With the NFL playoff schedule winding down to conference championships, that big ol’ odds board is getting smaller and smaller. If you’re looking to sprinkle some bankroll across multiple positions, late January can be a challenging time to do that.
Fortunately, there are plenty of prop bets that offer intriguing positions for this weekend’s games before Super Bowl odds are unveiled. And with an AFC Championship featuring the high-flying offenses of the Bills and Chiefs, you can bet there are a lot of salivating mouths as Sunday approaches
Who Will Find the End Zone?
A championship game that features a total north of 50 expects quite a few touchdowns, so a good place to start your adventure into propland is figuring out who, exactly, might account for those scores.
Before I give you any recommendations, I’ll offer one general piece of advice on props like this. Handicapping a prop is not the same as handicapping a game. With a side or a total, you should be taking a position on what you think will happen. However, once you get down to prop betting – particularly when you’re digging out props with plus-rated odds – you should recalibrate your thinking to betting on what could happen.
So, for example, I don’t want to chase a Josh Allen rushing touchdown at -125; instead, I want to hope for a score from Buffalo tight end Dawson Knox at +310, since there aren’t five teams in the NFL worse at defending the tight end position than Kansas City.
So, where is the best place to start? For me, the name that stands out to me the most is Darrel Williams. Andy Reid has spoken highly of Williams over the last few weeks, remarking that Williams has gotten a majority of the work because he has the hot hand. Part of that is probably true, though Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s health and Le’Veon Bell’s mediocrity certainly has something to do with it.
As of this writing, we’re still not sure that Edwards-Helaire will be fully healthy and ready to resume his feature role in Kansas City’s run game this week. When you add in that Mahomes is unlikely to be operating at 100 percent (regardless of whether or not he actually plays in the game), and the fact that Buffalo is a bottom-10 team when it comes to defending the run, I fully expect Williams to carry the rock quite a bit in this weekend’s championship game.
Williams is +160 to score a touchdown at any point, and he’s +750 to score the first touchdown of any Kansas City player. The former should be a staple of any handicapper scouring the prop market this weekend, while the latter could be an entertaining flyer for those looking at props with longer odds.
On the Buffalo side, there’s nothing I like quite as much as Williams, but I might consider a flyer on Cole Beasley to score a touchdown at +190. We have to expect Kansas City will spend much of the day bracketing Stefon Diggs, which could open up opportunities for Beasley. Exercise some caution, though – he hasn’t scored since Week 13.
Sometimes, these yardage props can feel like a reach, but I do think there are a couple of opportunities in the AFC Championship Game that are worth closer scrutiny.
For one thing, Bills quarterback Josh Allen has a rushing total of 31.5 yards, which seems like a good spot to target the over. We know that Allen is mobile, and we know that Buffalo is probably going to want to attack Kansas City’s vulnerable run defense, despite not having a particularly capable run game themselves. The easiest way to take pressure off the pass game, given the team’s own limitations, is to mix in two or three designed runs for Allen throughout the game. That, plus one or two timely scrambles, should be more than enough to get Allen to 32 yards. Really, for this bet, we only need one good improvised run of 20ish yards, and the regular bips and bobs of the game should take care of the rest.
The other player prop in this category that I’m targeting is Travis Kelce’s longest reception. If you watch the Chiefs regularly, you know that Kelce isn’t just some big-play target that they go to based on matchups – Kelce is a weekly target for big plays in the open field, 20 or 30 yards down the field. Even as Kansas City has struggled to get its offense out of first gear this season, Kelce’s knack for explosive plays hasn’t changed. Just look at these stats from the last handful of games:
· Longest Reception vs. Cleveland: 24
· Longest Reception vs. Atlanta: 29
· Longest Reception vs. New Orleans: 13
· Longest Reception vs. Miami: 32
· Longest Reception vs. Denver: 28
Now, if you’re targeting the over here, the mark you need to clear is 26.5. That’s no guarantee, but based on how he’s used, and the history, and the fact that Kansas City targeted him for big plays even with Chad Henne playing quarterback, this feels like a worthwhile opportunity.
The last yards-related prop I’ll mention here is just a general game one – what will the length of the game’s shortest touchdown be? The line is 1.5 yards.
In other words, this prop is asking whether or not there will be a one-yard touchdown play by either team at any time. Here, I feel good about betting the over. I’m willing the bet there won’t be any one-yard TD plunges.
Buffalo doesn’t have much of a run game to speak of, which limits their ability to score on the goal line. (See: Colts, Indianapolis.)
As for Kansas City, it has suffered from some pretty well-documented red zone issues all year. KC puts up points, but throughout this season, it’s been thanks to Mahomes dropping a 60-yard bomb behind the safeties or Tyreek Hill squirting his way up the sideline through a set of defenders. Their offense has been far from methodical. Give me the over.
I’m ending my prop card with some positions on how the final score will look. On my podcast with Andrew Doughty (High Motor by BetMGM), I’ve already recommended you bet the Chiefs early and consider a late play on the Bills if the price rises. One of the reasons I like that attempt at a middle – besides the obvious – is that Kansas City hasn’t won a game by more than six points since November 1. Against the Jets. Does that even count? Judges’ Ruling: No.
So, if you want to get a little spicy with your point spread position, you might augment or skip Kansas City -3 in favor of Kansas City Wins By 1-6 points +300. Obviously, the ROI is there in a big way.
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Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of High Motor by BetMGM, an NFL and college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development. Follow him on Twitter: @chaseakiddy.