Fairway's Forecast and NFL 2024 Conference Championship Odds, Picks and Insights

FairwayJay chips in more NFL Playoff coverage with Picks, Opinions and tips for the 2024 conference championship games.

The NFL Conference Championship games are expected to be good ones with No. 1 vs. No. 3 seeds in both the AFC and NFC championship games. No Picks on the Kansas City at Baltimore and Detroit at San Francisco, but I've chipped in Opinions and Leans on those two playoff games with additional insight and information you can bet on. 

AFC - Kansas City at Baltimore (-3.5), total 44.5 

I've added more NFL conference championship game insight in my coverage in Forbes. I picked and bet the Ravens (-3) when the lines came out, but Baltimore is now a -3.5 point favorite and even reached -4 yesterday. We'll chip-in an Opinion on Baltimore here with anticipation of another Ravens pound the ground advantage. Ravens Chiefs NFL Championship pickThe Ravens (14-4) rolled up a playoff high 229 rushing yards last week in our divisional round Opinion winner on Baltimore, 34-10 over Houston. Lamar Jackson rushed for 100 yards, a prop winner, and the Ravens ran the ball 42 times. The Chiefs (13-6) allowed the Bills, on a short week, to rush for 182 yards on 39 attempts. The Bills and Packers are the only two teams to outrush their playoff opponent and lose. The Bills defense was banged up and short handed as the Chiefs rushed for 146 yards on 24 carries and averaged a very strong 7.7 yards per play (with 4 kneel downs) on just 47 total offensive plays (78 plays for Bills). 

Before you say "Hey Fairway, Patrick Mahomes is the GOAT", know that teams that have out-passed their opponents in yards during the 2024 playoffs are just 5-5 SU and 4-6 ATS. Yes, Mahomes is also playing in his six straight AFC Championship Game with the Chiefs, but he'll need more than 215 passing yards like last week for the Chiefs to advance to another Super Bowl.

Opinions: Ravens and Under 44.5

Betting and Points

Half points matter, especially with the key number 3. Then again, in competitively-lined NFL games (6 points or less), the SU winner covered the spread at a 93% rate this season on a nearly 200 game sample size. So if the favorite won, they most often covered. If the 'Dog covered, the were most often the outright winner. NFC AFC Championships freepick predictionHowever, the Lions (-3) won but did not cover in their Wild Card round win over the Rams. And last week, I picked a 'under' the total winner in the Ravens 34-10 win over Houston. It was 45.5 when I posted in Forbes early week. I gave out as a Lean to the under in OSGA at 43.5 and noted the 2-point downward adjustment. It lost, although the game total closed 44 for a push. Just another example of betting lines, adjustments and doing your best when wagering at the online sportsbooks and even getting the best of it with reduced juice sportsbooks.

Player Props are even more volatile, and our 'over' 260.5 passing yards for Baker Mayfield last week was a easy winner. But note it also closed at 270.5 yards as we went 6-0 on our divisional round posted props. including Mahomes 'under' his passing yards prop. I'll try to add some player props here by Saturday, and certainly add some prop bets and player props to consider for Super Bowl LVII. 

Here are the Fairway facts in this year's playoffs for teams that control the line of scrimmage and running game. 

Teams that won the rushing yards in this year’s playoffs are 8-2 straight up (SU) and 8-2 against the spread (ATS).

Sure Patrick Mahomes has won 2 Super Bowls, is now 12-1 ATS as underdog following last week's divisional round win at Buffalo. He's also 13-3 SU in his NFL post season career, including 4-0 ATS versus teams with an equal or better record. Mahomes has played in 16 playoff games while the other three QB's in the confernce championship round have combined for 17 playoff games. But did you know that since the 1970 merger, the Ravens are just the fourth team to have a first-team All-Pro quarterback and the No. 1 scoring defense in the NFL? The three previous teams to do so all went on to win the Super Bowl—1996 Packers, 1978 Steelers and 1972 Dolphins.

I've believed for years that Lamar Jackson would never win a Super Bowl. Not a supporter of his style of play in the pros. He takes a lot of hits, and has not made the best decisions or passing plays in the biggest games and moments. Neither did Cam Newton, who made the Super Bowl and lost to a defensive dominator in the Broncos and aging, HOF QB in Peyton Manning. But now at home in a championship game for the first time and the league's top defense, there are no excuses for Lamar and the Ravens. So I'm sticking with the Ravens league-best running game and top defense to limit the Chiefs, which the Bills depleted defense was unable to do. The Chiefs defense may be a bit worn down and back-to-back road games against two top teams is much to ask, even for Mahomes. Add in the Ravens rating as the fifth-best regular season team ever in DVOA ratings, and we'll roll with the Ravens and hope Lamar is up to the task in his biggest game yet. 

NFC - Detroit at San Francisco (-7), total 51.5

The Lions (14-5) are the only team in this year's playoffs to win and not cover the spread with a rushing advantage in their 24-23 Wild Card win over the LA Rams - an ATS loser for us. Lions Ravens AFC Championship pickDetroit held the rushing edge again last week 114-89 against the Buccaneers in a 31-23 final in a game that was tied at halftime 10-10, and the Bucs holding a pretty good sized yards edge and finishing with a 408-391 yardage advantage. 

Statistically, the Lions run defense is best of the playoff teams allowing less than 90 rushing yards per game and 3.8 yards per rush this season. Detroit held both the Rams and Bucs to less than 18 rushing attempts and 89 and 68 rushing yards respectively in their playoff wins. The San Francisco 49ers (13-5) should have/could have lost last week to Green Bay. But now the Niners have some matchup edges, but is QB Brock Purdy going to make plays in the passing game after some shaky plays and decisions in the rain last week? No such weather concerns in the forecast for this conference championship game. While the 49ers have the league's leading rusher Christian McCaffrey, the Lions counter with a top run defense. Top offensive threat and playmaker Deebo Samuel's status remains uncertain following a shoulder injury last week. He's key to this game and point spread, as the 49ers offensive is simply much better with Samuel on the field. 

"He’s probably the best playmaker in this league," said quarterback Brock Purdy this week. "You get the ball in his hands, he can do whatever he wants... If he’s not playing, obviously that’s tough on us."

The Lions pass defense has been torched in two playoff games allowing 9.3 yards per pass play to QB's Stafford and the Rams and Mayfield and the Buccaneers. Niners Ravens free pickThe 49ers pass defense is better and more opportunistic. Lions QB Jared Goff returns to the Bay area where he starred at Cal and became an overall No. 1 draft pick. He's been solid throughout the season and little has rattled him. But he'll face his toughest test with more pressure from the 49ers defensive front and pressure packages. Goff did pass for 271 yards at Dallas in a late-season 20-19 win, but also threw two interceptions. The Lions offense struggled in December at Chicago with less than 270 yards total offense in a 28-13 loss when the Bears defense was rising to be among the league's best. And the Lions were run over by the Ravens back in October 38-3 at Baltimore with Goff having to pass 53 times playing from behind.

In Detroit's NFL history, the Lions have never won at San Francisco (0-13). I'm pulling for the Lions, but the only bet I have on the side or game total is 'under' at this time as we monitor Deebo Samuel's status thinking he will play. 

Opinion: DET/SF 'under' 51.5 and Lean 49ers

ATS notes:
Playbook Sports adds that that NFL playoff underdogs with the better win percentage (Lions) are 31-21-2 ATS since 1980 – but only 6-22 SU and 11-15-2 ATS when taking more than 3 points. That includes 0-15 SU and 3-11-1 ATS since 1996. 

While I point out the stats, these games still come down to match-ups, controlling the line of scrimmage, converting third downs and limiting turnovers. Of course hitting big plays and solid special teams factor into the results. But recall that during the regular season, teams that out-rushed their opponent by at least 30 yards covered the spread at a 75% rate on more than 180 games. Teams that rushed the ball at least 30 times in a game were even better at 82% ATS. In this year's playoffs, those 30+ attempt rushing teams are 4-1 SU/ATS with only the Bills losing last week (a loser for us).

The Ravens get the running game edge versus the Chiefs, and the Lions-49ers game is a tossup in the projected running game stats. 

NFL Conference Championship Trends

Our colleagues at Playbook Sports provide additional NFL conference championship betting trends. 

• Away teams off an away game (Chiefs) are 14-30 SU and 19-25 ATS
• Home teams with a better record (Ravens and 49ers) are 49-20 SU and 39-29-1 ATS
• Home teams in NFC title games (49ers) are 24-10 SU and 19-14-1 ATS
• Home teams in AFC title games (Ravens) are 25-10 SU and 20-15 ATS
• Teams coming off an ATS loss (49ers) are 18-11-1 ATS
• Games with an Over/Under total of 49 or more points (DET/SF) have gone 10-4-1 OVER

Super Bowl LVIII

Last week ahead of the NFL divisional games, the leading online sportsbooks had an advance spread of San Francisco -2.5 vs. Baltimore. Now the 49ers are -1 vs. the Ravens if that matchup materializes in Las Vegas for Super Bowl LVIII. Know that online sportsbooks will be flooded with requests for funds following Super Bowl LVIII, so don't wait until after the Super Bowl to withdraw funds. 

- Baltimore vs. San Francisco (-1), total 48.5
- Detroit vs. Baltimore (-5.5), total 50
- Kansas City vs. San Francisco (-2.5), total 48.5
- Detroit vs. Kansas City (-3.5), total 51

Another betting nugget and trend tip from Playbook Sports. The Ravens gave up the fewest points/game in the league this year (16.5), and the Chiefs gave up the second-fewest (17.3). When a conference title game pairs the top two scoring defenses in the league, the winner has gone on to win the Super Bowl in 5-of-5 instances.

More Super Bowl coverage, including prop bets ahead, with information you can bet on. 

FairwayJay is a proven sports handicapper with unparalleled success in NFL pointspread prognosis. FairwayJay chips in additional sports betting coverage and reporting on industry news and events. Follow FairwayJay here at OSGA.com and on Twitter @FairwayJay for more betting insights.

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