Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 9:00 AM EST. Odds subject to change.
Kansas City over Baltimore
Best Odds: +185
6:38 PM EST. The Ravens continue to get love from the "sharp betting community," as their spread has moved from a 3 to a 4½-point favorite in the AFC title game this Sunday. Oddsmakers have been increasingly assertive about their perceptions of Baltimore, and for good reason. The Ravens have been virtually perfect since their close-loss to the Browns on November 12. They were 7-3 at that juncture, looking like a contender but not necessarily close to the AFC's best. Now no one is questioning their spot at the top of the conference.
Besides a meaningless loss against Pittsburgh when they played their back-ups in Week 18, the Ravens have won 7 straight contests by an average winning margin of 17.3 points per game. That's incredibly dominant. This is arguably their best defensive roster since their glory days with Ray Lewis, and Lamar Jackson has never looked more comfortable or poised. Todd Monken's effect on their offense has been substantial, and now Charm City is hosting their first AFC Championship game since 1971.
What teams do in the regular season is important, but the playoffs are a whole new beast. Lamar and his colleagues showed the football world that they're ready to take the next step in an assertive win last weekend, but forgive us if we're not entirely blown away. Defeating a rookie coach and QB is something the Ravens were expected to do as 10-point favorites. This Sunday presents an entirely different challenge.
Now you're welcome to go read the many other articles out there in the gambling world that will try to prophesize this game based on full-season metrics. We're not going to do that here. We get it - Baltimore has the advantage in almost every category, they've been a statistical-giant this season on both sides of the ball, and based on overstated data-points like DVOA and PFF-grades etc., it's obvious why they're given the perceived edge at home. A fifth grader could regurgitate such angles.
But Lamar and his teammates have never been to this stage before. Their opponent has, many times over. In case you've been living under a rock, Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes have won 2 Super Bowls in five years. So has Travis Kelce, Chris Jones, and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. This is a team composed of stalwart members, leaders in every unit, and it's worth remembering: only Tom Brady and Joe Burrow have overcome the Chiefs at this time of year. Brady did it with the Bucs in Super Bowl LV, and Burrow did it in the 2021 season in a 3-point overtime win to become the AFC champs.
This is not a knock on Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. Throughout NFL history, dominant teams and dominant QBs have broken the hearts of other great teams and their fanbases. And the reality is, the Chiefs are once again looking like the same operation that just finds a way to win, no matter the circumstances, just as they did last weekend at Buffalo. Injuries to Skyy Moore and Kadarius Toney have sidelined the WR duo and it's worked out better for the KC passing game. They have more continuity, more chemistry, and they're making big plays when they need to. Their defense is the best they’ve had since Mahomes was drafted in 2017.
We also love that Mahomes is reportedly obsessed with copying Tom Brady's winning tactics, the secrets of the unquestioned GOAT, and we're seeing the results before our eyes. Mahomes uses any and all motivational angles he can to fire up his team. Last week it was the media and Bills' teammates doubting his ability to win on the road, this week we're sure he'll have a whole new list, starting with the fact that they're 4½-point dogs. Mahomes was impeccable last Sunday, never letting Buffalo pull ahead and answering every time they scored, including a surgical drive to start the second half that promptly took the air out of Orchard Park.
Chiefs' veteran left guard Joe Thuney is officially out for the AFC title game; that's a big deal. It’s not a big enough deal to change our minds. Regardless of how impressive the Ravens have been, the value on the defending Super Bowl champs is too good to ignore. We feel strongly that Kansas City will keep this battle close. In that scenario, there’s only one QB, one coach, one team that we trust in the game’s most pivotal moments.
Kansas City +185 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 3.70)