Home-field advantage looked like it was dead a few weeks into this NFL season, the continuation of an ongoing trend.
It rebounded by the end of the season. Home teams won 55.5% of their games during the regular season. Then home teams got really hot in the playoffs. Home teams are 8-2 straight up. The only losses were by the Dallas Cowboys in the wild-card round and the Buffalo Bills last weekend.
Ravens (-3.5) over Chiefs
If you're picking the Chiefs, you're assuming they were coasting during the regular season and were able to flip a switch for the playoffs. That's rare, but possible with the defending champs.
But it's very, very hard to argue the Chiefs were a better team than the Ravens at any point this season. Even in the divisional round, the Ravens looked like the best team of the eight that played. They certainly were better than the Chiefs in the regular season. The only time the Ravens trailed at the two-minute warning of the fourth quarter all season was when Tyler Huntley started a Week 18 game that didn't matter to Baltimore. That's unbelievable. The Ravens weren't good this season, they were great. It just took a while for them to get that level of respect because we were all talking about the 49ers being unbeatable for months.
From Week 1 to right now, the Ravens have been the better team than the Chiefs. Does it matter?
Kansas City has gained a lot of momentum the last two weeks, beating the Miami Dolphins and winning at Buffalo. They looked like the Chiefs we're used to seeing last week, with Travis Kelce catching a couple of touchdowns and Patrick Mahomes doing exactly what he needed to do to win. It's hard to pick against Mahomes in a big game (yes, I've gone against him in each of the last two rounds and that has not turned out well). No offense to Lamar Jackson, the soon-to-be MVP and a great player himself, but if you're picking a QB right now, you're picking Mahomes. Even Jackson knows how great Mahomes is, calling him a "no-brainer" Hall of Famer this week.
All that said and with plenty of respect to the Chiefs, I can't go against this fantastic Ravens team at home. There's no obvious weakness. Mahomes has been very good against the Ravens in his career, averaging just under 370 passing yards in the four meetings, but this Ravens defense seems up to the challenge. And Jackson is one of the rare quarterbacks who is in the same tier as Mahomes. Let's go with the Ravens advancing to the Super Bowl, even if it's scary to fade Mahomes again.
Lions (+7) over 49ers
When the 49ers kicked off Christmas Day against the Ravens, they seemed unbeatable. That has changed plenty.
The 49ers’ aura of invincibility has been chipped away. The Ravens blew them out. Then last week, the Green Bay Packers outplayed San Francisco. They just lost at the end. The 49ers should be happy the Packers never addressed a shaky kicking situation.
The 49ers are still capable of winning a Super Bowl. There’s a reason they’re favorites at BetMGM to win it all. But they seem a lot more vulnerable than a month ago.
The Lions had to watch the tape of the Packers outplaying the 49ers for much of the game and believe they can do the same. The Lions got some playoff experience the last couple weeks. They seem like a confident team. Detroit can win Sunday, especially if it can get its run game going behind a very good offensive line and that sets up some explosive plays. The Lions don’t seem like a team that should be getting seven points, especially against a 49ers team that doesn’t look as great as it did earlier in the season.
If there’s one concern about the Lions keeping it close, it’s their secondary. They’ve given up a lot of passing yards the past few weeks, and they allowed Puka Nacua and Mike Evans to go wild the past two games. Though, it’s easier for the Lions if Deebo Samuel is out or not as effective as usual due to a shoulder injury. If Samuel doesn't play, the point spread is probably going to move in Detroit's favor and rightfully so.
The Lions can keep it close. They could have a shot to win at the end. And if the Lions have a chance to pull off the win in the final couple minutes, can everyone check on the good people of Michigan?
Last week: 2-2
Season to date: 143-135-8