Beating the Book: Bengals over Chiefs, Eagles Outlast 49ers at Home

Beating the Book: Bengals over Chiefs, Eagles Outlast 49ers at Home

This article is part of our Beating the Book series.

Welcome to another week – the penultimate week – of Beating the Book. I regret to inform you that we will not, in fact, be offering up any picks for the Pro Bowl.

We're down to just four teams as the NFL postseason moves on to Championship Weekend, and as much as I'd love to say the Jaguars deserve to be here, it really does feel like we're down to the right four teams. Last weekend saw the Chiefs stave off the Jaguars despite a hobbled Patrick Mahomes, the Bengals thoroughly dominate the Bills in Buffalo, the Eagles roll over the Giants for the third time and the 49ers outlast the Cowboys in a low-scoring game that featured two total touchdowns.

As was the case on Wild Card Weekend, we emerged from the Divisional Round with a .500 ATS record. Our best bet, the Chiefs to cover 8.5, went up in smoke thanks to a late Jaguars field goal. Meanwhile, taking the Giants to cover in Philly may go down as one of the worst picks of the year – believe me, we've had plenty of strong contenders for that dubious title this season. Is it any consolation that New York +7.5 was a unanimous choice in RotoWire Staff Picks? Maybe a little bit. But it was clear roughly seven minutes into Eagles-Giants that we were going to be in serious trouble.

On Sunday, we made up for our 0-2 start to the weekend by hitting on both

Welcome to another week – the penultimate week – of Beating the Book. I regret to inform you that we will not, in fact, be offering up any picks for the Pro Bowl.

We're down to just four teams as the NFL postseason moves on to Championship Weekend, and as much as I'd love to say the Jaguars deserve to be here, it really does feel like we're down to the right four teams. Last weekend saw the Chiefs stave off the Jaguars despite a hobbled Patrick Mahomes, the Bengals thoroughly dominate the Bills in Buffalo, the Eagles roll over the Giants for the third time and the 49ers outlast the Cowboys in a low-scoring game that featured two total touchdowns.

As was the case on Wild Card Weekend, we emerged from the Divisional Round with a .500 ATS record. Our best bet, the Chiefs to cover 8.5, went up in smoke thanks to a late Jaguars field goal. Meanwhile, taking the Giants to cover in Philly may go down as one of the worst picks of the year – believe me, we've had plenty of strong contenders for that dubious title this season. Is it any consolation that New York +7.5 was a unanimous choice in RotoWire Staff Picks? Maybe a little bit. But it was clear roughly seven minutes into Eagles-Giants that we were going to be in serious trouble.

On Sunday, we made up for our 0-2 start to the weekend by hitting on both Cincinnati and San Francisco to cover. The 49ers' game went about as expected, with Dallas putting up a decent fight, but I did take Buffalo to win straight up (33-30 was the final score prediction), so I can't take too much of a victory lap despite the Bengals' cover. 

While the best weekend in the NFL calendar may be behind us, we still have an enthralling, two-game slate to look forward to on Sunday. After dismantling the Giants, the Eagles sit as consensus 2.5-point favorites in the NFC Championship Game, while the total is hovering around 46.0 (it's up to 46.5 at DraftKings). Meanwhile, with Patrick Mahomes' health seemingly moving in the right direction, the Chiefs sit as 1.0-point favorites at home against Cincinnati. That line has yo-yo'd back and forth all week.

Before we fully dive in on the Conference Championship Games slate, let's take our customary look back at the best and worst calls from my Divisional Round Weekend picks.

Last week: 2-2 ATS; 3-1 straight up; best bet lost (Chiefs -8.5)

On the season: 131-143-7 ATS; 181-98-2 straight up; 8-11 best bets

Best call of the Divisional Round

  • While the Cowboys made a statement Monday night and have the skill pieces to run with San Francisco, I side with the Niners' defense to turn up the pressure and prevent Prescott from having another outstanding night. Dallas should be able to give Purdy some issues, as well, so I don't think we get a blowout, by any means. I'll take the home team to win outright and cover.

Worst call of the Divisional Round

  • With a healthy Hurts, the Eagles have been the wire-to-wire best team in the NFC. I'm not jumping off of them, but I expect the Giants to give the Eagles a run for their money. I'll take Philly to win outright but New York to cover.

NFL Championship Weekend Picks: Predictions, Props and Best Bets for AFC, NFC Title Games

As has been the case all season, we'll go game-by-game, picking each contest against the spread. My best bet will always be highlighted in gold.

All odds this week via the DraftKings Sportsbook, as of Thursday at 6:00pm ET. If you don't have a BetMGM account yet, you can use this BetMGM bonus code for a generous welcome bonus.

NFC Championship Game

San Francisco 49ers (+2.5) at Philadelphia Eagles

In the NFC, we're treated to a matchup between what's been the wire-to-wire best team in the conference versus a team that's ripped off 12 wins in a row. The last time the 49ers lost a game, the Lions were 1-5, the Giants were 6-1, the Bears had just notched their third and final win of the season, and Jeff Saturday was still multiple weeks away from getting The Call from Jim Irsay.

It was also the last time the Niners committed multiple turnovers in a single game. Last week, the Cowboys' defense pushed Brock Purdy more than any other opponent has, and while Purdy didn't play well, he was once again able to avoid any game-changing miscues. Thanks to the Niners' defense forcing two Dak Prescott picks – frankly, he could've had at least two more – San Francisco now holds a 25-to-6 turnover differential during its 12-game winning streak.

The health of Christian McCaffrey, who carried only 10 times against Dallas, will be a major storyline to monitor heading into Championship Weekend. There's little doubt that McCaffrey will be available Sunday, but it's fair to question how heavy of a workload he'll be able to handle as he continues to nurse a calf injury.

If McCaffrey isn't 100 percent, how willing will Kyle Shanahan be to turn Brock Purdy loose? To say Purdy has been a game-manager thus far isn't fair, but he's had the luxury of leaning on an excellent ground game, as well as the best defense in the NFL. The rookie deserves plenty of credit for navigating the 49ers through difficult waters for a quarter here or a half there, but for the most part the Niners haven't faced many roadblocks over the last three months. In order to topple the Eagles, however, San Francisco will need to play a more aggressive brand of offense from start to finish. 

On the other side, I'm comfortable saying the Eagles have officially recaptured the swagger and momentum that seemed to fade toward the end of the regular season. Saturday's beatdown of the Giants was an emphatic reminder that the healthy Philadelphia Eagles have been the most consistently great team in the NFL this season

For me, though, there's still the lingering question of how good are the Giants? In hindsight, it's clear New York was artificially inflated after beating arguably the most fraudulent team in NFL history in the Wild Card round. So while that doesn't change the fact that Philly got whatever it wanted and dominated from start to finish, it's fair to at least question whether it would've had the same level of success against a team like Dallas.

It's an impossible question to answer, but it should factor into how we evaluate this Eagles-49ers matchup. If the Divisional matchups were swapped, would the Eagles have held on for a one-score win, while the Niners rolled over the Giants? Again, we don't know the answer, but I'm inclined to believe the Eagles had the easier matchup.

Even under that belief, I find myself unable to cobble together enough reasons to doubt the Eagles – and especially a full-bore Jalen Hurts. On paper, these teams are extremely similar and extremely equally matched. The line is basically a neutral-site pick 'em for a reason. But in order to beat the very best teams in the NFL in 2023, you need a well-rounded team with an elite quarterback at the helm. That's really the only area at which Philly has the distinct advantage. And in fact, it might be the only truly meaningful advantage on either side of this matchup. As far as I'm concerned, the rest of these position groups are a virtual wash.

In a grinding, defense-dominated game, give me the Eagles to win a close one at home and advance to the Super Bowl for the second time in the last six seasons.

The pick: Eagles 23 – 49ers 20

AFC Championship Game

Cincinnati Bengals (+1.0) at Kansas City Chiefs

Watching the Chiefs as a fan of the opposing team last week, you feel a creeping sense of inevitability that only builds as the game goes along. It reminded me of watching the Kevin Durant version of the Golden State Warriors. No matter what the score is or how things seem to be going at any given moment, you never really feel like the Chiefs are in trouble. 

But the Chiefs haven't had that air of invincibility against Cincinnati, and not having Patrick Mahomes at 100 percent will only exacerbate that. With that said, Mahomes practiced in full both Wednesday and Thursday, so it looks as though the ankle injury may not be quite as bad as it initially looked.

Either way, it's reasonable to expect Mahomes to be at least somewhat affected, especially when it comes to using his legs. Even with a fully healthy Mahomes, I'm not sure I'd feel comfortable picking against this Bengals team right now. Sure, the line may have swung a bit too far earlier in the week – it was up to Cincy -2.5 at one point – but in a neutral-site game I would give the Bengals the slight edge.

Defensively, they're playing as well as they have all season, and last week's victory was about as reassuring as it could've been for those (myself included) worried about Cincinnati's offensive line issues. Earlier this season, Burrow was sacked only once by the Chiefs, and in last year's playoff matchup he also only took one sack.

I expect Cincinnati to be able to run the ball against the Kansas City defense, which had trouble slowing down Travis Etienne before the Jaguars inexplicably went away from him in the second half. Still, Jacksonville racked up 144 rushing yards on just 19 team carries (7.6 YPC) – a positive indication for a Bengals offense with significantly more nuance and weapons.

Long story short: I don't expect Mahomes to be overly hampered by the ankle, but ultimately it doesn't affect my pick. I'm rolling with the Bengals to march into Kansas City and earn a chance to avenge last year's Super Bowl loss.

Bengals win. Bengals cover. And the over 48.0 hits. We're locking it up.

The pick: Bengals 28 – Chiefs 23

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NFL Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NFL fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Whalen
Now in his 10th year with the company, Nick is RotoWire's Senior Media Analyst, a position he took on after several years as the Head of Basketball Content. A multi-time FSGA and FSWA award winner, Nick co-hosts RotoWire's flagship show on Sirius XM Fantasy alongside Jeff Erickson, as well as The RotoWire NBA Show on Sirius XM NBA with Alex Barutha. He also co-hosts RotoWire's Football and Basketball podcasts. You can catch Nick's NBA and NFL analysis on VSiN and DraftKings, as well as RotoWire's various social and video channels. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @wha1en.
Best Ball Strategy: This, Not That (Teammate Edition)
Best Ball Strategy: This, Not That (Teammate Edition)
ADP Analysis: Harrison vs. London vs. Adams
ADP Analysis: Harrison vs. London vs. Adams
NFL Observations: 5 More Bold Predictions for 2024
NFL Observations: 5 More Bold Predictions for 2024
NFL Win Totals 2024: Betting the Jets' Win Total
NFL Win Totals 2024: Betting the Jets' Win Total