Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:55 PM
Sunday's Best Bets - Totals
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Sunday's Best Bets - Sides
On a game-by-game basis, these NFL playoffs have not gone well for me at all, but with four teams remaining and a Kansas City-Green Bay Super Bowl still sitting as a potential, a date for those two teams in the big game a few weeks from now could erase all the heartache that my selections in the Wildcard and Divisional rounds brought.
But you can only lick your wounds for so long in this business, so it's on to the Conference Championship games, and there is one total play that really sticks out.
Tennessee at Kansas City
As touched on by colleagues in this piece from earlier in the week, the total for the AFC Championship game has seen plenty of support for the 'over' already, pushing an opener of 51/51.5 up to it's current range. After what we saw from the Chiefs offense a week ago in putting up 50+, and the fact that these two teams already met earlier this year and that game saw 67 total points put up, you can easily see where those 'over' sentiments find their support. Yet, I can only look at the 'under' here for a variety of reasons. The first of which, coincides with the belief that it will be the Kansas City Chiefs who do end up advancing from this contest.
Although I couldn't have been more wrong last week in backing the 'under', conceptually, the history that Andy Reid's teams find playoff success in games that cash 'under' tickets still is applicable. Last week there was a lot of uncommon stuff that happened to put the Chiefs in a big hole early, and from the point KC found themselves down multiple scores, they had no choice but to turn up the tempo and aim to put up 40+ to win comfortably as they did. I wouldn't bank on fumbled and blocked kicks to turn up against the Chiefs again this week, so there likely won't be a need to be forced into that type of game as it is.
Furthermore, Tennessee and their style of offense isn't interested in playing those high-scoring games in general. The Titans preference to run the ball and then run it some more in the 2nd half already lends itself to 'unders', evident by their 0-2 O/U record in these playoffs so far. But the problem with that lies in the idea that Tennessee has to figure that they are more likely going to need to put up plenty of points to win the game against this opponent.
So, going low on this total is not particularly something I'd advocate if you do like the Titans on the spread or outright, as the last team to make a Super Bowl after going 'under' the total in all of their playoff games leading up to the Super Bowl was the 2015 Denver Broncos and the 2019 Titans are a much different squad. Sure, both liked to rely on the running game and strong defense, but Denver got to ride that style of play at home that year, a benefit Tennessee doesn't have.
However, as I said at the top, I am of the mindset that Kansas City rectifies the wrongs from this game last year and does indeed find a way to win the game – at least straight up. Which brings me back to Reid's great run of 'unders' in playoff wins over the past 10+ years. It may not have worked last week at all, but it's still now 5-1 to the 'under' in Reid's last six playoff wins dating back to the 2006 season, and with a Super Bowl berth on the line, and less rust/sloppiness to worry about early like we saw from the Chiefs last week, I do expect KC's defense to be at their best from the outset.
Remember, after falling behind 21-0 quickly to Houston, that KC defense managed to hold down a very explosive Houston attack to just 10 points the rest of the way, when the Chiefs had to get those stops to climb back into the game. Many in the market may have questioned how good the Chiefs defense was down the stretch given some questionable competition, but they've been balling out for multiple months now.
And as I said last week, when the reality and perception of a given unit on a football team (in this case, KC's defense) is in a transitional phase in the market, those are precisely the spots where you can find plenty of value going against the grain. This total climbed out of the gate with the usual Monday morning knee-jerk reaction from the market, and as Sunday gets closer, recreational bettors will look to last week's 50-point outburst by KC, and/or the 68 points first meeting between the Titans and Chiefs and follow suit with the 'over' play.
I'm expecting that conceptually I was nowhere near as wrong last week's final score suggested, as Andy Reid's playoff history of 'unders' in wins and how good the Chiefs defense actually is relative to what is perceived suffered nothing but a setback. I've got another shot at being correct in that arena again this week, and hopefully there aren't many fluky things early to completely throw off the expected trajectory of this game. It's not like I haven't fallen victim to being a week/game early with my approach in the past, and hopefully that's all it was with KC last week, as the Chiefs earn another Super Bowl berth on the back of a strong defensive performance for the full 60 minutes.
Finally, one more stat to pound this point home. The last seven teams to score 40 or more points in a Divisional round win (New England last year, Jacksonville in 2017, New England in 2013, New England in 2012, San Francisco in 2012, New England in 2011, and Green Bay in 2010), ended up with a 2-5 O/U record in the Conference Championship game with an average of 46.4 total points scored. That's nearly a full TD lower then the current price now, and that's too hard for me to pass up.
Best Bet: Under 53
Odds provided by FanDuel (IN, NJ, PA & WV only)
Subject to Change