NFC Championship Preview: Early Action Goes Against Packers

Written By Joe Boozell on January 22, 2021 - Last Updated on March 3, 2021

The Green Bay Packers are one win away from the Super Bowl, but they’ll have to go through Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to get there.

The Packers looked outstanding in their playoff opener, beating the Rams by a score of 32-18.

Tampa Bay, meanwhile, notched an impressive 30-20 road win over the Saints.

These two teams met earlier this season when the Buccaneers handed the Packers a 38-10 beatdown. It was easily Green Bay’s worst performance of the season.

Will the NFC Championship game be different? Oddsmakers certainly think so.

Buccaneers @ Packers odds, Bills @ Chiefs odds

Here are the top lines and live odds at Illinois online sportsbooks:

 

The Packers opened as 4-point favorites, a number that has since been bet down. That’s an indication that some sharp bettors hit the Buccaneers at +4.

Obviously, whether or not the line gets to the key number of three is significant.

With that said, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have been on an absolute tear as of late.

Green Bay has won seven straight games, scoring at least 30 points in six of those outings.

And Rodgers is arguably playing the best football of his career. He finished the season with 48 touchdown passes to five interceptions and was brilliant in the Packers’ win over the Rams.

Los Angeles, by the way, had the best defense in the NFL going into that game. Green Bay shredded the Rams to the tune of 32 points and 484 yards of offense.

The Buccaneers have a good defense (seventh in yards allowed) and just made life miserable for Drew Brees and the Saints last week. They also have the best-run defense in the NFL but are pedestrian against the pass (22nd in the NFL).

And with due respect to Brees, Rodgers is significantly better at this stage of their careers. The Packers have easily covered their last three spreads.

When Tom Brady has the ball …

The Buccaneers, to their credit, have been quite good offensively as of late. At 43 years old, Brady just threw for 36 touchdowns and four interceptions this season, and he’s been solid in the playoffs.

Tampa Bay has won six straight games, including two playoff wins. The Packers led the NFL in points per game this year — the Buccaneers were second.

Green Bay’s offense gets all of the attention, but the defense is stout, too. The Packers rank seventh against the pass and 11th against the run.

In other words, there’s not an obviously exploitable weakness. And while it’s great that Tampa Bay has the best run defense in the league, Rodgers doesn’t necessarily need a great running game in order to beat you.

The Packers have a higher ceiling, but the Buccaneers have been very good as of late, and are loaded on both sides of the ball.

It’s worth keeping an eye on which way the line moves leading up to kickoff, if at all.

Chiefs short favorites over Bills

It looks like Patrick Mahomes is on track to play versus the Bills, which is why the Chiefs are short favorites.

An interesting stat:The Chiefs have not covered a spread in over two months. For as great as they are, they’ve mostly let teams stay close lately despite continuing to win straight up.

With that said, they looked very good against the Browns on Sunday before Mahomes got hurt. Josh Allen and the Bills went 13-3 this season and should present a tough test.

However, the Bills’ early offensive struggles against the Ravens may be cause for concern. There won’t be much room for error against Mahomes and company.

Illinois sports betting promos include no juice NFL lines at PointsBet

For the third straight week, PointsBet is offering “no juice” on the NFL games. That means the spreads are +100 on both sides.

So, if you bet $20 on Packers -3.5 and win, you’ll profit exactly $20.

DraftKings, meanwhile, is offering a 25% parlay profit boost for the conference championship games.

And over at FanDuel, there’s an interesting prop boost: Rodgers and Brady combining for over 600 yards passing was originally listed at +115. FanDuel has boosted the odds to +150.

Photo by Jason Behnken / AP
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Joe Boozell

Joe Boozell has also been a college sports writer for NCAA.com since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, FoxSports.com and NBA.com. Growing up, Boozell squared off against both Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky in the Chicagoland basketball scene ... you can imagine how that went.

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