AFC & NFC Championship Data + Picks and NFL Playoff Challenge Playbook
Who will win this weekend? Who to start in postseason fantasy football? And exclusive datasheets for premium subscribers.
The Bengals and Eagles will advance to the Super Bowl. That’s one key takeaway from my analysis of the conference championship games.
In this article, I will start by sharing my picks and some of the data behind my picks. I will also give analysis and recommendations for who to start in the conference championship game in the NFL Playoff Challenge.
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Conference Championship Picks
I said the Bengals and Eagles will win and advance to the Super Bowl. That’s most likely, but it is not a certainty. The 49ers might win. But the Chiefs won’t.
Only one team is worth betting on: that’s the Bengals. Having an advantage in both predictive measures of team success and having already beat the Chiefs and, most crucially, with Patrick Mahomes being hobbled, the Bengals are a solid pick.
If anything, I a fear I might be too conservative by giving the Bengals just a four-point projected margin. Even so, that’s three points more than Vegas’ margin. According to Boyd Bets, the difference between being a one-point favorite and being a four-point favorite is the difference between being a 51.3% favorite and being a 65.8% favorite.
Just for fun, let’s see where the other analytical websites are leaning:
Everyone has the Eagles winning, but analysis of the AFC Championship game is more mixed.
Chiefs vs Bengals
Adjusted Win % ………………………………: KC: 0.813 - CIN: 0.688
Average Opponent-Adjusted Margin: 5.67 - 6.98
Yards/Point (Defense - Offense): 1.5 - 4.5
The Bengals have just been playing better during the second-half of the season and in the playoffs. They have better weapons. Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins are both superior to any of the Chiefs receivers. Joe Mixon is in a different tier than Isiah Pachecco and Jerrick McKinnon. The Chiefs do have a huge advantage at tight end and offensive line.
It would be closer, but the Bengals could be the favorite if Patrick Mahomes were fully healthy. The ankle impacts his scrambling and throwing ability. One of the many things that makes Mahomes unstoppable is how he can get away from sack attempts. Last time they played, the Bengals put eight hits on Mahomes but only sacked him twice. A Bengals defense on the upswing should give Mahomes trouble—either make more sacks or force Mahomes to get rid of the ball before plays develop.
Bengals WRs Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins would be good picks to replace the eliminated Stefon Diggs in the NFL Playoff Challenge. The Chiefs - Bengals game figures to be a higher-scoring affair than the NFC’s matchup of elite defenses. Chase had a 200-yard game against the Chiefs last season, and Higgins had a 100-yard game on the Chiefs in the playoffs.
Eagles vs 49ers
Adjusted Win % ………………………………: PHI: 0.813 - SF: 0.750
Average Opponent-Adjusted Margin: 5.99 - 7.22
Yards/Point (Defense - Offense): 3.6 - 6.7
The 49ers only beat the Cowboys by seven in a game in which Dak Prescott threw two bad interceptions, Brett Maher missed an extra point (which resulted in the Cowboys going for it on fourth down on the next drive, leading to the second interception), and Dem Boyz couldn’t run a one-minute drive.
If the Niners play as well as they did against the Eagles, they lose. Prescott has thrown 15 interceptions and 18 passes that should have been interceptions, according to PFF. Hurts has thrown six picks and 11 turnover-worthy passes. He is not going to cost the Eagles like Dak.
On top of that, the Eagles also have better offensive weapons than the Cowboys. DeVonta Smith is a better No. 2 WR than Michael Gallup, and Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell in the Eagles system are superior to Ezekiel Elliot after Tony Pollard goes down.
Smith is also a good pick as a WR for the Playoff Challenge; he has a high breakout rate and a low lineup rate.
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