Narratives dominated the handicapping weekend with various angles connected to the College Football Playoff. Meanwhile, the NFL card features one game with a pretty basic concept: revenge.
The Kansas City Chiefs (-2) visit the Cincinnati Bengals in a rematch of last year's AFC Championship Game, which saw Kansas City blow an 11-point halftime lead at home. Plus, the Chiefs also lost at Cincinnati during the 2021 regular season after leading by the exact same halftime margin.
"I don't feel revenge has that much of an impact in the pros but could be proven wrong," Caesars Sportsbook vice president of trading Craig Mucklow told ESPN. "Maybe there's a little more motivation due to last year's loss, but it's just a normal road game for the Chiefs, in my eyes."
I do believe in narratives, but only to a certain extent. While I do feel athletes are professional and prepare for each game, I also recognize they are human. It would be foolish to assume they prepare with the same intensity and focus for all 17 games.
While I am confident Kansas City will approach this game appropriately, so will Cincinnati. The potential for revenge also doesn't ensure a Chiefs win. In my eyes, all a game like this does is almost guarantee you avoid any lethargic or unfocused personnel.
What is inarguable is that this showdown carries playoff implications. Cincinnati has avoided a Super Bowl hangover and is rewarding backers, covering eight of its past nine games. Patrick Mahomes has won 26 straight games played in November and December.
"Both teams come into this game having won five of their last six," BetMGM vice president of trading Jason Scott told ESPN. "As a result, we are seeing strong two-way action."
Cincinnati gutted out an impressive road win over the Tennessee Titans last week and now are expected to get back star wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase. However, their suspect offensive line presents challenges that should be too much to overcome, when facing Mahomes. I am backing the Chiefs (-2) because I think they will actually protect a second-half lead this time.
The numbers you need to know
In a way, it is baffling. Tua Tagovailoa was a star quarterback at a marquee college, a Heisman Trophy finalist and national champion. He then became a top-five draft pick and is thriving this season with an 8-0 record as a starter. Yet he's constantly dismissed by many fans and bettors.
The Miami Dolphins are 4.5-point underdogs at the San Francisco 49ers. This game could help Tagovailoa silence the doubters, if he can thrive against a San Francisco defense that ranks fifth in efficiency. I believe the Fins are live dogs and I like them with the points.
Over the past five seasons, teams with a winning percentage of at least .700 this late in the year and catching at least 3.5 points are 15-4 ATS, when removing Week 18 games (Week 17, prior to 2021). What that tells us is when the betting market still doubts a team that's this successful at this juncture of the season, the market has been wrong.
I also firmly believe Miami's rookie head coach, Mike McDaniel, who just spent the past five years as an offensive assistant with the Niners, knows how to exploit Jimmy Garoppolo and limit San Francisco's excellent rushing attack. That familiarity matters to me.
There are different levels of sharp bettors. In fact, most sportsbooks categorize them into tiers. And often we see respected money on both sides of a game. Nonetheless, according to my intel, this is what I would classify as sharp money: Giants +2, Titans +5.5, Bears +6, Steelers +1, Jaguars +1 and Browns/Texans under 47.5.