Potentially the best weekend on the football calendar with two exceptionally high quality games and we have our NFL best bets for both of them. Both of the one seeds won their Divisional Round playoff games after getting the week off, but just one two seed did.
Buffalo smothered Baltimore to set up a shot against the Champs while Tom Brady led the Bucs past Drew Brees and the Saints to set up the first ever postseason matchup between Brady and Rodgers.
We have provided an in depth analysis of both games before turning to our NFL best bets, with both spreads currently set at three points in favor of the home teams. Find out who we have selected below.
NFC Championship Game
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Green Bay Packers
Lambeau Field – 3:05PM (ET)
Two of the best to ever do going head to head for the first time in the playoffs with the NFC Championship on the line. Tom Brady and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers head up to the freezing cold Lambeau Field to go to war against Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers.
Green Bay is currently three point favorites for this one despite losing to the Bucs 10-38 earlier this season. The Packers have gone 10-2 since that game and are currently on a seven game winning streak while the Bucs have gone 9-3, winning their last six.
Rodgers led Green Bay to an NFC best 13-3 record, averaging a league best 31.8 points per game and is runaway favorite for this season’s MVP. He led the league with 48 passing touchdowns, eight more than the next best, while throwing the fewest interceptions of qualified quarterbacks with just five. But Green Bay doesn’t just have Rodgers, with wide receiver Davante Adams, running back Aaron Jones and tight end Robert Tonyan all have exceptional seasons themselves.
Adams emerged as the best wide receiver in the game, finishing the regular season leading the league in receiving yards per game with 98.1 while also having the most receiving touchdowns with 18 despite missing two games.
Jones missed two games as well but still managed to finish fourth in total rushing yards whilst having the same amount of 20+ yard plays as breakout running back Dalvin Cook and also not losing any fumbles.
Tonyan turned into one of Rodgers’ most reliable targets, getting a touchdown in six of the Packers’ last eight games to finish with 11 for the season, fifth most in the league and tied for first amongst tight ends, while only dropping two of 31 targets over that stretch.
The only team to have the highest-graded WR and CB since 2006:
Green Bay Packers, 2020:
🔸 Davante Adams – 92.4
🔸 Jaire Alexander – 90.5 pic.twitter.com/04CkbhrPUS
— PFF (@PFF) January 19, 2021
Nothing changed last weekend when they hosted the Rams who had the number one overall defense in the league. LA allowed the fewest total yards, passing yards and points per game, whilst allowing the third fewest passing yards during the regular season, but they hadn’t faced the Packers. Rodgers threw for 296 yards, the most against the Rams all season, along with two passing and one rushing touchdown.
Despite being followed by the best cornerback in the game, Jalen Ramsay, Adams managed to get nine receptions on 10 targets for 66 yards and a touchdown. Jones took advantage of Rodgers’ passing game opening up holes in the Rams defensive line, rushing for 99 yards and a touchdown while also getting a 14 yard reception. Big Bob Tonyan had four targets for four receptions and 60 yards, with three of his four catches resulting in a first down.
They now face a team that forced Mr Reliable, Drew Brees, to throw three interceptions whilst also forcing a fumble off a New Orleans receiver for four total takeaways.
The restricted New Orleans to their lowest points of the season and when it was crunch time, they dialed up and gave Brady good field position, allowing him to throw for two touchdowns and sneak for another in their 30-20 win.
Sean Murphy-Bunting has been the star of the show for the Tampa Bay defense recently, getting an interception and a tackle for loss in each of their two playoff games so far.
The Buccaneers’ defense will come into this one firing after it was the main story out of their week 6 win over Green Bay, causing Rodgers to throw two of his five interceptions for the season in what was his worst game of the season.
Rodgers finished with his second fewest passing yards of the season, while it was the only game of the season where he didn’t throw a touchdown and completed less than 60% of his passes. They also managed to sack Rodgers four times, which is an incredible feat given he was only sacked 20 times for the entire year.
Our four turnovers, which lead to 21 points, and Brady’s two TD passes earned us a spot in the NFC Championship.
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) January 18, 2021
On the other side of the ball, Tom Brady has been balling lately. Over their six game streak he has averaged 319 passing yards per game while throwing 16 touchdowns and just one interception. To make it even better, the Bucs have averaged almost 35 points per game over that stretch, including 31 and 30 in their two postseason games, both of which were against top 10 defenses.
The X Factor for Tampa on Sunday will be Leonard Fournette. After having just one game with over 100 total yards during the regular season, he has managed to reach that mark in both postseason games while getting a touchdown in each game as well.
The important aspect was that he stepped up as a receiver after Antonio Brown went down with injury. Brown didn’t participate in practice on Wednesday, meaning that Fournette will have even more responsibility yet again and his performance could be a determining factor.
A very tough game given what happened last time they played. On both of Rodgers’ picks, he was targeting Davante Adams but the Bucs were just one step ahead on that day. However, the entire Packers offensive unit is playing better than they were then.
No turnovers and no sacks against the best defense in the league last week and Rodgers has better connections with much more of his receiving core. Marquez Valdes-Scantling continues to be a deep threat while Allen Lazard had 96 yards and a touchdown on four receptions last weekend.
Tom Brady and his revitalized offense will be able to keep up with the best offense in the league, but not quite enough in this one. The Packers have covered the spread in three straight games and we are picking Sunday to be their fourth.
Best Bet: Green Bay Packers -3 (-125)
AFC Championship Game
Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs
Arrowhead Stadium – 6:40PM (ET)
This is the AFC Championship game that everybody wanted for the second half of the season. The high scoring Buffalo Bills led by MVP race newcomer Josh Allen, against former MVP Patrick Mahomes and the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs are currently favored by three points, however the big story heading into the game is the status of Patrick Mahomes. After suffering a nasty concussion on Sunday against the Browns, all of Kansas City and the Chiefs Kingdom are holding their breath, hoping that Mahomes makes his way through the concussion protocols in time for this game.
Mahomes has won 24 of his last 25 starts, so you can see why they are so keen for him to play. During the regular season, he led the league in passing yards per game while throwing 38 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He was the main reason that Kansas City was the only team during the regular season to average over 400 total yards of offense per game while averaging over 30 points in games that he played.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire vs. Bills in Wk 6
💥 88.4 PFF grade
💥 26 carries
💥 161 rushing yards
All season highs pic.twitter.com/UMo9Io3qUy
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) January 19, 2021
A big positive for the Chiefs is that rookie running back sensation Clyde Edwards-Helaire is due to return from injury. When these sides met in week 6, the Buffalo defense honed in on Mahomes and the Chiefs’ aerial attack, allowing Edwards-Helaire to explode for a season & career best 161 yards, averaging 6.2 yards per carry.
The Bills have improved greatly on the defensive side of the ball, highlighted by their performance on Saturday, restricting the Ravens, who hadn’t scored under 20 in their last six games, to just three points. They knew Baltimore were going to run the heck out of the ball and prepared accordingly, restricting Lamar Jackson to just 34 rushing yards.
They face a completely different beast here in the #1 passing offense over the last two years, while being just the 13th best defense against the pass from this year.
In their earlier matchup, the Bills restricted Travis Kelce, who was second in receiving yards and broke a tight end record, to just 65 yards and Tyreek Hill, who was eighth in receiving yards and second in touchdowns, to just 20 yards and no scores. Obviously, they let Kansas City run with ease and they will need a much more balanced approach this time.
Speaking of balance, the Bills have completely lost theirs on offense. On Saturday, they ran the ball only 16 times, with four of those being kneels by Allen, for a grand total of 32 yards. That isn’t going to work in a conference championship game, especially if the Chiefs’ secondary shows up like it did on Sunday night.
Kansas City kept Baker Mayfield to his second lowest passing yards from his last eight games whilst also forcing him to throw just his second interception in his last 11 games. If they can do a similar number to Allen, especially given how weak Buffalo’s running game is at the moment, Kansas City will well and truly have the upper hand.
— NFL (@NFL) January 20, 2021
However, if Allen can play at the high level he was throughout the second half of the year that saw Buffalo go 11-1 to finish the year, including their current eight game winning streak, the Chiefs may not be able to keep up.
Over their eight game streak, Allen has averaged over 275 passing yards per game while throwing 19 touchdowns and just three picks, while running for another four scores while Stefon Diggs had over 100 receiving yards in five of those eight.
So much rides on whether Mahomes plays, but we are riding with the Chiefs still here. Buffalo managed just one offensive touchdown last weekend and Kansas City don’t give the ball away, meaning the Bills won’t get any cheapies. Given they have no running game, Buffalo will have to rely far too heavily on Josh Allen, and while he played at an exceptional level this year, it just won’t be enough.
Sean McDermott has proven that he is one of the best coaches in the league, but whether he can adapt on the fly and adjust to Kansas City and Andy Reid is another question. The Chiefs have so many different avenues to get yards, move the chains and find the endzone, whereas Buffalo really has just Allen and Diggs that they can rely on.
It is tough as Buffalo is 8-1 against the spread in their last nine games while over the same stretch, Kansas City is a dismal 0-8-1. The Bills ended the regular season with the equal best record against the spread, 11-5, while the Chiefs haven’t won a game by more than six points since playing the Jets on November 1st. However, the spread is just three points and of their 15 wins this season, Kansas City had one by less than three, four by exactly three and 10 by more than three.
This will be a close, tight game, but Kansas City are more proven, more reliable and have far too many options which should enable them to win by more than a field goal and cover the spread.
Best Bet: Kansas City Chiefs -3.0 (-115)
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*Odds and spreads correct at time of publication, courtesy of Bet365.