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There are only three games left in the 2021-22 NFL season. This is the saddest opening line I could write. I love college football; it forever has my heart but the NFL this year was different. I discovered a newfound love for a league that played second fiddle in years past.
But let’s be real. It’s going to be really hard to top the Bills-Chiefs AFC divisional playoff game. Unfortunately for the Bills Mafia, that chapter of a Super Bowl run closed. Fortunately for the Chiefs Kingdom and Kansas City futures ticket holders, we live to fight another day.
As part of my preseason previews, I made 14 team season-long predictions. With one prediction pending, the other 13 went 11-2. Some that cashed: the Seahawks UNDER 10 games, Eagles OVER 6.5 games and Dolphins UNDER 9.5 wins. The two losers were Washington to win the NFC East and to make the playoffs. The one prediction pending: Chiefs to win the Super Bowl.
Current odds to win Super Bowl LVI
Chiefs +120 (preseason +600)
Rams +200 (preseason +2000)
49ers +450 (preseason +1500)
Bengals +800 (preseason +6600)
Why I bet the Chiefs preseason to win Super Bowl LVI
Last season, the offensive line was the key issue as to why the Chiefs lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV. Battered by injuries the entire season, by the time KC faced the Bucs defense, the Chiefs had a complete reorganization. The gist: a right tackle moved to left tackle, a guard moved to right tackle, and the right guard was someone waived from the Steelers earlier in November. The result? Patrick Mahomes was sacked three times, threw for zero touchdowns and the Chiefs lost, 31-9.
The fix? Head coach Andy Reid rebuilt his quarterback protection through the draft and free agency. Starting the season with a 3-4 win/loss record I’m sure wasn’t part of the plan but the Chiefs are here now. So, the question becomes, where is the value now ahead of the conference championship games? Buy now or wait?
A case for each remaining team
Los Angeles Rams (+200)
After getting rolled in a 31-10 loss to the 49ers in Week 10, the Rams led 17-0 in the second meeting in Week 18 before losing 27-24 in overtime. The Rams had four turnovers, which proved costly. In seven games the Rams did not turn the ball over, Los Angeles went 7-0, winning all seven by at least seven points. Good for them entering the weekend: Matthew Stafford, in back-to-back games, has thrown for zero interceptions after throwing eight in his previous four. Keep the turnovers off the stat sheet, and Sean McVay could finally break the six-game losing streak against San Francisco for a spot in the Super Bowl.
As (-180) favorites against the 49ers, the Rams would be bigger favorites to the Bengals but maybe +150 or less underdogs to the Chiefs (moneyline projections based on projected spreads). If you are a Rams believer, there is value in the current price (+200).
San Francisco 49ers (+450)
The 49ers are both 4-1 ATS and outright as underdogs this season. Under head coach Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers are 18-9 ATS as a road underdog and 10-4 outright in the past three seasons as a road dog. Not to mention that San Francisco is on a six-game win streak against the Rams. It's also the second time in Shanahan’s five seasons that the 49ers are playing for a spot in the Super Bowl.
Statistically, the 49ers match up to the Rams in multiple facets. San Francisco is first in sack differential (Rams are third). San Francisco is second in offensive yards per play (Rams are third). San Francisco is seventh in DVOA (the Rams are fifth). Over the last nine weeks, the 49ers have not allowed more than 24 points in seven games. And we’re talking about some of the best offensive teams (top 10 in points per game) like the Bengals, Cowboys, Packers, and of course, the Rams. Defenses win championships.
As (+160) underdogs against the Rams, the 49ers could be about (+130) underdogs to the Chiefs, and about (-130) favorites to the Bengals. Backing the 49ers on the moneyline this week and then again in the Super Bowl could give you slightly better odds at about 5-to-1. So, avoid the futures market and just bet on the moneyline this week and next.
Cincinnati Bengals (+800)
The scoring ability is there for the Bengals. In the Week 17 matchup, Cincinnati came back from a 21-7 deficit early on and down 28-14 at the half to win 34-31. The Bengals are the fourth-best team in the league in yards after the catch, which came in handy in the first game and could be of benefit once again here. Defense is the Chiefs' weakness, as they're ranked 24th in DVOA and 28th in yards allowed per play. What I did like about that first game is the Bengals' strategy was solid — keep the ball out of Mahomes' hands. Cincinnati put together a six-minute drive in the end to set up a game-winning field goal, leaving Mahomes with zero opportunity to find a way to score (Bills, take note). Sure, the offensive line has been troublesome all season (31st in sack rate allowed), but the Chiefs are one of the worst teams in quarterback pressure.
As (+275) underdogs this week against the Chiefs, the Bengals could be about (+160) underdogs to the Rams, and about (+130) underdogs to the 49ers. If you like the Bengals, catching the current price of (+800) could be your best option. If they beat the Chiefs as seven-point underdogs, maybe the plus-moneyline value next week will no longer be there.
Kansas City Chiefs (+120)
Mahomes only needed 13 seconds. OK, but for real, in his last seven games Mahomes has thrown for 20 touchdown passes to just two interceptions, while throwing for 8.5 yards per pass attempt. The Chiefs reached the Super Bowl in back-to-back years so experience, coaching, the ability to keep emotions in check, all of that comes into play.
If you like the Chiefs, grab the number (+120) now because they are (-330) favorites this week and whether they'd face the Rams or the 49ers, they would certainly remain favorites. This is the last opportunity to grab Mahomes at plus money.
Chiefs futures ticket holders
If you are like me with a 5-to-1 ticket or better, then you are likely considering a hedge. I’m saying it right now — no, I am not hedging. Mahomes needed 13 seconds! THIRTEEN SECONDS! If any of the remaining teams can defeat this robot of a human cheat-code machine, then good on you. I am putting my trust in Mahomes, one of the best tight ends in Travis Kelce, a speed machine in Tyreek Hill and a veteran coach in Andy Reid. There have been three teams that've reached the Super Bowl three straight years — the 1974 Dolphins, 1994 Buffalo Bills (fourth straight year) and the 2019 New England Patriots. Both the Dolphins and the Patriots won their third trip.
I said it in August, I’ll say it again — Chiefs, TAKE ALL MY MONEY!