NFL Conference Finals, Sunday – odds, chat

And then there were four – so which two are Super Bowl-bound?

It’s time for the two Conference Finals in this thrilling NFL season. You’ll have digested last week’s frankly stunning Divisional matches by now I guess, but the Bills/Chiefs contest in particular is hard to forget.

Sporting reflections are invariably littered with superlatives, but every now and then something truly astonishing reveals itself. What a wonderful spectacle it was.

The last 24 hours have seen has he/hasn’t he speculation concerning Tom Brady. Retirement that is, after 22 glorious seasons of trophy-laden NFL service. I believe he’s still weighing matters, but if it is bye, bye Brady, then a massive ‘thank you’ is in  order.

Old Father Tom has graced the game like no other. Seven rings. And pretty much in tip-top order until the last in terms of form, despite his 44 years. A truly remarkable individual.

Right – Sunday’s action, that will identify for us the teams to contest Super Bowl 56 in around a fortnight’s time.

First up it’s the AFC Conference Final.

Sunday 8pm UK

Cincinnati Bengals @ Kansas City Chiefs

These two met in Ohio at the beginning of January, and it was the Bengals who emerged victorious, 34-31. A feast of attacking football; and there’s every indication that a repeat is on the cards at Arrowhead.

Of the heavy scoring at least – as to the outcome, it’s the Chiefs’ defense that intrigues me.

For an elite club with a phenomenal offense, their ‘D’ is modestly-placed in the season stats, lurking among the sides who didn’t make postseason even. It’s hardly Cincinnati’s strength either to be fair, so eyes turn immediately to the game total here – around 54.5.

Both offenses are prolific, and predominantly excel in the air. KC’s Patrick Mahomes is a force of nature at QB, and his opposite number Joe Burrow is proving to be an exceptional fit, too.

Bengals’ Ja’Marr Chase is Burrow’s most lethal outlet, while Mahomes has Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. There are others, on both sides. Threats everywhere – and against defenses that frankly don’t inspire the greatest confidence.

Lots of interest then in that total, and I’m saving a couple of bob for the over. As to the outcome – well, I’ve pondered this all week, and despite their defensive shortcomings I can’t believe Kansas City aren’t at least a touchdown superior to Sunday’s rival, at home.

It’s Cincinnati’s first look at a Conference Final for 33 years. KC have both won, and lost, Super Bowls in the last few. In this crazy, enthralling, fabulous season, the Bengals have much, much better than a puncher’s chance here – but it’s KC for me.

Kansas City Chiefs -6.5 @ 5/6

 

And then, the turn of the NFC.

Sunday 11.30pm UK

San Francisco 49ers @ Los Angeles Rams

SF felled Green Bay no less in the Lambeau snow last time, so command the greatest respect. LA downed reigning kings Tampa Bay, despite a late wobble. The Rams are a 3.5 point spread fav, and the total is pitched around 45.5. This could be very, very tight.

Offensively, both are well matched over the season, but SF run the ball more. LA have receiver Cooper Kupp, the offensive sensation of the season, and defensively boast the likes of Aaron Donald and Von Miller. Massive players – but they looked to fade just a little late on against Tampa, having been brilliant for 55 minutes.

The ‘niners have tight end George Kittle. How the NFL keep producing these highly mobile, huge-hearted warriors of the Kelce/Gronkowski type I don’t know. It’s incredible.

SF’s Jimmy Garoppolo divides opinion at QB. On his day, perfectly efficient, and more. But doesn’t, in all candour, often quicken the pulse in the way LA’s Matthew Stafford, Mahomes, and Burrow can.

This is a huge test for the 30-year-old, who lost in the big one to Mahomes’ Chiefs just a couple of seasons ago. SF, and Garoppolo, have Deebo Samuel too – what a deadly dual running/receiving threat he is.

Clips courtesy NFL Twitter

I have a feeling that Miller and Donald can get to Jimmy G on enough occasions to sufficiently limit SF’s scoring opportunities. Meanwhile Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr and Cam Akers can eke out enough on offense for the Rams to secure a spot in this very same SoFi Stadium for Super Bowl 56, on Feb 13th.

So close to call for me, but it’s over the total of 45.5 @ 20/21, and also Rams -3.5 @ Evens.

Have a brilliant Sunday of NFL action, and good luck if you’re having a little tickle.

Alan Firkins

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Author: Paula Allen