagles have the better offensive line and the better pass rush. Controlling the line of scrimmage is paramount in any game, but doubly so for a potential rock fight with an opponent that will do whatever it takes to minimize what’s required of its seventh-round rookie quarterback. Brock Purdy rose to the occasion (again) against Dallas by quickly getting rid of the football and limiting mistakes — a recipe that’s been at the forefront of San Francisco’s 12-game winning streak — but Philadelphia’s defense is far more overwhelming, especially since cleaning up its act versus the run. The Purdy magic ends this Sunday in the City of Brotherly Love.

Cincinnati Bengals at (-1.5) Kansas City Chiefs, 6:30 p.m.
Mike: Bengals. This line has been all over the place all week due to Patrick Mahomes’ ankle injury. He admittedly looked good walking down two stairs and through a doorway Wednesday, so maybe he’s good to go. Even if he’s at anything resembling 100%, I’m still taking Cincinnati. The Bengals clearly know what it takes to beat the Chiefs, having won the last three meetings, including a playoff win in KC just last year — when the Chiefs were a better team. A lot of that gets attributed to Joe Burrow, but don’t sleep on the Cincinnati defense. Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo continues to frustrate the NFL’s best quarterbacks. As noted by The Ringer’s Benjamin Solak, the Bengals have limited the NFL’s best QBs to a -.03 EPA per dropback since 2021. For context, that’s basically what Mac Jones was in 2022, so Anarumo has been able to turn the elite of the elite into one of the lowest-graded passers this season. And if Mahomes is compromised at all, then look out. On the other side, Steve Spagnuolo typically saves his best work for the playoffs, but the Chiefs defense will have its hands full. The Bengals have shored up their pass-protection issues — or Burrow is just evolving — and they have allowed just 12 sacks in their last 10 games after Burrow went down 29 times in the first eight contests. The Chiefs defense, by DVOA, is the worst unit on either side of the ball left in the field. And don’t be surprised if Samaje Perine has a nice game. The Bengals running back is a dangerous pass-catching weapon, and the Chiefs allowed more receptions to running backs than any other team in the NFL. KC also has by far the worst turnover differential of the final four, so it’s hard to trust them even in this spot.
Ricky: Bengals. No one would blame you for blindly putting your trust in Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to come up with an effective game plan that masks Patrick Mahomes’ injury and finally exposes the uncertainty along Cincinnati’s offensive line. I sure considered it. And laying just a point — or even catching a point, depending on where this line ultimately lands — at home with Kansas City is tantalizing, to say the least. But even with a fully healthy Mahomes, this would be a relatively even matchup. The Bengals are too well-rounded and won’t be overmatched like many of the Chiefs’ other foes. Cincinnati sent a lot of pressure at Josh Allen last week, frequently blitzing defensive backs to cause chaos at the line of scrimmage and in Buffalo’s backfield. Expect more of the same this week. If Mahomes’ mobility is hindered to the point where he’s incapable of scrambling and making his trademark improvised plays, we could see a performance reminiscent of when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pounded the all-world QB in Super Bowl LV.

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Thumbnail photo via Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports Images

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