More Sports:

January 28, 2024

Conference championship round NFL picks

Jimmy picks the two Sunday afternoon conference title games.

Eagles NFL
012524PatrickMahomes Mitch Stringer/USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes

For the gambling degenerates, here are my conference championship round NFL picks. To note, the team logos indicate who I think will win the game, not cover the spread. At the end of the picks, I'll note a few teams that I like based on the spread.


Chiefs at Ravens (-4.5): The Ravens are probably the best team in the NFL, with easily the best defense of the four remaining teams in the playoffs. They have also now won 10 games by double-digit points this season after their drubbing of the Texans in the divisional round. They are in the top eighth of the league in all three phases in DVOA (4th in offense, 1st in defense, and 3rd in special teams), and can win games in a variety of ways.

The Chiefs are similar in terms of being a team with no one unit dragging them down. They finished in the top quarter of the league in DVOA in all three phases (8th in offense, 7th in defense, and 6th in special teams). At times this season they looked mortal, and not like the dominant juggernaut we have come to expect over the last six years of the Patrick Mahomes era. However, they have been impressive so far in the playoffs, easily dispatching of the Dolphins in the wildcard round and then beating a red hot Bills team on the road last weekend.

The Chiefs have the disadvantage of playing their second straight road game, while also having a day and a half less rest than Baltimore. The Ravens are also the healthier team, and Lamar Jackson should benefit from the return of star TE Mark Andrews.

This line was originally at Ravens (-3.5), but interestingly it jumped up a point at several sportsbooks heading into Sunday. I'll bite on the 4.5 points, and what the hell, just give me the Chiefs to win outright as well. Jackson is going to be the league's MVP this season, but I just have so much more trust in Mahomes and his tried and true playoff history.


Lions at 49ers (-7.5): The Niners want to run the football. In fact, they have the third-highest run play percentage in the NFL, at 48.1 percent, behind only the Ravens. The top three run-heavy teams:

Team Run % 
Ravens 51.0% 
Bears 48.7% 
49ers 48.1% 

The Ravens' and Bears' run play percentages are skewed because they have quarterbacks who get their share of rushing attempts. The 49ers run it a lot because they have the best all-around running back in the NFL in Christian McCaffrey, who had almost 300 more rushing yards than any other back in the league. Everything the 49ers do offensively begins with the run. 

In their four losses this season (not including a "resting starters" game Week 18), the 49ers got away from feeding McCaffrey, as he averaged just 13 carries per game in those games:

• At Browns: 11 carries, 41 yards
• At Vikings: 15 carries, 45 yards, 1 TD
• Bengals: 12 carries, 54 yards, 1 TD
• Ravens: 14 carries, 103 yards, 1 TD

Brock Purdy stunk for three quarters against the Packers in the divisional round before leading a late game-winning drive to advance to the conference championship round. If the Lions are going to have any chance of winning this game, they are going to have to find a way to stop McCaffrey and force Purdy to beat them, even with very shaky outside corners. They happen to be a team well-equipped defensively to do that, as they allowed 87.7 rushing yards per game in 2023, second-best in the NFL.

During the divisional round I liked the Packers' strategy of taking the football first to try to get an early lead on this Niners team that is far more comfortable playing from ahead than they are from behind, and think the Lions should adopt that. They have plenty of playmakers on offense to put points on the board.

Ultimately, the Niners are simply a much better football team. I like the scrappy Lions' chances of playing a competitive game, so give me the 7.5 points, but brace yourselves for these crybaby Niners to be playing in the Super Bowl.

• Picks against the spread: Chiefs (+4.5), Lions (+7.5).

• 2023 season, straight up: 175-109 (0.616)
• 2023 season, ATS: 47-48-6 (0.495) 😱
• 2022 season, straight up: 176-107-2 (0.621)
• 2022 season, ATS: 50-50 (0.500) 
• 2021 season, straight up: 179-105-1 (0.630)
• 2021 season, ATS: 46-40-1 (0.534)
• 2020 season, straight up: 169-81-1 (0.675)
• 2020 season, ATS: 45-37-3 (0.547)
• 2019 season, straight up: 160-107-1 (0.601)
• 2019 season, ATS: 42-35-3 (0.544)
• 2018 season, straight up: 173-94-2 (0.647)
• 2018 season, ATS: 41-36-2 (0.532)
• 2017 season, straight up: 181-86 (0.678)
• 2017 season, ATS: 36-32-2 (0.529)
• 2016 season, straight up: 171-94-2 (0.644)
• 2016 season, ATS:  41-34 (0.547)
• 2015 season, straight up: 163-93 (0.637)
• 2015 season, ATS: 46-30-2 (0.605)

• Last 9 years, ATS: 392-339-19 (0.535)

Follow Jimmy & PhillyVoice on Twitter: @JimmyKempski | thePhillyVoice

Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports

Add Jimmy's RSS feed to your feed reader