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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, January 13, 2020 at 8:00 AM

WE TAKE THE FIRST LOOK AT NFL CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME SUNDAY AS TITANS-CHIEFS, PACKERS-49ERS WILL BANG HEADS ...

PLUS, OF COURSE, TONIGHT'S COLLEGE FOOTBALL NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME BETWEEN #1 LSU VS. #3 CLEMSON

It's been a rather bumpy road so far for many elite teams in this year's NFL Playoffs:
Six-champion Super Bowl champion New England was kicked to the curb in the wild card round and AFC #1 seed Baltimore was battered last Saturday night - the little, old Tennessee Titans delivered the crushing body blows in both of those post-season tilts;
On the NFC side of the ledger, the 13-win New Orleans Saints never made it out of the first playoff round and perennial playoff side Seattle and 11-win team Minnesota both were dispersed from the scene this past weekend.
Overall, NFL Playoff Betting Favorites are 3-4-1 ATS (against the spread) so far - note we've marked down Green Bay's 28-23 win against the Seahawks as a "push" - it only seems as if the Fav mark has done even worse!
Now, we're down to the NFL's final foursome, so let's take a few moments to capture in words their most recent playoff wins while looking ahead to the Sunday action ... that's the Tennessee Titans (+ 7.5 points) at the Kansas City Chiefs (see totals price of 52 points) in the AFC Championship Game at 3:05 p.m. Eastern time on CBS followed by the NFC Championship Game at 6:40 p.m. ET between the Green Bay Packers (+ 7 points) at the San Francisco 49ers (note totals price here of 45 points):
   
Jim Hurley's Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will continue to pile up the profits this Sunday with the AFC and NFC Championship games from Kansas City and San Francisco - so get the Sides & Totals winners when you call us on game day at the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or go online right here. And remember to cash in big this evening with the College Football National Championship Game between #1 LSU vs. #3 Clemson along with NBA and NCAA basketball plays each and every day of the week!

Now, here's the NFL's Divisional Playoff round winners, starting with the ...
AFC
#1 KANSAS CITY (13-4) - Where does one begin following the Chiefs' hellacious 51-31 win /cover after getting in a 24-0 first-half hole? Well, for starters, KayCee had plenty of help in roaring back from the dead whether it be Texans' head coach Bill O'Brien not going for the first down and settling for the field goal that made it 24-zip early second quarter or that insane fake punt that gave the Chiefs the short field and then a quick TD to make it 24-14.
Still, you cannot overlook the fact that third-year QB Patrick Mahomes (321 yards passing with 5 TDs and 0 INTs) stayed a positive force even after the Chiefs were dropping pass-after-pass ... now that's no way to try and cover a 10-point price tag! Plus, KC's defense had itself a sack party once Mahomes and Company started to pull away and so Andy Reid's gang enters Sunday's title tilt at 6-0-1 spreadwise since mid-November.

#6 TENNESSEE (11-7) - There's no ifs, ands or buts about it: The Titans are by far the single biggest story in this year's playoffs but how about a bigger picture? Tennessee now has covered seven of its last nine games since early November (yes, the spread spree started with a 35-32 win at 5.5-point favorite Kansas City back in Week 10 play - and Mike Vrabel's team has held its last three foes to 14, 13 and 12 points.
In other words, the slam-bang running of RB Derrick Henry (30 carries for 195 yards plus a jump-pass touchdown fling too in the 28-12 triumph at 10-point fav Baltimore) has been magnificent but how about some "hats off" love to this Titans' defense that confounded MVP-to-be QB Lamar Jackson the other night and now figures to throw a slew of new looks at Mr. Mahomes.

NFC
#1 SAN FRANCISCO (14-3) - From a wagering perspective, this here-and-now SF 49ers squad is a rock-solid 11-6 against the numbers and that includes a spiffy 6-2 ATS mark since mid-November but gotta say this NFC West squad was not respected enough in last week's number: The Niners wound up going off a 7-point betting favorite but the key return of defensive players Dee Ford, Kwon Alexander and Jaquiski Tartt made a big difference (it added great depth) and thus the Vikings were a total no-show following that QB Kirk Cousins-to-WR Stefon Diggs 41-yard scoring flip in the first quarter. The Niners held Minny to a grand total of just seven first downs - none during one 27-minute time period - and sucked the life from Mike Zimmer's crew.
Plus, San Francisco showed no rust on offense following the bye week as QB Jimmy Garappolo (just 131 yards passing) directed an efficient 61-yard drive capped by a back-in-the-end-zone TD grab by WR Kendrick Bourne. Hey, tell us right now that the Niners are gonna rush for another 186 yards here and we'll crown Kyle Shanahan's crew the NFC champs immediately!

#2 GREEN BAY (14-3) - We wonder just how many times this week the GB Packers are gonna be thinking about that 37-8 loss to the 49ers in Santa Clara back in Week 12. Obviously, it cost QB Aaron Rodgers and Company the NFC's top seed and the home field here but keep in mind the 2019 edition of the Packers have won as road dogs in Chicago, in Dallas and in Minnesota ... so it just ain't all about the holy grail that is Lambeau Field!
Sure, the Pack was super-glad to have home field for last Sunday's hang-on-for-dear-life 28-23 win against Seattle where Rodgers threw for 243 yards and two TDs while WR Davante Adams (8 catches, 160 yards) proved he's a real Mr. Clutch and so now rookie head coach Matt LaFleur looks to add to his team's road conquests (note GB is 5-3 spreadwise away this year) with a defense that's held five of its last six foes t0 20 points or less.

 

COLLEGE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Tonight, it's ...

#3 CLEMSON (14-0) vs. #1 LSU (14-0) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Ready, aim ... fire!
There's expected to be lots and lots of fireworks inside the Louisiana Superdome here on this second Monday night of the new year - the Las Vegas folks have a totals price of 69.5 points right at this very minute -- but the $64,000 question is who will be shooting off most of 'em?
The LSU Tigers sport the country's numero uno offense and these purple-and-gold Tigers have scored in excess of 40 points in 11 different games this season; the Clemson Tigers rank third in the land in total offense and this ACC champ has scored 40-or-more points on 10 different occasions.
To be blunt, LSU - a 6.5-point betting favorite - can't "waste" possessions because Ed Orgeron's defense likely is gonna give up three or four touchdowns even on a "good day" and so Heisman Trophy-winning slinger Joe Burrow (5,208 yards passing with 55 TDs and 6 INTs) must strike on at least half of his team's drives and WRs Justin Jefferson (four TD receptions in that 63-28 win /cover versus Oklahoma in the playoff semifinals / Peach Bowl) and Ja'Marr Chase (18 TDs) must be great route-runners and shake free from this unsung Clemson secondary. The LSU gang says RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (1,304 rushing yards) is healthier than he was two weeks ago ... we'll see.
On the flip side, Clemson managed to go scoreless till deep into the first half of that 29-23 win against 2.5-point pup Ohio State two-plus weeks ago in that playoff semifinal / Fiesta Bowl) and still roared back as QB Trevor Lawrence - yes, 25-and-oh SU (straight-up) as a starter - made huge plays with his legs (see 67-yard TD gallop) and his arm. Here, Lawrence needs to keep LSU's defense honest but one major key is RB Travis Etienne (a Louisiana native who LSU basically ignored in the recruiting wars) who must generate some ground yardage (10 carries for 36 yards against the Buckeyes, that's it) for Dabo Swinney's squad. True, Etienne hauled in two passes for scores against O-State but Clemson needs some up-the-middle runs to balance out an attack that likely needs 150+ rushing yards to pull the upset here.
Spread Notes - Top-ranked LSU is 9-4-1 ATS (against the spread) this year and that includes a spiffy 6-1-1 spread mark against fellow bowl squads. The Bayou Bengals are 8-4-1 odds-wise as betting favorites this year and they are a composite 16-5 ATS when playing non-SEC opponents since the start of the 2018 campaign. One last thing on this Baton Rouge bunch: LSU's covered five of its last six SEC Championship / Bowl / Playoff games since 2015; On the flip side, Clemson is an electric 11-3 against the numbers this year (a sizzling .786 winning rate) and the Tigers zoom into this title tilt riding a five-game ATS winning streak. Overall, the ACC champs - and defending national champs - are 6-2 spreadwise versus fellow bowl teams this year and they're 14-5 spreadwise as underdog sides since the start of the 2011 season. Go back to late '15 and you'll see Clemson's covered 12 of its last 20 non-conference affairs.

 

LAST 5 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES

YEAR WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
2018Clemson+ 5Alabama44-16
2017Alabama- 3.5Georgia26-23 (ot)
2016Clemson+ 6.5Alabama35-31
2015Alabama- 6.5Clemson45-40
2014Ohio State+ 5.5Oregon42-20

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