Four teams enter and two teams book their flights to Glendale, Arizona, with a chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Some of the most memorable moments in NFL history have happened during this same slate, such as Richard Sherman’s bat-down on that “sorry receiver” Michael Crabtree, the Seahawks’ fake field goal to spark a comeback, and the infamous no-call in the Rams-Saints games. It’s that time again, but who will give us the best plays this year? Well, nobody knows for sure, but money talks and all mine is on these guys to make us some more.
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BRANDON AIYUK: OVER 3.5 RECEPTIONS
When it comes to defense, both the 49ers and the Eagles have been atop the league this season. Therefore, this game should be lower scoring, leading to lower stats for both teams’ offenses, right? It would be easy to chalk in the ‘under’s for most of the player props and call it a day, but I like to think a little more contextually.
Imagine you are the defensive coordinator of the Eagles. This Shanahan running game is scary, so filling these gaps with your linebackers and stopping this ground attack would have to be the first priority, not to mention tackling Christian McCaffrey, the best playmaker in all of football. But lined up on this offense as well is Deebo Samuel, another big-time weapon, so you should probably gameplan him as the next priority. Then there’s George Kittle, who has shown he can take over a game many times in the past.
Where does this leave Brandon Aiyuk? He is a big playmaker, yes, but there are sacrifices to be made. As a coach, there are other players for your defense to focus on. The 49ers will get the ball to their best players, yes, but when the Eagles start to lock down on the major gamers, Brandon Aiyuk will be there. Literally, too, as he leads all 49ers with 55 short-yardage targets according to PFF, exactly where they will need him to be when yards are hard to come by. I see some easy, short receptions in Aiyuk’s future, opened up by the gravity of CMC, Deebo, and Kittle.
DALLAS GOEDERT: OVER 47.5 RECEIVING YARDS
The aforementioned 49ers’ defense is very talented, but most of that comes against the rush; their air defense is great but much closer to league average than their vaunted ground-stopping ability. No matter what the score is, the Eagles will have to take advantage and have some success passing the football if they want to win. This is where Dallas Goedert comes in.
Not only is he the longest-tenured pass-catcher on this team, but he also bolsters a 6-foot-5, 250-pound frame primed for pulling in targets against this type of defense. He’s been in the playoffs before and has been over 47.5 yards in each of the last three postseason games. This includes the Giants last week and last season against the Buccaneers, where Jalen Hurts delivered him 12 (!!!) targets. When offense gets tough, tight ends like Dallas Goedert are who you want to give the ball to.
ISIAH PACHECO: OVER 50.5 RUSHING YARDS
The Kansas City Chiefs have made five straight AFC championship games. So, there’s a large sample size of Andy Reid’s offensive game plan in the playoffs to look at, and some of it may surprise you. The Chiefs starting running back in each playoff game they’ve played has averaged 69.2 rushing yards per game. These starters have individually eclipsed 50.5 rushing yards in the last eight playoff games for this team.
Alright, so the Chiefs running backs have had playoff success in the past; so what, Isiah Pacheco is a rookie. Well, lucky for us bettors, Isiah Pacheco himself has averaged 13.8 carries a game since he got the promotion in Week 10. He has averaged 72.8 yards a game over this span, well over the line. Even if you are concerned about this solid Bengals run defense, his average carries a game (13.8) times the Bengals’ average yards a carry allowed (4.2) would still give Pacheco a routine 58 yards. Don’t forget last week where he rushed for 95 yards and the last time they played the Bengals where he rushed for 66 yards.
I think this evidence is enough to easily lay some money on this prop, but if you need another nugget: Vegas has the Bengals as one-point favorites, and in games that come down to one possession, Pacheco averages more yards than he does during comfortable victories (a yards-per-game difference of 76.8 versus 68.25). I would bet this line if it was another 10, maybe even 20 yards were added to his total.
TEE HIGGINS: UNDER 56.5 RECEIVING YARDS
While the Bengals are undefeated since the start of 2023, Tee Higgins has been quiet. He has only caught eight passes for 72 yards in three games, a stat line Ja’Marr Chase has put up in three of his last four games alone. Frankly, Higgins has only surpassed 37 yards once in his last six games, 20 yards shy of his over/under against the Chiefs. Joe Burrow has just been spreading the rock a bit more lately, with Hayden Hurst, Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon, and Trent Irwin all getting good looks over this recent stretch. When Burrow does decide to force-feed a receiver, it’s Ja’Marr Chase, as it should be.
TRAVIS KELCE: OVER 0.5 TOUCHDOWNS
Just last week, we told you to take the TD bet on Kelce over on Prize Picks. Well, it hit (twice). And now, I’m going to tell you to take it again. Once again, Vegas gives Kelce the best odds to score in this game, and for good reason. Every time Patrick Mahomes drops back, especially in the red zone, it just seems bound to go to Travis Kelce. He has found the endzone in two of the last three against the Bengals. Additionally, his 16 career playoff games make him an attractive target when the lights are brightest. And in a historical sense, he has scored a touchdown in his last four playoff games and has 12 touchdowns in 10 games dating back to the 2020 playoffs. I would feel much more comfortable betting any of the ‘overs’ on Kelce than the ‘unders.’
OTHER BETS TO CONSIDER:
Jalen Hurts UNDER 10.5 rushing attempts
Looked a little hesitant to run last game; the stout 49ers run defense may force the pass
Jauan Jennings OVER 21.5 receiving yards
Look for the 49ers to diversify their gameplan; has appeared in big moments this year
Ja’Marr Chase OVER 0.5 touchdowns
Tied with Kelce for best odds; TD in five of the last six
Kadarius Toney UNDER 34.5 receiving yards
Mahomes may rely on his main playoff guys (Kelce and Hardman); more likely to get rushing yards if they want him involved
Evan McPherson OVER 1.5 FGM
Second-fewest 4th down attempts this season; over in six of the last seven