Feb 2, 2024; Orlando, FL, USA; The Pro Bowl Games logo on the Camping World Stadium facade. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFC defeats AFC 64-59 at Pro Bowl Games

Baker Mayfield’s fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Jahmyr Gibbs turned out to be the winning play as the NFC defeated the AFC 64-59 at the Pro Bowl Games on Sunday in Orlando, Fla.

The NFC had a 12-6 lead after Thursday’s skills competitions and had just enough cushion to withstand C.J. Stroud and the AFC team in flag football to conclude the multi-day event.

After the touchdown by Gibbs, the Detroit Lions running back, both defenses combined to pull out a series of stops. Stroud’s last-ditch pass to Keenan Allen in the end zone was broken up.

Standout Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker won three points for the AFC in “Kick-Tac-Toe,” which saw him and Dallas Cowboys kicker Brandon Aubrey take turns kicking into a tic-tac-toe matrix built between goalposts.

The NFC, however, piled up points with victories in several other competitions, including a “Madden NFL” video game event, “Best Catch” and a tug-of-war.

That allowed the Eli Manning-captained NFC team to withstand the Peyton Manning-coached AFC team in flag football. The AFC outscored the NFC 50-34 in flag football, yet it fell five points short of the overall victory.

Allen, the veteran Los Angeles Chargers receiver, caught nine passes for 90 yards and three touchdowns. He also completed a touchdown pass on a trick play. Stroud of the Houston Texans, Tua Tagovailoa of the Miami Dolphins and Gardner Minshew of the Indianapolis Colts completed two touchdown passes apiece.

Seattle’s Geno Smith had two touchdowns and three interceptions. Tampa Bay’s Mayfield added two touchdowns. Amon-Ra St. Brown (Detroit) caught 10 balls for 117 yards and a touchdown, and CeeDee Lamb (Dallas) caught three touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

Jan 20, 2024; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) reacts after running past for Houston Texans defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (98) for a touchdown during the fourth quarter  in a 2024 AFC divisional round game at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

AFC Championship Game Betting Primer: ‘Heavyweight fight’ at QB

Now do you believe in the 2023-24 version of Patrick Mahomes? He looked every bit the NFL’s best player in the dramatic divisional round win over the Buffalo Bills.

There is only one MVP for this season, though, and it’s Lamar Jackson. The Baltimore Ravens quarterback crushed the doubters last week with an exceptional performance.

So which guy is going to blink?

We’ll present our case, a play on one of these teams and a bonus bet below.

THE HEADLINER

Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens
When: Sunday.
Time, TV: 3 p.m. ET, CBS.
Odds: Ravens -4, total 44.5 (DraftKings).

Aspiring handicappers can use AFC Championship Game betting statistics to back either team.

There is a great deal of information — and we’re going to inundate you with the numbers — so take the stats you like the best.

The momentum is on the Ravens’ side, with the line being bet up to -4 from an opening number of -3.5.

For Kansas City: Mahomes is terrific in the underdog role. Sunday marks the sixth time he and the Chiefs have opened at +3 or higher. He is 5-0 against the spread in those games, including one in 2020 against the Ravens.

For Baltimore: The Ravens are catching the Chiefs in a strange-stat situation. Teams in a game immediately after facing the Bills, as KC did last week, are 24-41-1 ATS over the past four seasons, including 5-11-1 ATS this season. And teams who beat Josh Allen in the playoffs are 0-4 straight up in the next game.

There were questions about Jackson’s playoff shortcomings — he’s not one to consistently cover as a home favorite. Jackson is 29-10 straight up but only 16-23 against the spread when favored at home.

And this is not great for those hoping to bet on the Ravens to cover: Of 220 quarterbacks — as home favorites — in games spanning the past two decades, Jackson ranks 211th against the spread.

And then he went out last week and played lights out.

Speaking of lights, Jackson backers can take solace in this betting stat: He’s 16-6 straight up and 14-8 ATS in night games. He’s won eight consecutive night games straight up.

And at home, Jackson has won eight of 10 straight up and is 6-4 ATS.

Mahomes is certainly the main hurdle, but Jackson is saying all the right things this week.

“I don’t like competing against him at all,” Jackson said with a laugh. “He’s a great quarterback. It’s a no-brainer; he’s definitely a Hall of Famer.

“I believe it’s two up-and-coming greats going toe to toe, like a heavyweight fight, a heavyweight matchup. That’s what I see.”

Kansas City will be without standout guard Joe Thuney, but Isiah Pacheco says his toe injury will not prevent him from playing.

Sunday’s game is the Ravens’ first conference championship game since their Super Bowl-winning run in 2012.

The Chiefs have won at least two playoff games in five consecutive seasons and Mahomes is 13-3 as a playoff starter.

The Ravens plan to make that 13-4 by keeping possession and accentuating the ground game; Jackson accounted for 100 yards rushing by himself last week against the Texans.

Baltimore sits third in both EPA (Expected Points Added) per rush and rushing success rate, and are No. 5 on Pro Football Focus’ ranking of rushing grades.

Much has been made of the Chiefs’ defensive improvement, but against the run, KC is 28th in EPA per play allowed. According to Pro Football Focus, they receive a run defense grade ranking of 18th.

The question boils down to whether the Chiefs’ commitment to stop the Ravens’ ground game will cost them when Jackson — in play action — gains traction throwing the ball.

Can Zay Flowers, Mark Andrews, et al make winning plays? The likely answer is “some of the time.”

With that tepid endorsement, we’ll follow with a similar sentiment: Patrick Mahomes is too good to be on a team suffering a playoff blowout, but Lamar Jackson and the home-field advantage are too good to dismiss.

The bet: Ravens adjusted spread -2.5 (-175 at BetMGM).

BONUS

The Ravens looked dominant on defense; the Chiefs believe they can hold down the Baltimore ground game.

The second-half unders in KC games this season, according to Action Network, are a staggering 17-2.

Parlay that with a near-sure thing and hope Mahomes stays upright.

The bet: Two-leg parlay, the second-half UNDER 21.5 points with Mahomes to throw for 200+ yards (+164 at DraftKings).

–Field Level Media

Jan 21, 2024; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) makes a catch for a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills in the first half of the 2024 AFC divisional round game at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs fend off Bills, advance to sixth straight AFC title game

Patrick Mahomes threw two touchdown passes to Travis Kelce and the Kansas City Chiefs advanced to the AFC Championship Game for the sixth consecutive season with a 27-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night at Orchard Park, N.Y.

Isiah Pacheco rushed for 97 yards and the go-ahead touchdown on 15 carries for third-seeded Kansas City. Mahomes completed 17 of 23 passes for 215 yards in his first career road postseason game and Kelce had five receptions for 75 yards for the Chiefs.

Kansas City will visit the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens next Sunday for a Super Bowl berth.

Buffalo had a chance to tie the score but Tyler Bass was way wide right on a 44-yard field-goal attempt with 1:43 remaining. Pacheco then rushed for a first down on Kansas City’s second play as the Chiefs ran out the clock.

Josh Allen rushed for two touchdowns and passed for one for Buffalo. Allen completed 26 of 39 passes for 186 yards and rushed for 72 yards on 12 carries and Khalil Shakir caught a touchdown pass for the second-seeded Bills.

Buffalo had a 16-play, 54-yard drive stall at the Kansas City 26-yard line before Bass’ wide right boot brought back memories of Scott Norwood’s 47-yard miss in the loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXV nearly 33 years ago.

Mahomes and Kelce set a record for combining on 16 postseason touchdown passes. The former New England Patriots duo of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski held the old mark of 15.

Buffalo possessed the ball for 37:03 and ran 78 plays to Kansas City’s 47.

The three touchdown drives of the second half were all 75 yards long.

Kansas City took a 20-17 lead on Mahomes’ 3-yard scoring pass to Kelce with 11:48 left in the third.

Allen connected with Shakir on a 13-yard throw to give Buffalo a four-point lead with 3:23 left in the third quarter.

The Chiefs regained the lead at 27-24 on Pacheco’s 4-yard run 40 seconds into the final quarter.

Allen’s 2-yard scoring run with 26 seconds left in the first half gave the Bills a 17-13 lead at the break. Buffalo had a 41-21 edge in offensive plays and a 235-167 advantage in total offense.

The teams traded field goals in the first quarter, beginning with Bass’ 27-yarder for the Bills and followed by Harrison Butker’s 47-yarder for the Chiefs.

Allen scored on a 5-yard run to give Buffalo a 10-3 lead with 13:32 left in the first half. Butker kicked a 29-yard field goal to bring Kansas City within four with 9:12 remaining.

The Chiefs took a 13-10 lead when Mahomes tossed a 22-yard touchdown pass to Kelce with 3:33 to go.

–Field Level Media

Jan 15, 2024; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) runs the ball in the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 2024 AFC wild card game at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Allen shines as Bills hold off Steelers

Josh Allen passed for three touchdowns and rushed for another to lead the Buffalo Bills to a 31-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in an AFC wild-card game on Monday at Orchard Park, N.Y.

Khalil Shakir had a pivotal touchdown catch in the fourth quarter to help the second-seeded Bills win a playoff game for the fourth straight season. Dawson Knox and Dalton Kincaid also had touchdown catches for Buffalo.

Allen completed 21 of 30 passes for 203 yards and rushed for 74 yards on eight carries. James Cook had 79 yards on 18 rushes and Kaiir Elam snatched a key interception as the Bills recorded their sixth straight victory.

The Bills will host the third-seeded Kansas City Chiefs in next weekend’s divisional round.

Mason Rudolph completed 22 of 39 passes for 229 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for the seventh-seeded Steelers. Diontae Johnson and Calvin Austin III had scoring catches for Pittsburgh.

The game, initially scheduled for Sunday, was pushed back to Monday after a massive snowstorm hit Buffalo and surrounding towns. The temperature at kickoff on Monday was 17 degrees (felt like 4).

Pittsburgh moved within 24-17 when Rudolph connected with Austin on a 7-yard scoring pass with 10:32 left in the contest.

Buffalo answered to restore its 14-point lead as the diminutive Shakir made a giant individual play.

On second-and-9 from the Pittsburgh 17-yard line, Allen threw a short pass to Shakir and Steelers star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick was all over him at the 15. But Shakir shook off the tackle and broke another while weaving through traffic to complete a 17-yard scoring play with 6:27 remaining that effectively defused Pittsburgh’s charge.

Buffalo appeared on track to coast through the game when it scored the first 21 points.

Allen hit Knox for a 9-yard score with 7:02 left in the opening quarter. The Bills soon received a big break when Taron Johnson forced Pittsburgh’s George Pickens to fumble, and Buffalo’s Terrel Bernard recovered at the Steelers 29.

On the next play, Allen drilled a touchdown pass to Kincaid to make it 14-0 with 4:10 left in the quarter.

Pittsburgh had a chance to narrow its deficit, but Rudolph was intercepted in the end zone by Elam with 10:52 left in the first half.

Buffalo took advantage when Allen took the ball 52 yards for a touchdown on a designed run. He broke a tackle at the Steelers 35 and kicked his speed up while finishing the play.

Late in the second quarter, Rudolph tossed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Johnson to pull Pittsburgh within 21-7 with 1:39 left.

The teams traded field goals in the third quarter — Chris Boswell connected from 40 yards out for the Steelers and Tyler Bass kicked a 45-yarder for Buffalo — to keep the margin at 14 entering the final stanza.

–Field Level Media

Jan 7, 2024; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins running back De'Von Achane (28) runs with the football against the Buffalo Bills during the first quarter at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Bills clinch AFC East with comeback win over Dolphins

Josh Allen passed for 359 yards and two touchdowns as the Buffalo Bills notched a 21-14 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday night at Miami Gardens, Fla., to win the AFC East for the fourth straight season.

Allen tossed the go-ahead touchdown to Dawson Knox midway through the final quarter as Buffalo (11-6) won its fifth straight contest. Taylor Rapp sealed the victory with an interception with 1:13 remaining.

Trent Sherfield also caught a touchdown pass and Khalil Shakir had 105 receiving yards for the second-seeded Bills, who will host the seventh-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers in next Sunday’s playoff contest.

Allen rushed for 67 yards and also completed 30 of 38 passes with two interceptions. He improved to 11-2 as a starter against Miami (including last season’s playoff victory) and has thrown 36 touchdown passes in those 13 games.

Tua Tagovailoa completed 17 of 27 passes for 173 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for the Dolphins (11-6). Tyreek Hill caught seven passes for 82 yards and a touchdown and De’Von Achane added a rushing score.

Miami lost for the third time in five games while playing without running back Raheem Mostert (knee, ankle) and receiver Jaylen Waddle (ankle) for the second consecutive game. The sixth-seeded Dolphins will visit the third-seeded Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday night.

The Bills outgained Miami 473-275.

Buffalo’s only offensive touchdown in the second half was the decisive score to cap an eight-play, 74-yard drive. Allen connected with Knox on a 5-yard throw to give the Bills a 21-14 lead with 7:16 remaining.

The Dolphins went three-and-out on their next possession and didn’t see the ball again until 1:53 remained. But Rapp’s pick 40 seconds later ended any suspense.

Buffalo tied the score at 14 on Deonte Hardy’s franchise-record-setting 96-yard punt return with 13:42 left in the contest. Hardy’s return broke the old team mark of 91 yards by Keith Moody against the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 23, 1977.

Hardy caught the ball at his own 4-yard line and exploded up the middle and moved into the clear as Miami players Cameron Goode and Alec Engold got tangled up. Hardy navigated to his left and raced down the sideline without any Dolphins in his vicinity.

The Dolphins struck first when Achane broke a 25-yard TD run with 8:51 left in the first half.

Buffalo tied the game when Sherfield caught a 6-yard scoring pass with 4:31 remaining in the half. Allen’s throw hit the helmet of Miami’s Andrew Van Ginkel and ricocheted high in the air and Sherfield was able to grab it in the back of the end zone while getting both feet down.

Miami took a 14-7 lead when Tagovailoa threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Hill with 1:43 to go before halftime.

–Field Level Media

Dec 31, 2023; Landover, Maryland, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) attempts a pass against the Washington Commanders during the second half at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Brock Purdy one of nine 49ers on NFC Pro Bowl roster

The San Francisco 49ers, who will head into the playoffs as the top seed in the NFC, had a league-high nine players selected for the 2024 Pro Bowl Games.

Eight 49ers were chosen as starters for the flag football game in which the AFC will oppose the NFC on Feb. 4 in Orlando. Skills competitions also will be contested.

Quarterback Brock Purdy, running back Christian McCaffrey, tight end George Kittle and defensive end Nick Bosa will be among the San Francisco starters, as will fullback Kyle Juszczyk, tackle Trent Williams, linebacker Fred Warner and cornerback Charvarius Ward.

Niners defensive lineman Javon Hargrave landed on the NFC squad as a reserve.

The Baltimore Ravens, who secured the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a 56-19 drubbing of the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, had seven Pro Bowl selections, including quarterback Lamar Jackson and safety Kyle Hamilton.

Seven Cowboys were chosen for the Pro Bowl Games.

Pro Bowl starters:

AFC
Offense:
QB Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins)
RB Raheem Mostert (Dolphins)
FB Alec Ingold (Dolphins)
WR Tyreek Hill (Dolphins), Amari Cooper (Browns)
TE Travis Kelce (Chiefs)
T Laremy Tunsil (Texans), Dion Dawkins (Bills)
G Quenton Nelson (Colts), Joel Bitonio (Browns)
C Creed Humphrey (Chiefs)

Defense:
DE Myles Garrett (Browns), Maxx Crosby (Raiders)
DL Chris Jones (Chiefs), Quinnen Williams (Jets)
OLB T.J. Watt (Steelers), Khalil Mack (Chargers)
MLB Roquan Smith (Ravens)
CB Pat Surtain II (Broncos), Sauce Gardner (Jets)
FS Justin Simmons (Broncos)
SS Kyle Hamilton (Ravens)

Special teams:
LS Ross Matiscik (Jaguars)
P AJ Cole (Raiders)
K Justin Tucker (Ravens)
KR Marvin Mims Jr. (Broncos)
ST Miles Killebrew (Steelers)

NFC
Offense:
QB Brock Purdy (49ers)
RB Christian McCaffrey (49ers)
FB Kyle Juszczyk (49ers)
WR CeeDee Lamb (Cowboys), A.J. Brown (Eagles)
TE George Kittle (49ers)
T Trent Williams (49ers), Lane Johnson (Eagles)
G Zack Martin (Cowboys), Chris Lindstrom (Falcons)
C Jason Kelce (Eagles)

Defense:
DE Nick Bosa (49ers), Montez Sweat (Bears)
DL Aaron Donald (Rams), Dexter Lawrence (Giants)
OLB Micah Parsons (Cowboys), Danielle Hunter (Vikings)
MLB Fred Warner (49ers)
CB DaRon Bland (Cowboys), Charvarius Ward (49ers)
FS Jessie Bates (Falcons)
SS Budda Baker (Cardinals)

Special teams:
LS: Andrew DePaola (Vikings)
P Bryan Anger (Cowboys)
K Brandon Aubrey (Cowboys)
KR Rashid Shaheed (Saints)
ST Jalen Reeves-Maybin (Lions)

–Field Level Media

Feb 4, 2023; Paradise, NV, USA; NFL coach Eli Manning (left) talks with Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) during practice at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirk Cousins, NFC top AFC at first-ever ‘Pro Bowl Games’

Kirk Cousins connected with George Kittle on a 12-yard touchdown pass and scrambled away from a blitz to hit Minnesota Vikings teammate Justin Jefferson on the one-point conversion to lift the NFC to a victory over the AFC in the inaugural Pro Bowl Games on Sunday in Las Vegas.

The NFC beat the AFC 27-21 in the final tally, which awarded points for three short flag football games and a host of skills events that ranged from “Best Catch” to “Kick-Tac-Toe.”

The NFC, which trailed 9-3 after Thursday’s slate of skills competitions, tied the score at 21 entering the final flag football game. Cousins threw three touchdown passes, besting Derek Carr’s two for the AFC in likely his last appearance in Las Vegas as a member of the Raiders. The NFC won the decisive game 35-33 after Carr found Dawson Knox for a late touchdown but the AFC failed to convert a two-point attempt.

Eli Manning coached the NFC team and Peyton Manning did the same for the AFC. The brothers’ production company was also responsible for “reimagining” the all-star exhibition that had drawn criticism over the years for its lackluster showings as players did not want to risk injury.

Ironically, the format change — featuring 7-on-7 games that followed standard flag football rules — did not prevent injuries for all. Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett reportedly suffered a dislocated toe during one of the flag contests.

Tyler Huntley — the Baltimore Ravens’ backup quarterback, in the game as a reserve — threw four touchdowns in the first game, two to Baltimore teammate Mark Andrews, but Geno Smith of the Seattle Seahawks beat that with five touchdowns as the NFC won the first flag game 33-27.

Stefon Diggs, who also lost the “Best Catch” final to Detroit Lions wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown, caught the go-ahead touchdown for the AFC to ultimately win the second flag game 18-13.

–Field Level Media

Jan 8, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles fans cheer on during the fourth quarter against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Full NFL playoff picture: Eagles land bye, Dolphins snag wild card

With all but one Week 18 game complete, 13 of the NFL’s 14 playoff teams were set in stone Sunday evening.

The Philadelphia Eagles finally secured the top seed in the NFC and the Miami Dolphins grabbed the last AFC wild-card berth during the afternoon action.

The only spot left at the table was the No. 7 seed in the NFC. The Seattle Seahawks remained alive for it by defeating the Los Angeles Rams 19-16 in overtime. But the Green Bay Packers have a win-and-in scenario entering “Sunday Night Football” against the visiting Detroit Lions. If the Packers lose, the Seahawks will earn the berth.

The Eagles’ 22-16 victory over the New York Giants halted a two-game slide and brought Philadelphia to 14-3, out of reach of the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys, who were also contending for the NFC’s top seed at the start of the day.

Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills secured the No. 2 seed in the AFC by beating the New England Patriots 35-23. The Cincinnati Bengals locked up the No. 3 seed with a 27-16 win over the Baltimore Ravens. The Bills and Bengals were playing for the first time since their Monday night game was postponed and eventually canceled after Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest on the field.

The day’s results set up the Bengals to face the Ravens in the AFC wild-card round. The NFL has said that due to the scheduling disadvantages caused by Monday’s cancellation in Cincinnati, homefield advantage for Bengals-Ravens will be decided by a coin flip.

The Dolphins beat the New York Jets 11-6 to beat out New England and the Pittsburgh Steelers for the last available AFC berth.

See the full schedule below (times and dates TBD):

AFC
No. 7 Miami Dolphins (9-8) at No. 2 Buffalo Bills (13-3)
No. 6 Baltimore Ravens (10-7) vs. No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)
No. 5 Los Angeles Chargers (10-7) at No. 4 Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8)
Bye: No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs (14-3)

NFC
No. 7 Seattle or Green Bay (TBD) at No. 2 San Francisco 49ers (13-4)
No. 6 New York Giants (9-7-1) at No. 3 Minnesota Vikings (13-4)
No. 5 Dallas Cowboys (12-5) at No. 4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9)
Bye: No. 1 Philadelphia Eagles (14-3)

–Field Level Media

The Buffalo Bills gather while CPR is administered to Damar Hamlin at the game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Jan. 2, 2023.

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Bills-Bengals canceled; NFL to consider neutral-site AFC title game

The Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game that was halted Monday when Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin experienced a cardiac arrest on the field will not be resumed or replayed, the NFL announced Thursday night.

As a result, the Bills and Bengals will have their postseason positions determined based on their winning percentage for a 16-game season rather than the 17-game slot played by all other NFL teams.

Due to the resulting disparity, the league recommended changes to playoff ramifications that team owners will consider in a special league meeting Friday. Chiefly, the AFC Championship Game would be played at a neutral site if the home team for that contest ordinarily would have been settled in part by the result of the now-canceled game.

“This has been a very difficult week,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “We continue to focus on the recovery of Damar Hamlin and are encouraged by the improvements in his condition as well as the tremendous outpouring of support and care for Damar and his family from across the country. We are also incredibly appreciative of the amazing work of the medical personnel and commend each and every one of them.”

The league noted in its announcement that no teams will make the playoffs or be eliminated from contention based on the Bills-Bengals game being canceled. The NFL also decided against postponing the entire playoff slate just to make up the game in Cincinnati.

By announcing the decision on the fate of the halted game prior to the Week 18 slate that will conclude the regular season on Sunday, the NFL said that all teams now will enter their finales knowing exactly what scenarios are in play.

The AFC title game would be played at a neutral site if any of three possibilities occur:

–If Buffalo (12-3) and Kansas City (13-3) both win or tie this weekend, a Bills-Chiefs championship game would be held at a neutral site.

–If the Bills and Chiefs both lose this weekend and the Baltimore Ravens (10-6) win or tie, a Buffalo-Kansas City championship game would be played at a neutral site.

–If the Bills and Chiefs both lose and Bengals win, Buffalo-Kansas City or Cincinnati-Kansas City AFC title game would be held at a neutral site.

In addition, if the Ravens defeat the Bengals (11-4) on Sunday, giving Baltimore a season sweep of Cincinnati, the teams would end with the same number of wins, but the Bengals would have fewer losses. Should those teams wind up facing off in a wild-card game, the NFL will hold a coin toss to determine the home team.

The site of any other wild-card game involving either of those teams would be determined per standard procedure.

“As we considered the football schedule, our principles have been to limit disruption across the league and minimize competitive inequities,” Goodell said in a statement. “I recognize that there is no perfect solution. The proposal we are asking the ownership to consider, however, addresses the most significant potential equitable issues created by the difficult, but necessary, decision not to play the game under these extraordinary circumstances.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 27, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) drops back to pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Ravens climbing AFC futures odds board

Futures odds shifts are beginning to spotlight a rising contender in the AFC: the Baltimore Ravens.

The Ravens jumped to +800 to win the conference at 5-3 following the Cincinnati Bengals’ loss to the Cleveland Browns in an AFC North duel on Monday night that capped Week 8 in the NFL. Cincinnati is 4-4 and the Browns are 3-5.

Baltimore had been +1400 in July to win the AFC at FanDuel and BetMGM.

As of Tuesday morning, odds pointed to the Ravens as a near lock to win the division at -320 at FanDuel, -360 at Caesars Sportsbook and -380 at DraftKings. On Aug. 3, the Ravens were +165 to win the North, narrowly ahead of the Bengals (+210) and Browns (+235).

Lamar Jackson has approached his 2019 MVP form and the Ravens upgraded their defense on Monday with the trade deadline acquisition of inside linebacker Roquan Smith from the Chicago Bears.

Baltimore is still well back of the favorites to win the Super Bowl, at +1600 at most books at +1800 at DraftKings.

That second tier with the Ravens at most sportsbooks includes the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings.

The top tier includes AFC favorite Buffalo, now at +320 to win the Super Bowl ahead of the Philadelphia Eagles (+500) and Kansas City Chiefs (+700) at Caesars.

BetMGM, Caesars and FanDuel all have elevated the projected win total for the Ravens.

Caesars has the Ravens over-under on wins set at 11 (-110) and FanDuel is at 10.5 (-150). BetMGM and DraftKings adjusted the Ravens up to 11 (-115).

Jackson’s MVP odds are steady. At Caesars, he’s +1300 and a distant fourth behind Bills quarterback Josh Allen (+125), Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (+350) and Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (+375).

FanDuel has Jackson at +950 behind the same three quarterbacks. He’s +1000 at DraftKings.

–Field Level Media