NFL Conference Round Playoff Tips: Lamar Jackson can guide Baltimore to the Super Bowl

By Tom Collins

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26 January 2024

It’s crunch time: which two teams will step up and seal their Super Bowl LVIII place in Las Vegas next month while their counterparts fall at the final hurdle? A big occasion calls for big players - and there are a fair few of those on show.

Last week proved pretty successful from a wagering point of view. We had three winners from four selections, which included anytime touchdown bets on Travis Kelce and Lamar Jackson. Fingers crossed for a similar showing this time around.

Kansas City Chiefs (+4.0) @ Baltimore Ravens (-4.0)

Kick-off: 8pm Sunday GMT

Patrick Mahomes doesn’t know what it’s like to fail before the AFC Championship game. Since becoming a regular NFL starter back in 2018, just one year after he was drafted from Texas Tech, he has taken his Kansas City Chiefs to this round every season. Mahomes’ 13-3 post-season record proves that he is one of the best and most clutch quarterbacks in the league.

It is a slightly different story for the Ravens, who haven’t made it to this stage since 2012. In that year they beat the New England Patriots 28-13 before downing the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl. Maybe history will repeat itself in a fortnight? Baltimore has always had talent on the defensive side of the ball, but their offence has been riddled with injuries in recent seasons and that has hampered them against better opposition.

When lead running back JK Dobbins tore his achilles back in week one, it felt like groundhog day for this unlucky franchise. But their immense depth at the position has helped fill the void and support Lamar Jackson, who has had a phenomenal year. As a result, the Ravens are favourites to beat the Chiefs this weekend and I don’t disagree. I’m on at 3/1 for Super Bowl glory, don’t forget!

Back to matters at hand, though, and Sunday’s game. My best bet is to back Lamar Jackson in the anytime touchdown market - why change a strategy that isn’t broken? Jackson’s lethal agility and vision tore a hole through the Texans last week and, given the Chiefs struggled with Josh Allen’s quarterback draws in their victory over the Bills, I imagine using Lamar as much as possible will be the Ravens’ strategy.

Best Bet: Lamar Jackson anytime touchdown @ 6/5

Detroit Lions (+7.5) @ San Francisco 49ers (-7.5)

Kick-off: 11.30pm Sunday GMT

Maybe I’m biased, but this should have been an NFC North match-up between the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. However, failure to make crucial (and relatively simple) plays meant the San Francisco 49ers progressed in a tense 24-21 scrap despite a sub-par performance from their quarterback, Brock Purdy.

Purdy, who has been excellent for the majority of the season, has come unstuck in a couple of rain-affected games and last Saturday was no exception. He will be glad that the weather forecast indicates dry conditions as his Niners take on Dan Campball’s unstoppable machine from Detroit.

Statistics tell you that San Francisco should win this match-up. They were by far the most impressive and clinical team in the NFC during the regular season, possess the best running back in the league, and have home field advantage. But Deebo Samuel’s shoulder injury will hold back their offence and pile more pressure on an increasingly errant Purdy.

I have a sneaky suspicion that the Lions will make this game very interesting, but it’s worth remembering that Detroit has never played in a Super Bowl before and going on the road against this 49ers team is a pretty stiff task. Instead of backing a team to progress, my best bet is for Christian McCaffrey to record over 4.5 receptions in this game.

Although he’s better known for carrying the ball, McCaffrey recorded five or more catches in eight games during the regular season as well as when he faced the Packers last week. With Samuel questionable to play (he won’t be utilised as much as usual even if he does suit up due to the injury), expect plenty of dump-offs and screens to CMC out of the backfield. 

Best Bet: Christian McCaffrey Over 4.5 receptions @ 10/11

NFL Conference Round Playoff Tips

Chiefs @ Ravens: Lamar Jackson anytime touchdown @ 6/5
Lions @ 49ers: Christian McCaffrey Over 4.5 receptions @ 10/11

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