NFL conference championship betting: Loza and Dopp's props that pop

ByLiz Loza and Daniel Dopp ESPN logo
Saturday, January 27, 2024

We're almost there. The proverbial end of the road. The stakes have never been higher with only three more games left to play in the 2023-24 NFL season.

The magical season for Dan Campbell and the Detroit Lions continues this week as they head into San Francisco where Brock Purdy has been proving doubters wrong all season long, leading his 49ers team to a second consecutive NFC Championship game. Both teams are great against the run (Lions allow the 2nd fewest rushing yards per game, 49ers the 3rd fewest) and allow the majority of their yards through the air. Can the Lions get enough pressure on Purdy to keep the ball away from the Niners offense? What about Purdy? Five straight QBs have put up at least 345 passing yards and multiple passing touchdowns against this Lions' secondary.

On the other side we have former and likely future MVP Lamar Jackson, commanding a Ravens offense that's getting even healthier with Mark Andrews back. Meanwhile, Patrick Mahomes is leading a Chiefs team that is trying to put it all together at just the right time. Can Mahomes recapture that magic? Will his pass-catchers limit their drops against one of the best defenses in the NFL?

As a Lions fan, I'm usually belly button deep in mock drafts for the upcoming season. But this year, I'm still watching meaningful football and putting in some bets around the biggest games of the season. Last week I went 2-2 in this column while Liz went 4-0, so we're gonna keep that hot streak rolling with some conference championship props that pop!

QB props

Patrick Mahomes UNDER 1.5 passing TDs (at Ravens)

Daniel: This is playing with fire, right?! You're never supposed to doubt Mahomes, especially in the playoffs! But this has more to do with the Ravens defense. They've only allowed 18 passing touchdowns this season. Not only that, they've only allowed four quarterbacks to have multiple touchdowns ... and all four QBs lost. Since Week 13, the Ravens have allowed 126 rushing yards per game -- 7th most in the NFL over that span. Hello,Isiah Pacheco! Over the last three games, Pacheco has averaged 121 yards from scrimmage. Did I mention I think this could be a Pacheco game? Teams are moving the ball the only way they seem to know how, through the ground game. The Ravens pass defense has been lights out, but their rush defense has been suspect lately, and that doesn't even factor in what Mahomes brings to the table. Over the last six weeks, Mahomes has only two games with two passing touchdowns. In fact, he only has two games with more than two passing TDs all year! In spite of the greatness that is Mahomes, I don't see him hitting two passing touchdowns against this incredible Ravens pass defense.

Brock Purdy OVER 274.5 passing yards, parlay w/ OVER 1.5 passing TDs (vs. Lions)

Daniel: The prop that keeps on giving. Over the last five weeks, you've been able to make some very nice money if you bet against the Lions secondary. I've done a handful of ladder bets surrounding QBs that play the Lions as well, and they just keep hitting. Heading into last week the Lions had given up four straight games of 345 passing yards and at least two passing touchdowns. Because of that, I decided to take the QB playing the Lions (Baker Mayfield) at multiple lines: Over 254.5 passing yards and 1.5 touchdowns. Then I went to the alt lines: OVER 275 yards and 1.5 TDs, OVER 300 yards and 1.5 TDs and OVER 325 yards and 1.5 TDs. Every single one of them hit. I did the same thing with Matthew Stafford against this Lions secondary the week before, which means I'm heading back to the well and doing it with Purdy this week. Since it's now been five straight weeks of the Lions giving up at least 345 passing yards and two touchdowns to opposing QBs, it feels like negligence to not take this line. The Lions want to shut down Christian McCaffrey in the ground game (foreshadowing) and make the 49ers passing game beat them. The only hesitation I have is the health of Deebo Samuel. If I knew he was fully healthy, I'd put even more down on the game, but that's still a pretty big question mark as of this writing.

RB props

Jahmyr Gibbs longest rush OVER 14.5 yards (at 49ers)

Liz: Gibbs has failed to record double-digit carries in back-to-back weeks, but he's still produced when given the opportunity, finding the end zone in each postseason effort. His explosiveness was on full display versus Tampa Bay, as he managed 74 rushing yards (including a 31-yard scamper) on just 9 carries (8.2 YPC) last week. As Daniel mentioned earlier, the 49ers run defense has been a top-five unit over the course of the 2023 season. Yet, I still think Gibbs is explosive enough to rip off at least one run of 15+ yards. The rookie has managed 16 such rushes this season (including the playoffs) which is tied with Derrick Henry for the 2nd-most in the NFL. Additionally, the 49ers have struggled to contain explosive rushers down the stretch. Ten of the 19 instances in which San Fran gave up runs over 15 yards occurred after Week 14 (Arizona really put it to 'em in Week 15). Aaron Jones' 108 rushing yard effort (which included a 53 yard run) further highlighted the issue last week.

Christian McCaffrey UNDER 19.5 rush attempts (vs. Lions)

Daniel: This line seems high to me for a couple of reasons, starting with CMC. He's only had four games with 20+ rush attempts this season, the most recent coming in Week 11. And for what it's worth, the other three games were Weeks 1, 2 and 4. I know teams talk about saving guys for the playoffs, but 20 rush attempts is a lot against a rush defense like the Lions. The Lions are 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game, and the coaching staff doubled down on stopping the run this week when talking about the deficiencies in the secondary. They know they're getting beat through the air, but they're also one win away from the Super Bowl because they're so good against the run. The Lions didn't have a single running back rush the ball 20 times against them this season. Austin Ekeler had 19 in Week 10 and Kenneth Walker III had 17 in Week 2, but that's as close as it got. And it's not like this Lions team hasn't played star running backs recently. In the Wildcard Round, they held Kyren Williams, who led the league with 21.1 touches per game, to just 14 opportunities (13 carries, 1 reception). Last week in the Divisional Round, the Lions held Rachaad White, who had the 5th most touches with 19.4 per game, to only 13 opportunities on Sunday (9 carries, 4 receptions). Even with the 49ers favored by a touchdown, I think they do more damage through the air than they do in the ground game.

David Montgomery, OVER 6.5 receiving yards (at 49ers)

Liz: Daniel is allowed to love Montgomery, but I got to adore him first. The former Bear doesn't have Gibbs' quicks, but he's still an integral part of the Lions offense. While he's not the team's primary receiver out of the backfield, he's still capable of hitting the over on 6.5 receiving yards on Sunday. Monty averaged 8.4 receiving yards per game over the regular season and has managed double-digit receiving yard totals in both of his playoff efforts. Furthermore, the 49ers gave up the seventh-most receiving yards to opposing RBs over the course of 2023. Given the vet's 7.3 YPR average, just one catch would put him over the above line. I'll bet on that.

WR props

Odell Beckham Jr. OVER 20.5 receiving yards (vs. Chiefs)

Liz: It's been a quiet few weeks for OBJ. He only ran seven routes last week versus Houston. But that's partially because the Ravens ended up routing the Texans. In fact, Beckham ran six of those seven routes in the first half of the game when the score was tied. Had the contest remained more competitive, Beckham's usage wouldn't have waned. I expect him to be a vital part of the Ravens passing attack -- in a game with just a four-point spread -- on Sunday. The Chiefs pass defense has been stout all year, allowing the fourth-fewest receiving yards over the regular season. L'Jarius Sneed has, obviously, been a huge part of the secondary's success. With Sneed likely to focus the bulk of his efforts on slowing Zay Flowers, however, Beckham should benefit from softer coverage. And while there's concern about his target share -- especially with Mark Andrews expected to return on Sunday -- it's worth noting that OBJ cleared the above line in six of eight games while Andrews was sidelined over the top half of the year. Beckham's playoff experience and savvy figure to be leaned up in what's projected to be a closely contested game. I think he finishes with three grabs for at least 30 yards this weekend.

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