The top two seeds in the NFC will match up in the conference championship on Sunday after the Eagles demolished the Giants in the divisional round, and the 49ers rallied late to beat the Cowboys.
Philadelphia will host the conference title game for the first time since their Super Bowl run in 2017-2018, while San Francisco is playing in their third conference championship in the last four seasons.
Heading into the game, the Eagles are 2.5 point favorites, while the game has a total set at 46.5 points. Can we find a gambling edge for the early game on Sunday? I hope so!
The Eagles are Barely a Field Goal Favorite at Home? Should We Read into That?
This is an interesting spread because in conventional NFL gambling, a true home field advantage is accounted for by giving 3 points to the home team. So what this line is telling us is that on a neutral site the sportsbooks believe that San Francisco, even with rookie quarterback Brock Purdy, are just barely better than the top seeded Eagles.
I mentioned in last week's game preview that Philadelphia has had a fortunate list of backup quarterbacks and bottom tier offenses they have played against for most of this NFL season. That being said, it's hard to disregard the quality of the Eagles D. Their defensive line has been truly historic, with four players to have 10 or more sacks this season. Last week they sacked Daniel Jones 5 times and held the Giants to just 227 total yards.
So if the book believes that a defense playing at that high a level is not a true neutral field favorite, there can only be two possible reasons; either Vegas believes the host of talented San Francisco playmakers can find success against that Eagles defense, or that the San Francisco defense is of equal or better quality.
It's true that the 49ers offense is loaded with talent, but they struggled quite a bit against Dallas in the divisional round. While Purdy is yet to lose a game, his pedestrian performance with barely more than 200 yards passing did display some of the limitations this offense can face when they are not running the ball well. With Fletcher Cox, Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh all serving as strong run stuffers on the Philadelphia defensive line, it's possible rushing yards will be hard to come by again for the 49ers and the game could very well be in Purdy's hands. If you ask me the -2.5 spread is more likely a nod to the quality of the 49ers defense.
San Francisco led the NFL with the fewest points allowed this season, and for much of the year their defense was arguably the most dominant unit on any side of the ball on any team in the league. While they are playing a more complete and dynamic offense in the Eagles than they did last week against the Cowboys, holding the Dallas offense to just 76 yards rushing set the tone for the 49ers. It's something that defense will need to replicate once again this week if they hope to return to the Super Bowl.
With 68 percent of the total bets and a whopping 90 percent of the money wagered coming in on the Eagles to cover the spread at home, both the sharps and the public believe that Philadelphia's offense will find some success against San Francisco. It's also possible that sharp bettors are factoring in that the 49ers are traveling 3 time zones for an afternoon game, something historically detrimental to teams flying west to east.
Either way the sentiment seems to be that the Eagles side is a smart bet in this game.
The Point Total's at 46.5 Points. Is There an Edge to Exploit There?
The answer is yes. While both of these offenses have plenty of dynamic playmakers, this total is just simply too high in my opinion. Both teams use run heavy attacks and long drives that often keep the total number of possessions in the game down. But more importantly, it is incredibly rare that you get to bet on two potent defenses that have made life miserable for offensive lines all season, to once again show up and do that same thing.
Combined these teams give up just under 36 points per game. That means by betting on the under you are getting a touchdown and a field goal more than the average total allowed AND YOU STILL WIN.
While sharp bettors don't like the under nearly as much as they like Philadelphia to cover the spread, they are still betting it heavily, with a 12 percent gap between the amount of money (65 percent overall) and the total bets on the under.
The likelihood that both offenses perform well enough to surpass that total, and that both defenses play poorly enough to allow it to happen, just seems like something I can easily bet against.
So Where Should We Place Our Bets?
The postseason NFL lines have been tough to crack, so I have found some of my favorite spots have been implementing teasers. In this particular game, I've added one of those to my arsenal with my largest bet a 7-point teaser that the Eagles cover +4.5 and the total is under 53.5 points. I also went with the sharps and laid the number, taking the Eagles -2 with a healthy wager, and put my money on the defenses with a game total of under 46.5.
I think Philadelphia heads to the Super Bowl after a 24-16 win over San Francisco, and my wallet heads into February a little heavier.
MORE: NFL Playoffs: Five Key Matchups to Watch in the AFC and NFC Conference Title Games
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