Normally, spread betting is hard enough this week of the season, but when making NFL picks on money lines is challenging, you know you have two potentially outstanding games to look forward to. Add in that revenge is baked into both contests and something special is brewing.
L.A. Rams (14-3, +2.3 units) at New Orleans (14-3, +3.9 units)
Sunday, 3:05 p.m. ET (FOX)
Free NFL Picks: Rams
Best Lines: Bovada
The first rematch of the day features a game in the same setting as the previous contest, the M-B Dome in New Orleans. The Saints won the game 45-35 as a 2.5-point home underdog and that outcome against Los Angeles altered everyone's perception about New Orleans and is the reason the NFC Championship is being played in the bayou.
In that contest, Drew Brees and teammates raced to a 35-14 near halftime, but L.A. scored 21 unanswered points to tie the game at 35 with just over 10 minutes remaining. New Orleans answered with the game's final 10 points.
In looking at the stats from that game, it gives a platform to look into the soul of this matchup. In that contest, New Orleans ran 34 times for 141 yards and was 19 ticks short of holding the ball for 34 minutes. That played a part in the Rams defense not having anything left after the big comeback.
Because the Rams trailed early, they had to abandon the run and they only had 19 attempts, but they did gain 92 yards, for a robust 4.8 yards a carry.
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) January 13, 2019
With Todd Gurley probably 80-85 percent, the Rams discovering C.J. Anderson, this has changed and helps Sean McVay's defense. With Anderson looking fresh and doing his best Jerome Bettis imitation (both in results and body type), the Rams might have a way to hold on to the ball longer. This sets up the No.3 running game during the regular season in L.A., going up against the NFL's No.2 rushing defense.
At last check, the NFL odds had the Rams at +140 on the ML and the Saints at -160. Since the end of November and discounting New Orleans Week 17 game against Carolina when they rested several players, Brees and friends are averaging a mere 20.6 PPG. Add in Los Angeles is 13-3 on the road the last two years and we could very well have an upset.
New England (12-5, Even units) at Kansas City (13-4, +8 units)
Sunday, 6:40 p.m. ET (CBS)
Free NFL Picks: Chiefs
Best Lines: Bovada
The last meeting was a classic, with New England winning 43-40, with both quarterbacks throwing for over 350 yards. While Tom Brady is not thinking about, when he's all alone, the thought has to crawl around in his cranium that this is like an old western movie. Where the gunslinger has ruled the roost for years and met nearly every challenge and along comes the latest hotshot, who can do things he's never been able to do and could end his reign.
Kansas City with Patrick Mahomes and his plethora of weapons are nearly impossible to stop. The New England defense is better than it was when they gave up 40 points at home to the K.C., but this time they will be on the road. The Patriots are 3-5 away from home and the last time they had a losing road record was 2009 (2-6).
Kansas City is 8-1 at Arrowhead, with the lone defeat coming to the Chargers, losing on a two-point conversion 29-28 with four seconds remaining after having a 14-point lead earlier in the four quarter.
While the focus of the AFC championship will be on the quarterbacks, the truth is it will be the defenses that will determine the outcome. The Chiefs just won their first home playoff game since 1993 and will return to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1970, winning the AFC title with -150 ML odds.
Doug's NFL Playoff ML Record: 6-2