Conference Championship Recap

Another week, another winner for anybody following along. We made 4 bets in total and went 3–1 for +3.43 Units, with our only loss being the 1 Unit play on the Packers. With only the Super Bowl remaining, I find myself reflecting on this season and I’m very excited to carry over the success and all the things I learned into next season. But for now, let’s recap Sunday’s games.

GB -3.5 (-104) (1 Unit): Loss 1 Unit, TB 31–26
Over 50.5 (-114) (1 Unit), Over 51 (1 Unit): Win 1.79 Units
Brady Under 289.5 Passing Yards (-112) (1 Unit): Win 0.89 Units

The Packers outplayed the Bucs in this game based on my viewing. Aaron Rodgers certainly outplayed Tom Brady. I feel bad for Packer fans who had to stomach this after such a great season.

Just to get this out of the way: the defensive PI on King was the right call. He tugged on Johnson’s shirt as he was trying to finish the route. You can’t do that. But the problem is that the refs missed several similar penalties earlier in crucial moments against Tampa Bay. The two that stick out to me are (1) at the end of the first half, Murphy-Bunting pulled on Lazard’s jersey to create leverage to make an interception that ended the Packers’ drive and led to Brady’s touchdown to Miller, and (2) a third-down pass (again to Lazard) with 8 minutes left, down 5, where Lazard was held throughout the whole route. It’s tough to watch those no-calls and then lose on a penalty, even if it was the right call in a vacuum.

But the bad breaks for Green Bay went deeper than the refs. Aaron Jones’ fumble gave the Bucs an 8 yard field for an easy touchdown, and the terrible defensive play call at the end of the half gave the Bucs a touchdown on 4th down after they considered punting. Despite all of this, the Packers had a chance late thanks to three bad interceptions by Brady in the second half. But the bottom line is that the Packers didn’t do enough.

This is a good reminder of why it’s important to keep the bet count low when (1) the spread is fairly accurate and (2) the team you’re betting against is opportunistic. When a couple of things go against you, which happens, you can easily lose the bet. I’m happy with my GB -3.5 play, and would do it again if we could start over, but definitely would keep it at only 1 Unit.

As for the Over, my favorite play on this game, we nailed it. In my write-up I included as reasons for playing Over “(2) both teams taking advantage of the 2-minute drill to not only move the ball but to try to punch in touchdowns, and (3) if either team faces a big deficit, they will surely be able to score some catch-up points.” Turns out both these points were key, as Brady had an end-of-half touchdown bomb and Rodgers scored in catch-up mode. This was definitely the sharpest angle in the game.

Finally, we appeared to be a bit fortunate to hit the Under on Brady passing yards after he had a big first half. But looking deeper, I think he was fortunate to be so prolific. He had several deep throws that not only could have been incomplete, but could have been intercepted. On the other hand, if they had not been playing with a lead, I would have lost this bet. Turns out it was a solid hedge and we’ll take any win we get.

The two big takeaways here moving onto the Super Bowl: (1) This Bucs’ defense is legit and getting healthy at the right time. They fly around, make tackles, and get pressure. (2) This offense continues to be built around the 50–50 deep ball, which means they’ll continue to be inconsistent and reliant on big plays. Provided their defense holds up and continues to put them in good positions, they will have a chance to win any game. But if they are reliant on consistent offensive production, I wouldn’t count on it.

KC -2.5 (-114) (2 Units): Win 1.75 Units, KC 38–24

The Chiefs dominated this game. In my write-up I called the Chiefs underrated and I feel vindicated. As soon as I saw Mahomes moving around with no limitation I knew the Chiefs were going to be okay. Then when the muffed punt return by Hardman gave the Bills a 9–0 lead I was able to put 2 more units on KC +1.5 live. I didn’t even have to sweat that one. I’m not surprised by the Chiefs’ offensive performance with a healthy Mahomes, but their defense really impressed me here. Spagnuolo once again proved he is an elite defensive co-ordinator after he completely shut down Stefon Diggs here and made Josh Allen struggle. When you factor in the muffed punt and the onside kick recovery, this game could have been even more lopsided.

People have been down on the Chiefs because they failed to cover the spread a lot down the stretch. They won a lot of “close” games according to final scores, but if you watched those games, most weren’t actually all that close. Moreover, the Chiefs play best in big spots. Against playoff teams (TB, BUF twice, NO, BAL, and CLE), the Chiefs are 6–0. Four of those games were on the road. In those games, Mahomes has completed 71.1% of his passes for 318 yards a game, with 16 passing touchdowns and zero turnovers. He added 23 rushes for 149 yards (6.5 yards per carry) and another 2 touchdowns, when factoring out kneel-downs. The Chiefs only trailed once in the second half (against New Orleans), and took the lead for good with 23 minutes left in that game. Simply put, they have been the best team in football this year and it’s not particularly close. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee them a Super Bowl victory, particularly with the injury to Eric Fisher, further depleting their offensive line against the Bucs’ strong front. But outside of “maybe Mahomes can’t move because of his toe injury,” I’m not sure why anybody was betting on the Bills here.

My biggest takeaways from this game moving into the Super Bowl: (1) This may have been the best all-round game I’ve seen Mahomes play in his career. He has struggled at times with dropping back too far to avoid pressure, relying on his big arm to complete tough throws. This is not a way to consistent success. But here, they schemed him for quick passes and roll-outs to combat the pressure and it made a huge difference. They could score at will with this style of offense. (2) This defense has massive potential. They disrupt. They play disciplined. And they shut down good receivers consistently, even without a “standout” corner. I will be excited to see what Spagnuolo dials up in another bid to knock off Tom Brady in two weeks.

That’s all for now. Going to ruminate on the Super Bowl a bit and come back with some fun bets and props. Good luck!

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