The conference championships produce one of the most intense Sundays of the football season. It’s a day where the final four teams in the NFL go head-to-head with the two best in the AFC squaring off and the two best in the NFC matching up. The winners of each game go to the Super Bowl.
Here’s our comprehensive guide to betting the conference championships from understanding the lines to getting a better grasp of the strategy.
Understanding The Conference Championship Betting Lines
If you’re new to sports betting, it’s good to go through a quick primer on how the odds work. That way you can understand the betting lines when you see them. Let’s use the following example:
Chicago Bears +9.5
Green Bay Packers -9.5
What you see here is a point spread, which is a margin of victory. When betting these lines, your bet has to fall inside the margin for you to win. Take note of the sign in front of the betting line. In this case, it’s a plus sign for the Bears and a minus sign for the Packers. When there’s a minus sign, that means the team is favored and they have to win by that margin. In this case, the Packers have to win by more than 9.5 for you to win. In other words, they have to win by 10 or more for you to win your Packers bet. On the flip side, the Bears can lose by nine or less, or win the game outright, and you’d win your bet.
You can also bet on totals, which is the combined final score in the game. If the over-under is set at 55.5 points, you would win an over bet if the game finished with 56 or more points – like a final score of 40-22 or 33-23 – and under would win if there was 55 combined points scored or less.
How The Conference Championships Work
The Conference Championships are the penultimate games in the playoffs before the Super Bowl.
The team with the best record in the matchup will get home-field advantage. That tends to be pretty important – especially considering the games are played in the month of January. A team like New England would be very comfortable playing at home in the cold and snow whereas a team like the Indianapolis Colts, who normally play indoors, would prefer not to play in the inclement weather.
Keys To Betting The Conference Championship
One of the best ways to bet the conference championship is to do it ahead of time. Of course, you can bet the game once we know the matchup but if you’re looking to get some value, betting it earlier in the season can offer that.
Futures – or odds to win the conference – will be posted as early as the preseason. If you do your homework, you can pick a team or two and place a small bet on them to win their conference. If you bet early, you could get odds of 10/1 or 30/1 depending on what the general perception of the team is at the time. If they surprise and actually make a run to the Super Bowl, you could earn yourself a big payday.
Experience is a huge factor in the championship games. When betting these games, you’ll want to take a closer look at the rosters and the coaching staffs and see who has been there before. Although it’s a very general rule, teams who are young or coaches who don’t have a lot of experience in this spot can wilt under the pressure. On the flip side, teams who have plenty of experience or a coach who has been in this situation can keep everyone calm and poised. Teams like the New England Patriots know exactly what they’re doing in any situation because they’ve been there before. Playing with a big lead or facing a big deficit doesn’t faze them. However, teams stocked with players who haven’t felt the magnitude of this moment could be more susceptible to turnovers or mistakes.
Look At The Playoff Picture As A Whole
When betting the championship games, you’ll want to take a look at the whole playoff picture. Matchups and seeding are important, as well as how the team got to where they are. Take note of the scenarios. For example, if the AFC Championship Game is the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, that’s one thing. If it’s the No. 1 and No. 6 seed, that’s another. If the No. 6 seed won their final few games of the regular season and has surprised in the playoffs, it could mean they’re peaking now and are better than their seeding indicates. There are a number of different scenarios, so make sure you look at the big picture before you place your bet.
Conference Championship Trends
Home Teams Do Well
While it’s mostly a trend throughout the entire postseason, home teams do particularly well in the conference championship game. Home teams have fared particularly well in this round as they have won 67-28 since the league’s merger in 1980.
When the stakes are high, the home-field advantage can prove to be a decisive edge. Just look back to the 2018 playoffs where the young Jacksonville Jaguars held a 10-point, fourth quarter lead on the road in New England but saw the Patriots rally to come back.
Bet The Favorites
Overall, favorites have won at an incredible clip in the championship game, going 64-31 straight up and 52-41-2 against the spread. Typically, the big favorites do best as they are 17-8 against the spread since 1970.
Bet The No. 1 Seeds
Teams who claim the No. 1 seed in their conference are not a fluke. It means that the team has performed the best in their respective conference throughout the entire regular season and survived the playoffs to get to the Championship Game.
No. 1 seeds do well in this spot as they have gone a perfect 9-0 straight up in the last five years.
NFL Conference Championships Opening Odds
Sunday, Jan. 20
Los Angeles Rams +3.5 at New Orleans Saints, O/U 57
New England Patriots +3 at Kansas City Chiefs, O/U 58
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