The NFL Championship brings the 2022/23 season to a close in Arizona on Sunday night, and Phil Agius is here to bring us his favourite bets for the big game between the Chiefs and the Eagles.
Kansas City Chiefs +1.5 - 10/11
Kansas City Chiefs winning margin 1-6 points - 16/5
Over 50.5 points - 10/11
The stage is set for a fascinating NFL Championship clash between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
|What||Kansas City Chiefs v Philadelphia Eagles, NFL Championship 2023|
|Where||State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Arizona|
|When||23:30, Sunday 12th February 2023|
|How to watch||bet365 Live Streaming, ITV1 and Sky Sports NFL|
|Odds||KC Chiefs 21/20, PHI Eagles 4/5|
For the first time since the Eagles beat the Patriots five years ago, the No. 1 seed from each conference has reached the NFL Championship.
The Chiefs have fought off much stronger opposition to get there from an AFC that is stacked with talented teams and brimming with the game's elite quarterbacks, but the same cannot be said for the Eagles in the NFC, which has barely a handful of teams who could contend for the playoffs in the other half of the league.
As such, there has to be some doubt about whether the Eagles deserve to be favourites for this game and the value play in a tight contest is to take the Chiefs getting a small handicap start.
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The 1.5 handicap points might even prove critical in what looks set to be a fierce battle at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, so that bet is preferred to a straight wager on the Chiefs to win.
The Chiefs went 14-3 this season, winning 10 of their last 11 regular-season games, and have battled through adversity in the playoffs to add two more victories and reach their third NFL Championship in the last four seasons.
The worst possible blow the Chiefs could ever suffer is an injury to star quarterback Patrick Mahomes, but that's what happened in the 27-20 divisional-round win over the Jaguars at Arrowhead Stadium, as he was forced off with an ankle injury that was still bothering him in the AFC Championship win over the Bengals. The good news for the Chiefs is that Mahomes has had two weeks to rest and recuperate and he has been able to practise this week.
Mahomes' talent is highlighted by the fact that this will be the first time his team have ever been underdogs for a playoff game - he has gone 10-3 in post-season games (and 1-1 in NFL Championships) with the Chiefs having been favoured for every game. Mahomes has been an underdog for only nine games in his career, but he responds well to any such disrespect, winning six of those games outright and having a 7-1-1 record in them against the handicap.
The Chiefs' three losses in their 19 games this season have been by three, three and four points, so getting even a small start in addition to the points they can score themselves could be valuable.
The Eagles also went 14-3 this season and to their credit they looked dominant at times in racing to an 8-0 start to the season and reaching 13-1 before picking up a couple of late losses.
It's hard to say what the Eagles have achieved in the playoffs, however, as they beat a Giants team who had finished third in their own division and had little to offer in a 38-7 loss, while Philly's wide-margin NFC Championship win has to be devalued as the 49ers were unable to field a functional quarterback for most of the game due to injuries.
Nick Sirianni's Eagles are clearly the biggest fish in the NFC pond, but it's a pretty shallow pool of talent. That doesn't mean the Eagles can't win, and they can only beat the teams in front of them. It could be that the Eagles are just too strong in the trenches, dominate through their offensive and defensive lines and pull away for another clear-cut success, but this is otherwise going to be the toughest test of their season and I'm not keen to be giving up even a small start with the NFC representatives.
The factors that make this a tricky game to call a winner in are more helpful when it comes to a winning margin bet. It should be tight and if the Chiefs do come through then it's not likely to be a runaway victory.
I like the chances of the Chiefs winning by one to six points at 16/5. Last year's NFL Championship saw a close finish between the Rams and Bengals, with LA winning by three points, although the previous time the big game had been settled by six or fewer points was when the Patriots beat the Falcons in overtime in 2017.
The Chiefs' offence is not just about the connection between Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce, even though Kelce had 1,338 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in the regular season and has added a further 176 yards and three touchdowns in two playoff games.
Mahomes has learned to spread the ball around to a variety of his wide receivers due to necessity after a number of injuries over the season, but that experience should stand them in good stead now. It would also be foolish to ignore the impact of rookie running back Isiah Pacheco, who has a really impressive burst and provides a great complement to the shifty receiving skills of veteran RB Jerick McKinnon.
Experience could also count against Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has far exceeded expectations this season and is blessed with a top-level receiving corps to work with in AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith. He has never played in a game of this magnitude and is not long removed from an injury of his own. Philadelphia should also have some success in the running game and that's why it's hard to see either team breaking free and punters might be wise to concentrate on the smaller winning margins.
The last four NFL Championships have gone under the total points line, and a fifth straight low-scoring game would be the longest streak for either side since a run of seven unders that ended in 1975.
With the offensive talent on the field in Arizona on Sunday, there's a good chance that we will see the first over for a while. The Chiefs are a threat to score every time they take to the field, and while their defence is much improved from the liability it could often be a few years ago, they can still be vulnerable, with four of their last six regular-season opponents scoring 24 points or more, even though the Chiefs won five of those games.
Both of the Eagles' playoff games so far have gone under, but largely due to the offensive failures of their opponents as they scored 69 points themselves in those two games. It's hard to imagine the Chiefs joining the Giants and 49ers in scoring just seven points against them and Eagles games in the regular season saw 10 overs and only seven unders, with four game totals of 70 or more points.
Any odds displayed are correct at the time of writing and are subject to fluctuation.