I anticipated a Buffalo win last week, and that made this week’s contest in Baltimore highly contested. If the Bills did beat the Chiefs last Sunday, then they would be coming to Baltimore in the realm most football followers consider beneficial, that is “peaking at the right time.”
Seven weeks ago, the Bills had a 5% chance of winning the AFC East Division. The Miami Dolphins had held the top spot in their division the entire season, and were only to relinquish that edge on the day’s final regular season game when the Bills overcame a fourth quarter seven point deficit with a pair of touchdowns to pull out a 21-14 victory and their fourth straight AFC East title.
Then, the Bills beat the Pittsburgh Steelers by two touchdowns and hosted the Kansas City Chiefs in the first road game Patrick Mahomes was ever forced to play in the American Football Conference playoffs. Somehow, the Bills managed to lose a game they seemed to dominate most the afternoon and ended with an edge in both total yards and turnover ratio.
As the Bills potential game tying field goal sailed wide right on their last offensive play, allowing Kansas City to escape with the win my handicapping shifted to a much easier win for the Ravens today. Kansas City being an easier opponent in the AFC Championship Game for John Harbaugh’s team than would have been the “peaking at the right time” Bills.
Yet, lining up with the Ravens does confront some daunting numbers and the challenge of battling Patrick Mahomes with the league’s Most Valuable Player, Baltimore Quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Mahomes has a sterling postseason record of 13-3, his only three losses suffered in two AFC Championship Games. First to the Patriots and Tom Brady in 2018 and the Cincinnati Bengals two years ago. In three Super Bowl appearances, his only loss was to Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV.
In other words, Mahomes' three postseason losses were against Brady twice and the Bengals superstar signal caller, Joe Burrow.
Today, he meets Jackson in Baltimore.
The Ravens quarterback has not had the same postseason success enjoyed by Mahomes.
Jackson lost three of his first four postseason encounters and this is the first time he has reached his conference Championship Game. His only win in the playoffs, before last week’s triumph over the Houston Texas, was a Wild Card victory over the Tennessee Titans three years ago.
So, one could expect that the public betting would land solidly on the Chiefs chances today at M & T Bank Stadium.
The Ravens are the most bet team of the day, and the books have adjusted the point spread in response to the heavy action on Baltimore. The line opened at 3½ points, with some spots opening the number at 3 points. Then, the action continued to favor Baltimore as the books moved the line up to four points, with some locations this morning adding another half-point to the Ravens favorite role.
I don’t like siding with public action, although there is no wise guy money on the Chiefs today. Taking a rising spread against Mahomes seems a bad idea. Until, of course, the superior team asserts its prowess in front of their home fans and this game goes for Mahomes a lot like his Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay went, a blowout defeat 31-9.
After all the elements are evaluated, that is the side we land on in this one. Laying the points and taking the better team at home in the AFC Championship Game.
Just like we are doing in the later game, taking the favorite and laying a generous point spread when the San Francisco 49ers entertain the Detroit Lions in the National Football Conference Championship Game.