2022 NFL playoffs: Making a case for each favorite
The 2022 NFL Playoffs have reached the conference championship stage, and we look at how the two favorites can cover their spreads.
San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5)
The Eagles are favorites at home as the NFC’s top seed and rightfully so. They certainly looked the part on Saturday night in the Divisional round against the New York Giants, rolling up a 38-7 win with ease. Now, they take on the league’s best defense in San Francisco, which only allowed four field goals in a 19-12 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
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For the Eagles, the case here is using their defense to get home against rookie quarterback Brock Purdy. Philadelphia led the NFL with 68 sacks this season, 13 more than anybody else. The combination of edge rushers Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham and Haason Reddick, along with defensive tackle Javon Hargrave should give the Niners all they can handle up front. And if the Eagles get to Purdy, it’s going to be a tough game for San Francisco, potentially playing in a litany of long down-and-distances.
Cincinnati Bengals (-1.5) at Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City opened as three-point favorites, but the line has shifted 4.5 points in some books with the uncertainty around Patrick Mahomes’ right ankle sprain. With Mahomes hobbled and perhaps significantly so, the Bengals are looking for their fourth consecutive win over the Chiefs, each of them coming since Week 17 of last year. In all three of those wins, Cincinnati has won by a field goal after trailing at some point in the second half.
With Mahomes injured, maybe the Bengals can get out to a bigger lead and never look back. Then again, even when Mahomes has been 100 percent, they’ve done enough to limit Kansas City and score plenty against its suspect defense. For the Chiefs, there is the option of running the ball with rookie Isiah Pacheco and veteran Jerick McKinnon, but they typically like to go through the air whenever possible. If they remain predictable in some instances, Cincinnati defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo will prove very problematic for the home dogs.