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LINE: Baltimore by 3.5

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WHY THE CHIEFS?:  Patrick Mahomes, of course. Most teams like their own quarterback, but let’s be serious here, if every GM was to take a truth serum and asked which one they’d want to lead their team into a do-or-die battle, they’d all take the two-time MVP. In post-season games, Mahomes is 13-3, with a 66.78 completion percentage, 38 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. Also, in four career games versus the Ravens he’s 3-1 with a 71.78 completion percentage, 12 TD passes and two pick … Mahomes orchestrated eight plays of 20 or more yards last week against the Bills … He’ll move the ball through the air, even against Baltimore’s sixth ranked pass defence … Galloping Isiah Pacheco has kicked it into another gear in his last three outings, averaging 105.33 yards per game and 5.54 yards per carry. Ravens run defence ranks near the middle-of-the-road at 14 … Chiefs have won four of their last five against the Ravens, with their only loss coming in the most recent meeting, a 36-35 final Sept. 19, 2021 in Baltimore. Mahomes threw for 343 yards, three TDs and a pick while carrying the ball once for three yards … Chiefs have allowed an average of 15 points while winning their last four games … Chiefs are 11-7-0 ATS, 5-3-1 ATS as a visitor and 2-0-0 as a road dog … Away teams have gone 135-134-13 against the spread this season, covering 50.2 percent of the games … Calling the shots on the sidelines will be the two best coaches in the league (Bill Belichick isn’t currently in the league, is he) but the edge in the matchup has to go to Andy Reid, who has three Super Bowl rings and 258 career victories to John Harbaugh’s one ring and 160 wins.

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WHY THE RAVENS?: Lamar Jackson is about to win his second MVP but it will lose its significance if he again fails to take his team to the big game. Last week’s convincing win over Houston improved his post-season record to 2-3, with a 58.23 completion percentage, five TD passes and five picks … In his last game against the Chiefs Jackson threw for 239 yards, one TD and two interceptions while leading the way with 16 carries for 107 yards and two visits to the end zone. Jackson should be able to churn up some turf against a Chiefs defence that allowed Josh Allen 72 rushing yards last week . ..  Baltimore has scored at least 30 in each of their last three games, all against strong teams but none with a defence as good as tteh Chiefs … Ravens have the second best cover percentage (66.7) in the NFL with a record of 12-6-0 ATS. They are 6-4-0 ATS at home and 6-3-0 ATS as a home favourite … Ravens have allowed just three TDs to tight ends this season and will be focused on Travis Kelce … Home teams have won 56.4 percent of games straight up with a 159-123-0 record.

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CHEWABLES:  The game-time forecast for Baltimore as of Thursday is calling for 90% chance of rain with a temperature of 9C, which suggests Jackson and Pacheco will be central figures in the game story … The expected return of Mark Andrews from an ankle injury will give the Ravens a tremendous boost. Andrews hasn’t had much success against the Chiefs in the past, however, catching just 11 passes for 94 yards and no scores over four games … In five games against Baltimore, Travis Kelce has 33 catches for 435 yards and two touchdowns …. The total has fallen on the ‘under’ in 151 of 278 games (54.3 percent) this season … Chiefs suffered a devastating blow when they lost OG Joe Thuney to a pectoral injury against the Bills. He’s unlikely to play Sunday … If the Chiefs can limit the damage Lamar does with his legs, they’ll be going to the Super Bowl. That won’t be easy. Only nine teams were burned by running QBs more than the Chiefs, who allowed 342 yards and four TDs to signal callers … Jackson is 12-19 ATS as a home favourite of 3+ points …. The defending champs will put up a helluva fight, but Justin Tucker seals it on a game ending field goal.

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SCORE (O/U 44.5): Ravens 24, Chiefs 23


LINE: San Francisco by 7

WHY THE LIONS?: Aaron Jones averaged six yards a carry in racking up 108 against the Niners last week. Jahymr Gibbs is capable of similar things as he and backfield mate David Montgomery keep the chains moving … Lions have the best cover percentage (68.4) in the NFL with a 13-6-0 ATS mark. They are 7-2-0 ATS as a visitor and 2-1-0 as a road dog … Niners are 9-9-0 ATS and 3-6-0 ATS at home, where they’ve been a favourite all season … Lions have a strong run defence that ranked second, allowing an average of 88.8 yards per game. Christian McCaffrey will have his work cut out for him … Right up there with McCaffrey among the Niners most dangerous weapons is Deebo Samuel, who had yet to practise as of Thursday because of a shoulder injury that forced his early exit from the divisional round. Don’t be surprised if the spread shrinks should it be determined that Deebo can’t play … Jared Goff has had his struggles in inclement weather, but game time conditions in Santa Clara are currently set at 20/20 – 20C and only a 20% chance of precipitation. Goff threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns indoors against the pass-rushing Bucs last weekend … Niners pass defence ranks 14th and has had trouble with slots, which makes the electric Amon-Ra St. Brown a central figure in this one. St. Brown surpassed the 100-yard mark in four of his last six games, and is coming off his least productive effort of that stretch with ONLY eight catches for 77 yards and a TD against Tampa.

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WHY THE NINERS?: Even without Deebo, the Niners have an embarrassment of riches on offence that include McCaffrey, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk.  Each is more than capable of breaking the hearts of Lions fans with the blink of an eye … Brock Purdy was brutal in the rain against the Panthers, completing just 23 of 39 passes. The good news for Niners backers is that he can have as bad a day this week (but he won’t) and still win, as Detroit’s pass defence has been the worst in the playoffs (averaging 338 yards against per game) after ranking 27th in the regular season, giving up 247.4 yards per game  …  Niners have won 18 of the last 21 meetings, including 13 straight in San Francisco …

CHEWABLES: Pro Football Focus ranks the Niners as the seventh worst pass protection team, which could spell trouble against the Lions, who do a good job pressuring quarterbacks and have Aidan Hutchinson, who leads the playoffs with three sacks after recording 11.5 during the season …. Nick Bosa has gone four games without a sack and that could become five against a Lions offence line that ranks among the best. The other bookend on the Niners D-line, Chase Young, has gone seven games without a full sack … Kyle Shanahan is brilliant but conservative, while Dan Campbell is raw emotion and aggressive. Which would you pick? … Since 2010 teams that have played on the Saturday of the divisional round have benefitted from the one extra day rest, going 19-9 in the conference championship. Just one more reason to lean towards the Ravens and Niners meeting in the Super Bowl.  But like Baltimore, San Francisco won’t have an easy time getting there. And with a converted touchdown as the spread, not only do I love the Lions to cover but also believe we’re about to witness an upset.


SCORE (O/U 51): Lions 30, Niners 27

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