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NFL betting: Comparing championship game odds to their prior regular season matchups

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The final four is set in the NFL. The Kansas City Chiefs will meet the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC championship game while the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers will meet in the NFC championship game.

While the playoffs are a whole new animal, both of these matchups have already occurred during the regular season. It'd be silly to base our whole handicap on what happened earlier in the season, but there are certainly data points worth monitoring and mentioning. Most importantly, how has the market adjusted these teams since their earlier meetings?

Bengals were home underdogs in early January

One of the more memorable regular season games this season occurred in early January during Week 17. The Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 34-31 in order to clinch the AFC North and secure a postseason appearance.

The game is probably most remembered by the fact that the Bengals were deathly afraid of giving the ball back to Patrick Mahomes with any time on the clock. As a result, they went for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal with under a minute remaining on the clock instead of kicking a go-ahead field goal. They were unsuccessful but were bailed out by a defensive penalty. This allowed them to run the clock down and kick a game-winning field goal.

Kansas City opened that week as a 4.5-point road favorite over the Bengals. The line closed with the Chiefs laying just 3.5 points. Fifty-two percent of the bets that week were on the Bengals to cover the spread as a home underdog. The total opened at 49 points and closed at 51, with 72% of the betting action favoring the over.

In the previous game, the Bengals won outright as a home underdog and the game soared over the closing total.

This upcoming Sunday, these teams will meet again in the AFC championship. The Chiefs have opened as a 7.5-point favorite at home. The total sits at 54.5 points.

Most notably, the total has seen a significant rise. It's worth noting that the original total in the regular season matchup opened at 49 points and only due to sharp money and public action did it get to 51 points. The regular season game ended up finishing with 65 points and soaring over the total. The total for the AFC championship game is opening 5.5 points higher than it did in the regular season.

These playoffs, both Bengals games have comfortably gone under the total while both Chiefs games have soared over the total.

When looking at the spread, first reaction tells you that the oddsmakers have made the Chiefs bigger favorites than they were in the first meeting, but you need to account for the shift in venue. Common NFL betting belief used to be that home-field advantage is worth 3 points, though that certainly could be debated with the recent success of road teams in the league.

In Week 17, the Chiefs were opened as 4.5-point road favorites. If we're assigning three points to home-field advantage, that means the Chiefs would have opened as 7.5-point favorites on a neutral field and 10.5-point favorites at home. Even if you only assign two points to home-field advantage, the Chiefs should have been 8.5-point favorites at home based on the line in Week 17.

Kansas City does have one of the best home-field advantages in the league, and home field would in theory mean more in the playoffs when the atmosphere is crazier and the fans are louder. Despite that, the Bengals are just 7.5-point underdogs on the road. This would suggest the oddsmakers have actually slightly upgraded the Bengals since the previous meeting between these teams.

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 15: Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) during the NFL Wild Card game against the Las Vegas Raiders and the Cincinnati Bengals on January 15, 2022, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, OH. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Can Ja'Marr Chase repeat his regular season performance against the Chiefs on NFL championship weekend? (Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

If we're looking at player performance from the previous meeting between these teams as a potential indicator, fire up the Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase props. Burrow threw for 446 yards and four touchdowns. Chase had 11 receptions for 266 yards and three scores.

Despite the high total, it wasn't all smooth sailing for the big names. Joe Mixon rushed just 12 times for 46 yards. Tyreek Hill was held to just 40 receiving yards while Travis Kelce was held to 25 yards, though he did find the end zone. It's mighty hard to shut down those big names two games in a row.

49ers remain underdogs despite sweeping Rams

As divisional rivals, the 49ers and Rams have already played twice this year. San Francisco won both matchups as an underdog. In fact, Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers have won six straight games against Sean McVay and the Rams. Despite that, the 49ers are 3.5-point underdogs in Los Angeles for the NFC championship game.

In November, the 49ers were struggling and the Rams were rolling. Los Angeles was a 3.5-point road favorite in San Francisco and 88% of the bets on that Monday night were backing the Rams to cover as a favorite.

San Francisco won the game by a score of 31-10 in what was one of the biggest losses for the public of the regular season.

In the Week 18 rematch, the 49ers needed a win to clinch a playoff spot while a Rams win would have won them the NFC West. Despite the game now being in Los Angeles, the 49ers were once again 3.5-point underdogs. The 49ers were 3.5-point underdogs at home and then 3.5-point underdogs on the road. This suggests either a sizable upgrade of the 49ers from the oddsmakers or a lack of home-field advantage. It's probably a combination of both.

Despite being an underdog again, the 49ers won the game straight up to clinch a playoff spot. Now, for the third time this season, the Rams are a 3.5-point favorite over the 49ers despite the fact that they are 0-2 against them.

The total for the first game between these teams was 50.5 points. That game went well under the total. The total for the second game was much lower at 44.5 points, and that game went over the total. The total for the NFC championship game is currently 46.5 points. These teams have combined for 92 points over two games, or an average of 46 points per game.

If we're looking at player performances from the first two matchups between these teams, two names stick out that might be worth a bet in the prop markets.

Cooper Kupp dominated everyone this season, and the 49ers were no exception. Over two games against San Francisco, Kupp posted 18 receptions, 240 yards and a touchdown. He posted at least 118 yards in both games.

On the other side, Deebo Samuel had a tremendous year and a lot of that damage was done against the Rams. Over two games, Samuel posted nine receptions, 192 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown, 13 carries, 81 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. He posted at least 133 all purpose yards in both games.

The 49ers relied heavily on the run in both games. Elijah Mitchell got 48 carries over the two games while San Francisco had 85 rushing attempts in the two games. Mitchell posted at least 85 rushing yards in both games.

Matthew Stafford struggled against the 49ers, throwing four interceptions over the two games.