Sun. Feb 25th, 2024

The NFL “Final Four” is set, and this weekend’s games will decide who faces off in Super Bowl LVIII, which will kick off Feb. 11 on CBS, Nickelodeon and Paramount+. The AFC Championship is undoubtedly the game of the week, as Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens host Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Baltimore is coming off of a dominant victory over the Houston Texans, while the Chiefs upset the Bills in Buffalo in what was Mahomes’ first-ever postseason road start, not counting Super Bowls.

Jackson has won each of his past four starts by 14+ points. Mahomes has lost just four starts by 14+ points in his entire career. Which star quarterback will shine brighter this weekend? As we do every week, we’ve collected all of the best picks and gambling content from CBSSports.com and SportsLine and put them in one place, so you can get picks against the spread from our CBS Sports experts as well as additional feature content for each game, including plays from top SportsLine experts and the SportsLine Projection Model, best bets from our staff and more. Let’s jump in.

All NFL odds via SportsLine consensus odds.

Which picks can you make with confidence this week? Visit SportsLine, as its incredible model simulates every NFL game 10,000 times and is up well over $7,000 for $100 players on top-rated NFL picks since its inception.

Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens

Time: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (CBS), stream on Paramount+ (click here) 
Open: Ravens -3.5, O/U 45

Pete Prisco’s pick

“This is Lamar Jackson vs. Patrick Mahomes, the likely MVP this season for a second time against a guy who has won two already. The difference is Mahomes has Super Bowl rings, while Jackson is just trying to get there.

“The Chiefs won a tough road game at Buffalo on Sunday, but the defense had some issues with the Buffalo run game. If that’s a problem against Jackson and the Ravens, it will be a long day. Jackson will run it, but he will hit shots off it.

“I think that Chiefs defense will play better this week, which will force Jackson to win it with his legs but mostly his right arm. He is more than capable.

“As for Mahomes, he will be facing a defense that throws a lot of looks at a quarterback. But he’s seen them all — and had success against them all. I think he will be patient here as the Chiefs run it and he takes his shots off the run. The Chiefs did a nice job in protection last week, and that will carry over, thanks to the run game. 

“Look for both quarterbacks to play well, but I think the postseason experience for Mahomes will shine through. Look for the Chiefs to advance to another Super Bowl as Mahomes has some late-game magic to win it.”

To read Prisco’s breakdown of the NFC Championship game, click here.

R.J. White’s pick

“I just think the Ravens are in a much higher class than the Chiefs and frankly, anybody else in the AFC and even the 49ers on the other side. I think that they are the best team in the league right now, which they proved against the 49ers a few weeks back. Their offense did a great job adjusting to that extreme Houston blitz last week. Houston came in with a great game plan to slow down the Ravens offense, and it worked for a little bit, and then they completely destroyed them once that game got going. So really showed me even if you bring in a good game plan, they can overcome it, they can make some adjustments, and I think they will be able to do that against Spagnuolo here. They’re top three in yards per rush and yards per pass in the regular season, they can attack the Chiefs’ weakness vs. the run here. And the Chiefs are 28th in interception rate, they could not pick off Josh Allen last week. Baltimore’s offense top three in interception rate, so likely to protect the ball. Not going to be any dumb plays that swing the game unless you just get unlucky on a fumble. So I just think even with Mahomes, it’s going to be tough for Kansas City if they’re playing from behind against this very good defense…”

That’s R.J. White’s take from the Pick Six Podcast, where he, Katie Mox, Will Brinson and PropStarz broke down the two championship games and gave out best bets, as they do every week. Subscribe below for great NFL content.

Chiefs WR Rashee Rice Under 6.5 Total Receptions (-132)

“If you’ve been following me throughout the season, you’ll know I have proudly been arguably the biggest Rashee Rice truther since the Chiefs made him the 55th overall pick out of SMU. Rice has had a fantastic rookie season by any metric, and it’s all the more impressive considering Rice was not a full-time player in K.C.’s offense until after Week 10. While I remain bullish on Rice, getting seven receptions against this Baltimore pass defense is no easy task. Baltimore allowed only six receivers all season to catch seven or more passes in a game, and you have to go all the way back to Week 14 for the last one. I also expect the Chiefs to lean on their ground game, which could limit drop-backs.”

That’s one of PropStarz’ best player props this week. To check out the other player props he’s on, head over to SportsLine. 

Tyler Sullivan’s pick

“The Chiefs offense has started to click over the last few weeks, which is an encouraging sign for the franchise overall, but I don’t believe it’s going to help propel them to another Super Bowl appearance. Why? Because they haven’t faced a defense like the Ravens to this point. Sure, they averaged 7.7 yards per play against the Bills in the divisional round, but that defensive unit has been decimated by injuries. Baltimore is a different caliber. The Ravens rank first in the league in points per game allowed (16.5), sacks (60) and takeaways (31). The Chiefs also moved the ball thanks largely to chunk plays, notching a season-high eight plays of 20 or more yards against Buffalo. This season, the Ravens have allowed the ninth-fewest 20-plus yard plays and the third-fewest 25-plus yard plays. 

“One of the big X factors for this Chiefs offense this postseason has been Rashee Rice, who did seem hobbled during that win over the Bills as well. If he’s less than 100% and the Ravens can deploy safety Kyle Hamilton on Travis Kelce, there may not be much Patrick Mahomes can do to move the football. 

“As for Baltimore’s offense squaring up against Kansas City’s defense, I think Lamar Jackson can do damage with his legs. They just let Josh Allen rush for 72 yards and two touchdowns last weekend, and I can see Jackson having a similar impact on the ground. The Ravens are also 6-1 ATS in Jackson’s last seven starts.”

To read Sully’s breakdown of the NFC Championship game, click here. 

John Breech’s pick

“For the first time in his career, Lamar Jackson is going to be playing in the AFC Championship game, and if he wants to win, all he’s going to have to do is beat the guy who’s been to the AFC title game so many times that the NFL is probably just going to name it after him: Patrick Mahomes.

“The one thing I already know I’m going to love about this game is that we’re definitely going to see a shirtless Jason Kelce pounding beers while eating crab cakes. I mean, you can’t go to Maryland and not eat crab cakes. And you also can’t go to Maryland and not take your shirt off, so this is the perfect spot for Kelce. And I’m guessing Taylor will also be there. 

“Although everyone spent all last week talking about the Patrick Mahomes vs. Josh Allen showdown, that was just the appetizer. This is the main course: We’re getting Lamar Jackson vs. Patrick Mahomes with a spot in the Super Bowl on the line and the crazy thing is that I’m barely going to MENTION either of those guys for the rest of this pick and that’s because I think this is all going to come down to which defense plays better. 

“Not only did the Ravens give up the fewest points in the NFL this year (16.5 per game), but they also led the league in sacks with 60. The crazy thing is that the Chiefs ranked right behind them in both categories, so we have the top two defenses in football and they’ll both be going up against their biggest test of the season. 

“The Chiefs have to stop the most electrifying quarterback in the NFL. The Ravens have to stop the most talented quarterback in the NFL, and let me just say, I wouldn’t want to be in charge of trying to do either of those things. 

“The Ravens’ best chance of winning is going to hinge whether they can pressure Mahomes. The Chiefs quarterback has been sacked exactly ZERO times this postseason and as the Dolphins and Bills both learned, if you can’t get to Mahomes, he’s going to burn you. There were only four games this season where Mahomes was sacked at least three times and the Chiefs went 1-3 in those games. As the team with the most sacks in the NFL, the Ravens are the one team that should be able to get after Mahomes. 

“The key part for the Ravens is that this isn’t a T.J. Watt or Myles Garrett situation where you have one guy racking up all the sacks for your defense. The Ravens have three players who have recorded at least nine sacks and they had seven players who have recorded at least 3 sacks. They have a lot of guys who can get after the quarterback and defensive coordinator Mike MacDonald knows how to use them. 

“If this was a regular season game, that would be enough to convince me to pick the Ravens, but this isn’t a regular season game. It’s the playoffs and the Chiefs offense has suddenly flipped the switch since the postseason started. Maybe they didn’t know where that switch was during the regular season, but they found it and flipped it, and they now look unstoppable. 

“Since the start of the postseason, the Chiefs are averaging more points per game and more yards per play than they did during the regular season. A big reason for that is because Travis Kelce decided to show up after taking off the final few weeks of the regular season. Over the final three games of the year, Kelce averaged just 29.3 yards per game with zero touchdowns, but since the playoffs started, he’s turned into the unstoppable Kelce that we always expect to see: He’s averaging 73 yards per game with two touchdowns. 

“The Ravens might be able to slow Kelce down, though. They only gave up three touchdown catches all year to tight ends, which was tied for the second-lowest number in the NFL. 

“This game will mark just the second time in Mahomes’ career that he’s started a playoff game on the road. Although he won last week in Buffalo, he’ll now be heading to Baltimore, where things will likely be much crazier and Mahomes KNOWS that. The Chiefs QB recently admitted that Baltimore is one of only two stadiums that he’s played in where the crowd got so loud that he couldn’t communicate with his offensive line. 

“It feels like crowd noise could actually be a factor, which isn’t something that Mahomes usually has to deal with. 

“I don’t want to pick against Patrick Mahomes in this game and I don’t want to pick against Lamar Jackson, but I have to pick against one of them and I had a really tasty crab cake for lunch, so I’m going with … “

The pick: Ravens 23-20 over Chiefs
Record picking Chiefs games this season: 13-6 straight up, 11-8 against the spread
Record picking Ravens games this season: 8-10 straight up, 9-9 against the spread

To read Breech’s breakdown of the NFC Championship game, click here.

SportsLine expert pick

Before you make any Chiefs vs. Ravens picks of your own, you need to see what SportsLine NFL expert Mike Tierney has to say. A veteran sportswriter whose work appears periodically in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, Tierney has covered the NFL for decades and reported from seven Super Bowls. He had a typically strong NFL season in 2022, going 68-54-6 on his picks and returning $815 to $100 players! In addition, he is an amazing 48-19-2 on his past 69 picks involving the Ravens, returning a whopping $2,702! Anyone who has followed him is way up.

We can tell you he’s leaning Under the point total, but to check out his official pick, head on over to SportsLine.

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