NFL Playoff Sharp Betting Report: Mahomes’ Ankle Fuels Fluctuations in Conference Championship Point Spread

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LAS VEGASDuane Colucci observed the initial market movements of this weekend’s Cincinnati-Kansas City AFC title game and marveled, like someone watching a stock market ticker in the old days.

“Like a heartbeat,” the Rampart Casino race and sports manager said. “The initial reaction to [Patrick] Mahomes’s ankle injury was just a lot of sharps jumping around and speculating.

“Just like the stock market, where the prices rise and come back down.”

He compared the ankle tweak to what tight end Rob Gronkowski experienced a few years ago.

“And Gronk wasn’t nearly as effective,” Colucci said. “But you know Mahomes is a gamer, and we’ll see how that goes, keep our eyes on it. But we did open Kansas City -1 at the South Point/Rampart.

“It got up to Cincinnati -2, -2.5 before it went back to the Bengals favored by 1. We switched favorites. Everyone’s speculating about Mahomes. The initial reaction from the sharps was to grab Cincy plus the points.”

Last week, Colucci and Co. did not mind seeing the Bengals go to Buffalo and wipe out the Bills, 27-10, for a couple of reasons.

First and foremost, the South Point and sister bookmaking property Rampart bolstered their bottom line courtesy of Cincinnati’s victory.

“We cleaned up from a bookmaker’s perspective, getting Buffalo out of there,” Colucci said. “That really helped us.”

He benefitted personally, too, because Colucci long ago purchased a position with the Bengals due to his belief in quarterback Joe Burrow.

“I did it early,” he laughed. “I can’t reveal what I actually have, but I definitely have a futures bet on Cincinnati. I did like them coming in.

“Cincinnati just started to explode. I’ve been a huge advocate of Joe Burrow throughout the last seven, eight weeks.”

Burrow suffered a July ruptured appendix, which surgery mended. Then Cincy lost its first two games, as Burrow had four passes picked off in an opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers and was sacked 13 total times against the Steelers and Dallas Cowboys.

Colucci didn’t lose faith in the 6-foot-4, 220-pound, third-year ace out of LSU who last month turned 26.

“This kid is really a gamer. Joe Cool. Winner of a collegiate national title. Went to a Super Bowl already. See his poise last weekend? Fabulous. Cincinnati is definitely riding high right now and with KC banged up at quarterback, you gotta like their chances.

“I didn’t care what [CBS analyst] Tony Romo was saying, I believe that Joe Burrow is better than Josh Allen. He shows that with his winning attitude. Remember that offensive line? Everybody had questions.”

Colucci reiterates how much Buffalo money was flooding the market.

“Until people started to realize, ‘Hey, this isn’t as lopsided as it seems.’ That defense did a great job; they took [receiver Stefon] Diggs right out of the game. It helps when you have this great team that’s so well-coached.”

Colucci did point to these remaining four teams as the cream of the NFL, which is confirmed by the fact that over their past three games, these are the league’s top four squads in points-per-play margin.

San Francisco is first at 0.163, followed by Cincinnati at 0.201, Kansas City’s 0.174, and Philadelphia’s 0.123. At home, the Eagles are fourth and the Chiefs are ninth; on the road, the Niners are second and the Bengals are fifth.

In the NFC title game, pitting San Francisco at Philadelphia, it’s been no-contest with early South Point/Rampart action on the Eagles.

“Everybody jumped on the Eagles,” Colucci said. “We opened Philly -1.5, and now we’re up to 2.5. They really were the most-impressive team last weekend.”

The Eagles wiped out the Giants, 38-7, to cap off a trifecta of triumphs against New York (48-22 and 22-16 were the others) this season.

Any doubts about Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts’s sore throwing shoulder might have been somewhat extinguished in his 16-for-24, 154-yard effort. He threw for two touchdowns and ran nine times for 34 yards and another TD.

“Hurts looked very good against the Giants,” Colucci said. “They shut that Giants team down. Daniel Jones couldn’t do anything, nor Saquon [Barkley]. But San Francisco money will come in late, from [Californians] traveling into the state.

“We’ll definitely get some San Francisco money late, and the ticket count will become a little reined in. But the initial reaction was Philadelphia.”

Cincinnati Bengals (14-4, 13-4-1 ATS) at Kansas City Chiefs (15-3, 5-12-1 ATS)

The Bengals are riding a 10-game winning streak, and they’ve won 11 of their past 12 games. Their outstanding record against the number sharply contrasts what the Chiefs have done this season.

CIN Bengals vs KC Chiefs Odds NFL Odds

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According to Colucci, that should not be discounted.

“Cincinnati is riding high against the spread (ATS). I’ve been riding Cincinnati, so I wouldn’t fault you for looking at the current spread records, and the way Cincinnati is polishing off games.

“The Bengals have been a juggernaut against the spread, where Kansas City has not been that effective; the Chiefs even got backdoored against the Jaguars. How do you not pay attention to it?

Or Joe Burrow’s recent run against Kansas City.

In three games during the 2022 calendar year, Burrow was 3-0 against the Chiefs, with eight touchdown passes, one score with his wheels, an average of 327 aerial yards, and only one interception.

Mahomes has averaged 252 yards passing in that trio of games, with six TD passes, two picks, and one rushing score.

NFL Playoff Sharp Betting Report: Mahomes' Ankle Fuels Fluctuations and Two Flips in Point Spread
Sharp bettors are playing the numbers as the Bengals-Chiefs line moves on news around Patrick Mahomes (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

BetMGM had posted a passing-yards prop on Mahomes at 273.5 on Wednesday morning, which it had nudged up to 277.5 by the late afternoon after video from a Wednesday press conference showed Mahomes walking without a boot.

He didn’t appear to gimp on that supposed tender high right ankle one bit. 

Dr. David Chao, a popular social media conduit and former 17-year NFL head team doc, wrote Wednesday on Twitter that while Mahomes is “100% playing Sunday,” that doesn’t mean he’s “100%” healthy.

Joe Mixon, the 6-1, 220-pound tailback in his sixth season out of Oklahoma, kept Buffalo’s defenders off balance and pressure off Cincinnati’s rag-tag offensive line by running 20 times for 105 yards and a touchdown.

It was his second triple-figure yardage game this season and the fourth time he had carried the ball at least 20 times. He could play just as big of a role come Sunday in Kansas City.

Also, half of Burrow’s eight scoring throws against the Chiefs have gone to Ja’Marr Chase, and two of those covered 69 and 72 yards.

In the Bengals’ past 10 games, Burrow has been sacked more than twice in a game only once, when the Ravens got to him four times in Cincinnati’s 24-17 Wild Card playoff victory.

Mahomes hasn’t been sacked more than twice in any of the Chiefs’ past 10 games.

Colucci highlighted KC backup QB Chad Henne’s one drive in relief of Mahomes in the second quarter. Henne guided the Chiefs 98 yards in a bit more than six minutes, tossing short passes to standout tight end Travis Kelce four times.

The fourth was a one-yard TD pass that pumped the KC advantage over Jacksonville to 17-7.

“Henne looked good, went 98 yards under pressure. He’s one of the more efficient quarterbacks. But you don’t want to make an excuse. You want Mahomes back there for KC’s best effort. Cincinnati will have its hands full with Kelce.”

On Monday morning, the South Point’s Jimmy Vaccaro posted a duplicate ticket from someone who had bet $20,000 at -110 on Cincinnati +1. “1st move,” Vaccaro wrote.

On Tuesday night, he sent out a $55,000 wager at -110 on Chiefs +2. Vaccaro wrote, “It’s only the beginning kid.” Early Wednesday afternoon, there was another $55,000 note on Kansas City +1. Vaccaro scribed, “Ankle sprain?”

By Wednesday evening, the Chiefs were back to 1-point favorites at the South Point/Rampart.

This slim middle window made Colucci a tad nervous.

“The sharps jumped all over that,” he said of the Chiefs -1 opener. “They take that point and run with it, go even farther till we make those adjustments. We knew there’d be buyback, because Mahomes is saying he’ll play.

“You have that possibility of a middle in the side market, where if Kansas City wins by one and you have Cincinnati plus one … a tough, tough game to book. We definitely want to see a blowout, either way, just to protect ourselves.”

Colucci predicted Cincinnati, 27-20.

Read: Patrick Mahomes still favored to win Super Bowl MVP | Eagles new favorites to win Super Bowl | Aaron Rodgers next team odds

San Francisco 49ers (15-4, 13-6 ATS) at Philadelphia Eagles (15-3, 9-9 ATS)

In the same breath that Colucci detailed the roller coaster activity in Cincinnati-Kansas City, he mentioned Dallas-San Francisco.

“A strangely bet game, too. All these moneyline wagers on the Cowboys, yet the ticket count was 2.5-to-1 on the Niners’ side. Another game, it was hard to make book on, looking at it and the futures market.

“We did have some Dallas [futures] action hanging in the breeze, but now that’s all gone. Those guys, they love their Cowboys. So we’ll always have a ripe futures market on that team.”

Looking back is almost more interesting, to Colucci, than analyzing this one. If the Eagles control it early, like they did last weekend against the Giants, it could be another runaway victory for Philadelphia.

Kenneth Gainwell (12 for 112 yards and one TD) and Miles Sanders (17 for 90) set the ground tone for the Eagles, whose defense sacked Giants QB Daniel Jones five times and nabbed one interception.

Jones threw for only 135 yards and dashed for just 24 yards, his lowest rushing output in seven games.

In his first season in Philly, fourth-year receiver AJ Brown was fourth in the NFL with 1,496 yards, and he tallied 11 TDs. Against the Giants, though, he caught only three of six targeted passes for 22 yards.

If New York planned to keep a lid on him and he played decoy, it freed up DeVonta Smith (six catches for 61 yards and one TD) and Dallas Goedert (five receptions for 58 yards and one TD), the 6-5 tight end out of South Dakota State who has played all five of his seasons for the Eagles.

“Dallas did a very good job on Deebo [Samuel] and [Christian] McCaffrey,” Colucci said. “That wasn’t a high-scoring game. The mistakes fell into Brock Purdy’s lap and he didn’t make the mistakes.

“Dallas made the mistakes that turned the game over, basically, especially in the fourth quarter. I don’t think Philly will do that.”

Purdy — the rookie out of Iowa State who has started San Francisco’s past seven games (all victories) — was 19-for-29 for 214 yards against Dallas with no touchdown passes. The Cowboys sacked him twice.

“Plus, I think Philadelphia’s offense is a little more in-synch, a little more intelligently coached, and they won’t make those mistakes. So I like the Eagles by two, maybe three touchdowns.”

Of its past 11 games, San Francisco played only two true away tilts, both victories with a one-possession final margin.

Colucci settled on Philadelphia, 30-10.

Conference Championships: Odds | Betting trends | Best bets

About the Author
Rob Miech

Rob Miech

Writer
Rob Miech is a sports betting writer at Gaming Today who covers soccer and specializes in features content. He has written about college hoops for the Las Vegas Sun, CBS SportsLine and the Pasadena Star-News. Miech is the author of four books, including Sports Betting for Winners.

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