NFL Survivor Pool Advice for the Conference Championship Games: Picks and Predictions (2023)
In last week’s survivor pool advice article for the Divisional Round, our top two confidence picks both advanced, as only the Bills lost outright as favorites. As Max Meyer pointed out on Twitter, now the real fun begins determining who will win the AFC and NFC Championship Games.
Current Super Bowl odds at @CaesarsSports:
As wide-open a final four as you'll ever see
— Max Meyer (@TheMaxMeyer) January 23, 2023
With just two games on this week’s slate, we rank our survivor pool plays in order of confidence and the most strategic way to navigate the rest of the playoffs.
NFL Survivor Pool Advice for the Conference Championship Games: Picks & Predictions (2023)
Here is a list of odds for all the two favorites to win their matchups in the conference championships (odds courtesy of FanDuel).
Conference Championship Survivor Pool Picks (starting with our strongest play)
Cincinnati Bengals (-122)
The Bengals turned their game against Buffalo into a laugher by the end of the first quarter and ousted a team on the road that became the first preseason title favorite not to reach their conference championship game since 2015. Cincinnati’s offensive line issues (it was without three starters) did not impede its chances of success against the Bills, as Joe Burrow took an average of 2.5 seconds per pass attempt (the quickest release of all eight quarterbacks who played this weekend). In addition, it is easy to slow down a pass rush when one’s running game alone produces 172 yards and 13 first downs. The Bengals had 30 first downs in all, which is tied for the third-most Buffalo has allowed in a game in the Sean McDermott era (since 2017).
Patrick Mahomes has been diagnosed with a high-ankle sprain, which usually keeps players out for multiple weeks. Thus, his mobility should be limited, and we expect Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo to devise another masterful game plan. Burrow is 3-0 SU and ATS Mahomes and the Chiefs, and is 32-16 ATS since 2020, making him the most profitable ATS quarterback in that span. In addition, Burrow is 19-7 ATS in road/neutral site games and 13-9 ATS at home. Thus, we are comfortable backing Burrow and the Bengals despite playing on the road at raucous Arrowhead Stadium.
San Francisco 49ers (+120)
The NFC Championship Game is a complete toss-up for us, as we do not know how seventh-round draft pick sensation Brock Purdy will fare in his first road playoff start. However, we know that Kyle Shanahan is a master at scheming plays to get his plethora of weapons (Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, etc.) open consistently. In addition, we expect San Francisco’s mammoth offensive line to do an excellent job in pass protection against an Eagles defense that set an NFL record with 6+ sacks in at least five consecutive games earlier this season (they also had the fourth-most in history through 16 games of a season).
Look for the 49ers to lean on a ground-and-pound approach, which should open up bigger running lanes in the second half. Per NextGenStats, the Eagles have four of the five most dominant rushing games of the season by EPA, but San Francisco’s run defense ranked second with 77.7 yards per game on the ground in the regular season and will make the difference.
San Francisco has won 12 straight games and covered the spread in ten of those, and we expect Purdy to shock the world and become the first-ever rookie quarterback to appear in the Super Bowl.
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