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NFL Picks: Conference Championships DraftKings Sportsbook Pro Football Spreads Pool Predictions

Matt LaMarca breaks down his picks in the DraftKings Sportsbook Pro Football Spreads Pool for the Conference Championship round of the NFL Playoffs.

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The format for the postseason is a little bit different. Since there are only two games this Sunday, you’ll need to pick the winner against the spread and whether or not each game is going to go over or under the specified total. You’ll also need to answer six questions pertaining to the different teams and players.

Each correct pick earns you a point, and the higher you finish on the leaderboard, the more money you earn. Check out the contest at the DraftKings Sportsbook Pools page or by downloading the DraftKings Sportsbook app.

Let’s take a look at this Sunday’s DraftKings Sportsbook Pro Football Conference Championships Predictions Pool, including my five favorite selections.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Green Bay Packers (-3.5)

The Pick: Buccaneers +3.5

This is a really interesting game to start off the weekend. The Packers have been absolutely rolling recently, but I think the Bucs could be the team that slows them down.

For starters, the Bucs have already beaten the Packers once this season. They managed to win that game 38-10, although it was played in Tampa Bay as opposed to Green Bay. The Packers jumped out to an early 10-0 lead, but the Bucs rattled off 38 unanswered points en route to an easy victory. The Packers finished with just 201 yards of total offense in that contest, which was their worst output of the entire season.

The Buccaneers’ defensive line made life a living hell for Aaron Rodgers in that matchup. They pressured him on a whopping 43.1% of his dropbacks, resulting in five sacks and two interceptions. Rodgers threw just five picks and was sacked only 20 times all year, so Tampa Bay did an amazing job of getting to him in their first matchup.

As good as the Bucs’ pass rush looked in that contest, they could have even more success this week. The Packers’ offensive line is currently down two starters, including all-world left tackle David Bakhtiari. He earned a Pro Football Focus grade of 91.8 this season, which makes him one of the best offensive lineman in the business.

Conversely, the Bucs’ defensive line should be healthier than it was in their first matchup. Vita Vea missed that contest, but he is eligible to return from the IR for the NFC Championship game. Vea has been one of the most dominant interior defensive linemen this season — he owns a PFF grade of 90.1 — and he was particularly impactful as a pass rusher. He racked up two sacks and 13 quarterback hurries in just five games. He hasn’t officially been activated from the IR yet, but the early reports are that he looks great in practice. As long as he doesn’t suffer a setback, expect to see him on the field on Sunday.

As good as Rodgers is, his one flaw is his ability to perform while under duress. He completed just 45.3% of his passes while under pressure this season, which ranked 29th out of 41 qualified quarterbacks. His PFF grade also dropped from 97.6 with a clean pocket to just 68.3 while pressured. In other words, Rodgers is basically unstoppable if you give him time to throw, but he is mortal if you can put defenders in his face.

Finally, there is one huge trend that favors the Buccaneers. When two teams square off in the playoffs that have previously met during the regular season, the team who won the first matchup has a clear edge. Those teams have gone 55-39 straight up under the current playoff format (58.5% win rate). Since the Buccaneers are underdogs in this contest, a straight-up win would obviously guarantee that they cover the spread.

Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs (-2.5)

The Pick: Chiefs -2.5

This should be another tremendous matchup, and it features arguably the two best young quarterbacks in the league. Patrick Mahomes has already won an MVP and a Super Bowl ring, while Josh Allen put together a breakout season in 2020.

Taking the Bills here is actually pretty tempting. They’ve graded out as the best team in football according to Football Outsiders’ weighted DVOA, which places a higher premium on games that occur late in the season. The big change with the Bills has been the improved play of their defense. They were subpar on that side of the ball early in the year, but they rebounded to finish eighth in weighted defensive DVOA.

The Chiefs’ defense also stands out as the weakest unit in this matchup. However, they have struggled in particular against the run, and the Bills are not well-equipped to take advantage of that weakness. Their running backs combined for just nine carries last week with Zack Moss out of the lineup, and Josh Allen added seven rushing attempts for three yards. Overall, they finished with just 32 rushing yards in that contest.

If they try to win this game through the air – which they’ve done for most of the season – I don’t think they’ll be able to keep up with Mahomes and the Chiefs. They’re just too talented, especially with Andy Reid calling plays from the sidelines.

Speaking of Mahomes, he’s historically posted a record of 13-6 against the spread when favored by less than a touchdown. This line is much tougher at -3.5 – which is how much the Chiefs are favored by currently on DraftKings Sportsbook – but I have to take the Chiefs -2.5 for this Sportsbook Pool.

Which game will have the most total points?

The Pick: Buccaneers @ Packers

The second game will be the most popular choice for this question, so I’m going to pivot to the NFC contest. The total is just 2.5-points lower on DraftKings Sportsbook, so it would not be a huge upset if this game ends up being slightly higher scoring.

The Packers have been so red-hot offensively of late that it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Tampa Bay completely shuts them down. Even if the Bucs’ pass rush is able to fluster Rodgers for the second time this season, he should still be able to put plenty of points up on the scoreboard.

On the other side, Tom Brady looked mortal last week vs. the Saints, but the Packers represent a much easier matchup. New Orleans was arguably the best defensive team in football this season, while the Packers are middle of the pack in that department. Jaire Alexander is the unquestioned best cornerback in football, but he can only do so much. The Bucs have enough offensive weapons that they should be able to avoid Alexander and move the ball down the field. They should also be able to find some success on the ground, with the Packers ranking just 18th in rush defense DVOA.

I also like the Bucs chances of being the highest-scoring team on the slate.

Which team will score the fewest points?

The Pick: Buffalo Bills

This is a tough question, and you can make a strong case for a number of teams here. The only team I would give no consideration to is the Chiefs.

This really comes down to the Bills and the Packers for me, but I’m ultimately going to side with the Bills. Part of this is because I want to correlate my answers – the Bucs-Packers game probably won’t be the highest-scoring if the Packers are the lowest-scoring team – but I also don’t like this matchup for the Bills’ offense.

Who will have the most receiving yards?

The Pick: Field

You can make the case for a lot of different players here. Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Stefon Diggs all have the potential to post huge yardage totals, but I’m ultimately going to side with the field. Not only does the field give me access to all the random players – you never know if someone’s going to catch a long touchdown – but it also gives me access to Chris Godwin.

I love Godwin’s prospects vs. the Packers. They only have one good cornerback and Alexander almost never ventures into the slot. He played just 4% of his total snaps in the slot this season, which is where Godwin does the majority of his damage. If Alexander spends most of his time on Evans, Godwin could also see more volume than usual. This is a potential smash spot.

Remaining Questions

Here’s what I’m targeting for the rest of the slate. Remember, we’re looking to beat the competition and climb up the leaderboard, so I’ll be looking to gain leverage on the field and fade the public in situations where I don’t see a huge edge on the spread.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Green Bay Packers: O/U 50.5

Pick: Over 50.5

Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs: O/U 53.5

Pick: Under 53.5

Which team will score the most total points?

Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Who will have more passing yards?

Pick: Tom Brady

Who will have the most rushing yards?

Pick: Field

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