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Best NFL conference championship betting trends: Mahomes shines as an underdog

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The conference championship round of the NFL goes down on Sunday.

The Kansas City Chiefs will travel to M&T Bank Stadium to take on the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC title game at 3 p.m. ET.

Then, the Detroit Lions will visit the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game at 6:30 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App

Will Patrick Mahomes make his fourth Super Bowl appearance? Will Dan Campbell and Jared Goff lead the Lions to the big show for the first time in franchise history? 

With so many intriguing storylines in each game, this weekend will be one to remember.

FOX Sports research checked in on how teams have performed against the spread (ATS) and straight up (SU) in various situations in the conference championship round. It also looked into several team- and player-specific notes that should help give you a potential gambling edge this Sunday. 

Let’s dive into the best betting trends and notes that stuck out.

Mahomes a ‘dog, again?

Patrick Mahomes is an underdog in consecutive weeks for the first time since Weeks 1 and 2 of the 2018 season, his first year as a full-time starter. 

This will be the fifth time he’s faced Lamar Jackson and the first time he’s faced him in the playoffs. Mahomes went 2-2 ATS (50%) and 3-1 SU (75%) in those games, with three of them being decided by a combined nine points. Their matchup in the 2020 season was a 34-20 victory for the Chiefs. 

Here’s a look at the trends that point toward the Chiefs covering:

  • Mahomes is 11-5 ATS (68.8%) and 13-3 SU (81.3%) as a starter in the playoffs in his career; the cover rate is tied with Joe Flacco for the best of any QB in the Super Bowl era (min. 15 starts), while the win percentage is the best of any QB in the Super Bowl era (min. 10 playoff starts).
  • Mahomes is 3-2 ATS and SU (60%) as a starter in the AFC title game in his career.
  • Mahomes is 10-1-1 ATS (90.9%) and 9-3 SU (75%) as an underdog in his career (regular season and playoffs).
  • Chiefs are 25-14-2 ATS (64.1%) and 21-20 SU (51.2%) as an underdog under Andy Reid (regular season and playoffs).
  • Andy Reid is 8-3-1 (72.7%) and 5-7 SU (41.7%) as an underdog in the playoffs for his career (Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles).

Lamar Jackson vs. Patrick Mahomes = Next best QB rivalry?

Kyle Shanahan is dominant ATS in the playoffs

Shanahan has been an absolute force in the playoffs, as he’s looking to make his second Super Bowl appearance in just seven seasons as a head coach. 

Below are some of the noteworthy trends he’s posted during his time in San Francisco:

  • Shanahan is 7-3 ATS and SU (70%) in the playoffs for his career, the best win percentage of any coach who has not won a Super Bowl or NFL championship.
  • Shanahan is 4-1 ATS (80%) and 5-0 SU when a favorite in the playoffs, with the lone non-cover coming last week against the Green Bay Packers as 10.5-point favorites.
  • Shanahan is 4-1 ATS (80%) and 5-0 SU when playing at home in the playoffs, again with the lone non-cover coming last week against the Packers.
  • Last week, Shanahan recorded his first win when trailing by 5-plus points entering the fourth quarter, now 1-31 SU (3.1%) for his career in such situations (regular season and playoffs).

No. 1 seeds struggle ATS, Overs hit

The top seed in the conference championship round has a strong history of winning, no matter what time frame you consider. 

As seen below, when looking at intervals of 10 seasons, the lowest win percentage for the No. 1 seed in this round is 70.8% when going back to the 1990 season. If you go back to just the last 13 seasons (since 2010), the win rate jumps up to a whopping 77.8%. 

From the data below, the strongest trend is how often the Over hits. In every 10-season interval, the Over dominates. Going back to the 1990 season, the Over has hit in 28 of 48 conference title games with just one push — a 58.3% hit rate.  

  • Since 2010, the 1-seed is 11-7 ATS (61.1%) and 14-4 SU (77.8%) in the conference championship round, with the Over hitting in nine of those games (one push).
  • Since 2000, the 1-seed is 18-14 ATS (56.3%) and 24-8 SU (75%) in the conference championship round, with the Over hitting in 18 of those games (one push).
  • Since 1990, the 1-seed is 26-22 ATS (54.2%) and 34-14 SU (70.8%) in the conference championship round, with the Over hitting in 28 of those games (one push).
  • Since 1980, the 1-seed is 38-26 ATS (59.4%) 47-17 SU (73.4%) in the conference championship round; Over/Under data is only available for 53 of those games, Over hit in 31 of them (one push).

49ers host Lions in NFC Championship Game — Who wins?

No. 3 seed struggles historically

In the Super Bowl era, the 3-seed is 7-10 ATS (41.2%) and 4-13 SU (23.5%) in the conference championship game. The only four teams to make it to the Super Bowl as a 3-seed are the 1979 Rams, the 1987 Washington team, the 2003 Carolina Panthers and the 2006 Indianapolis Colts

To be fair, the playoffs expanded to 10 teams in 1978 and to 12 in 1990, so to account for this, we examined how 3-seeds performed in the divisional round as well. 

The results were similar, as they went 29-35-2 ATS (45.3%) and 19-47 SU (28.8%) in the Super Bowl era.    

Looking at more recent time frames, 3-seeds have gone 5-3 ATS (62.5%) and 2-6 SU (25%) in the conference title game since 2000. The two teams that won in that span are mentioned above (2003 Panthers, 2006 Colts).

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