We're down to four teams in contention to win Super Bowl LIV, and the field includes three that aren't a surprise to still be alive plus one party-crasher in the Titans. But take a look into certain metrics, and the team that looks like it doesn't belong isn't sixth-seeded Tennessee.
The Packers rolled to a 13-3 record and the No. 2 seed in the NFC, then never relinquished their lead in the divisional-round matchup with the Seahawks. They've certainly earned the right to play for a spot in the Super Bowl on Sunday, but the stats aren't nearly as impressed with Green Bay's season as the surface results suggest.
The Packers finished the regular season with a yards per play differential of minus-0.3, largely because only 10 teams in the league gave up more yards per play on the defensive side of the ball. That subpar number stands in stark contrast with the other three remaining teams, with the 49ers owning a strong plus-1.3 YPP differential, while the Chiefs (plus-0.8) and Titans (plus-0.7) are well on the positive side of zero as well.
The weighted DVOA metric from Football Outsiders isn't impressed with Green Bay either, as the Packers' number of 3.3 (No. 15) ranks well below that of the Chiefs, Titans and 49ers, who rank third, fourth and fifth respectively with weighted DVOAs between 30 and 40. That doesn't mean the Packers are doomed to fall on Sunday, though, but it does explain why the two conference title games have similar lines, despite the NFC side featuring a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup while the AFC includes the last team to get into the playoffs.
One area where the Packers can make up ground on their competitors is in the red zone, where they rank in the top eight at scoring TDs and preventing TDs. The Titans had the best red-zone offense in football during the regular season but the second-worst defense. The Chiefs ranked ninth defensively but just 20th offensively (though they looked in fine form in the red zone last week).
Then we have the 49ers, who didn't finish in the top 20 in the red zone on either side of the ball. If the Packers pull off the upset, we'll likely be pointing to red zone efficiency as to how they were able to do it, despite what other advanced metrics said about the matchup.
One interesting trend to note before we get into the games: Though there hasn't been a clear ATS advantage for the home team (better seed) in the conference title games over the last decade, we should note that over the last 20 years, there have been 13 conference title matchups with a spread of seven points or greater. The underdog went 10-3 ATS in that stretch, most recently with the Jaguars covering in Foxborough two years ago. That makes it pretty difficult to lay the points in both matchups this week; I'd say at best you should think about taking either one or both 'dogs.
Each week, I break down what you need to know about each game from a betting angle before you lock in your picks. I'll typically talk about big line moves, teasers and parlays to consider and more, but with our slate down to two games for the playoffs, we'll do more of a deep dive on each game.
If you want to know which sides I like, you can find that info at the SportsLine link below, where all my rated plays appear during the season along with my five SuperContest picks each week and plenty of great analysis from a fantastic collection of experts. You can also check out where all our CBS Sports staff lands on each game each week right here.
Over at SportsLine, I'll be posting my picks throughout the week. Join now and use promo code WHITE for $1 on your first month and you can get mine and every SportsLine expert's picks throughout the year, as well as my SuperContest picks each Saturday during the regular season. After a 4-1 finish in Week 17, I managed to scrape together a 53.7% hit rate. That wasn't nearly good enough to finish in the money, but it does give me a 57.2% hit rate over the last five years in the contest (a 425-pick sample size).
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Titans at Chiefs (-7.5)
Home-field advantage: 3.5 points
Power rating line: Chiefs -8
Opening line: Chiefs -7
|Record vs. spread||10-7-1||11-5-1|
|Record vs. playoff teams||4-3||4-3|
|Strength of schedule rank||29||13|
|Yards per play differential||+0.7||+0.8|
|Points per drive offense rank||15||2|
|Points per drive defense rank||9||15|
|Pass offense DVOA rank||6||2|
|Pass defense DVOA rank||21||6|
|Run offense DVOA rank||5||14|
|Run defense DVOA rank||10||29|
Why to take Titans
- Yards per play and weighted DVOA say these teams are closer than line suggests
- Titans run offense can exploit Chiefs' defensive weakness (No. 29 in DVOA)
- Titans won regular-season meeting in Chiefs' worst rush defense game of year
Why to take Chiefs
- Chiefs 6-0-1 ATS in last seven, have dominated since Week 12 bye
- Chiefs pass offense can exploit Titans' defensive weakness (No. 21 in DVOA)
- Chiefs' poor rush defense tightened up after Titans loss, allowing 94.9 rush yards/game since
Packers at 49ers (-7.5)
Home-field advantage: 3 points
Power rating line: 49ers -7.5
Opening line: 49ers -7
|Record vs. spread||11-6||10-6-1|
|Record vs. playoff teams||4-2||4-2|
|Strength of schedule rank||17||12|
|Yards per play differential||-0.3||+1.3|
|Points per drive offense rank||9||4|
|Points per drive defense rank||11||5|
|Pass offense DVOA rank||11||8|
|Pass defense DVOA rank||10||2|
|Run offense DVOA rank||4||13|
|Run defense DVOA rank||23||11|
Why to take Packers
- Well-rounded offense tougher to shut down, 49ers have struggled vs. run at times
- Huge mismatch in red zone: Packers have two top-eight units and 49ers have two in bottom 12
- Packers have huge advantage at quarterback as Jimmy Garoppolo is largely untested
Why to take 49ers
- Massive edge in yards per play differential and weighted DVOA hints at blowout potential
- Second-most rush attempts in regular season plays into Packers defensive weakness
- Dominated regular-season matchup, which could hint at scheme advantage