January 20, 2024; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Green Bay Packers safety Anthony Johnson Jr. (36) and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) shake hands after the 2024 NFC divisional round game at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

NFC Championship Game Betting Primer: 49ers should feel Purdy good

This may sound surprising, but the San Francisco 49ers needed some good fortune to advance last week — at home — against the Green Bay Packers, and the Detroit Lions looked like a seasoned group of veteran playoff performers in turning back the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

There is no doubting the reasons served up, good and bad, for each winning team. But are the “reasons” actually excuses for the Niners? And aren’t excuses for losers?

We’ll look deeper into the wagering angles for Sunday’s NFC Championship Game and bring forth a game pick and a bonus bet below.

THE HEADLINER

Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers
When: Sunday.
Time, TV: 6:40 p.m. ET, Fox.
Odds: 49ers -7, total 51.5.

Much was made of the correlation between Brock Purdy’s subpar performance and the rainy weather in San Francisco’s 24-21 comeback win.

The 49ers quarterback had issues with his gloves but also because his safety blanket, Deebo Samuel, was missing due of an injured shoulder.

Samuel might not be fully ready by Sunday, but he’s likely to take the decision right up until game time — and the weather will be vastly improved.

The Lions, meanwhile, must depart Ford Field and try to find their magic in a road game.

Detroit added free agent tight end Zach Ertz, who appears to be insurance for the banged-up rookie star Sam LaPorta (nine catches, 11 targets last week).

If this game is close, Ertz can be used in two-tight end sets to enhance the ground game.

Lions coach Dan Campbell enjoys his role as outlier, swashbuckler, daredevil; 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan finally broke his abysmal streak of failing to overcome late seven-point deficits.

If Purdy can get a grip, literally and figuratively, Niners receivers will test Detroit’s secondary, which sits at the bottom of the NFL in allowing explosive pass plays (20+ yards).

The Lions, however, can find success if they continue to run the ball.

The San Francisco defense is not an elite run-stopping group, despite allowing the third-fewest rush yards per game during the regular season.

According to Action Network numbers, the Niners are 28th in rush EPA (Expected Points Added) since Week 9.

Lions backers are asking for yet another stellar performance from quarterback Jared Goff in a game where he’ll likely need to be a leader rather than a game manager.

Can’t shake these numbers, per Action Network:

Goff indoors is 36-17 against the spread and 26-9 against the spread (ATS) over the past three seasons, and this season (14 games) he has 28 passing TDs to eight interceptions.

Outdoors, however, he’s 9-15-1 ATS in December and January, and this season (five outdoor games) he’s produced five TD passes to four interceptions.

He’s been great to this point, and this title game could come down to key stops and turnovers. But this feels like a return to normal for the 49ers, who are poised to turn up the offense.

Another key stat: The Lions allowed only three teams to rack up 400+ yards during the regular season. They’ve allowed it to happen in both of their playoff games — and those were at home.

The public money has been pouring in on Detroit — the feel-good story enjoyed by couch-bound football fans across the country.

According to Vegas Insider, the Lions were the target of 64 percent of the bets, but the 49ers were collecting 55 percent of the money through Wednesday.

That discrepancy tells us we’re on the right track, so we’ll follow the money.

But, speaking of money, temper your enthusiasm if Samuel does not play. The 49ers are 12-1 straight up and 10-3 against the spread when Deebo starts — and finishes — the game.

The bet: 49ers -7.

BONUS BET

Purdy wasn’t great last week, as we’ve outlined. How bad? Actually, not terrible. He threw for 252 yards, and another 24 puts him over the posted total for this week.

Since we’re committed to the Niners winning on a fast track, we’ll parlay that with the San Francisco kicker, Jake Moody.

The bet: Brock Purdy 275+ passing yards with Jake Moody 6+ kicking points (+125 at BetMGM).

–Field Level Media

Jan 21, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) runs against the New York Giants during an NFC divisional round game at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Notebook: Eagles QB Jalen Hurts not discussing MVP possibility

Jalen Hurts isn’t overly concerned with being one of the five finalists for NFL MVP honors.

The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback has gone from being viewed as a liability as a passer to one of the top players in the game. But if you want to discuss his rise to greatness, Hurts isn’t going to partake in the discussion.

“It’s not the time for me to reflect on that because I’m not done,” Hurts said in a press conference.

Hurts passed for 3,701 yards and 22 touchdowns against six interceptions and rushed for 760 yards and 13 scores during the regular season.

Eagles coach Nick Sirianni is happy to pump up Hurts’ candidacy.

“His body of work speaks for itself. He’s had a phenomenal year,” Sirianni said. “Now, I get to watch him. I’m biased, right? I get to watch every one of his games and correct every one of his games. Obviously, I know there are other players who are playing good as well.

“I hope Jalen wins it because you want that for your players. And he’s had a great year but there are other people deserving as well. He’s just going to continue going about his business.”

The other finalists are Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Minnesota Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson.

–The Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Kansas City Chiefs three times during the 2022 calendar year — including last season’s AFC Championship Game — and tensions are high entering Sunday’s matchup.

Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay Jr. insisted his team doesn’t engage in trash talk. The next question referenced what impresses Gay about the Cincinnati offense and he replied, “Nothing.” A short time later, unprompted, he again said “nothing.”

Some Chiefs, including tight end Travis Kelce, were upset when Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton referred to Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium as “Burrowhead.”

Cincinnati safety Jessie Bates III also had a shot in regards to Mahomes’ injured right ankle. “I hope that he is 100 percent healthy so there is no excuses,” Bates said.

–Kansas City receiver Mecole Hardman (pelvis) practiced Thursday on a limited basis for the second straight day. Hardman was injured in Week 9 and sustained an injury setback earlier this month. Mahomes was a full practice participant for the second straight day.

For Cincinnati, left tackle Jonah Williams (knee) and right guard Alex Cappa (ankle) again sat out practice on Thursday. If both players again sit out the game, it would again leave the Bengals without three offensive line starters. Right tackle La’el Collins (knee) was recently lost for the season.

Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst (calf) was added to Thursday’s injury report. He was a limited practice participant.

In the NFC, San Francisco running backs Christian McCaffrey (calf) and Elijah Mitchell (groin) both missed practice for the second straight day. Coach Kyle Shanahan expects both to play Sunday.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (foot), who isn’t expected to suit up, also sat out for the second straight day. Receiver Deebo Samuel and cornerback Ambry Thomas were both limited due to ankle injuries.

Defensive end Charles Omenihu (oblique) also was limited. Omenihu was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor domestic violence earlier this week but Shanahan said he will play if healthy.

Philadelphia listed offensive tackle Lane Johnson (groin) and cornerback Avonte Maddox (toe) as limited for the second straight day.

–Field Level Media

Dec 3, 2022; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Jalen Carter (88) tackles LSU Tigers running back Josh Williams (27) as defensive lineman Bear Alexander (99) pursues the play during the second quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1 Georgia takes command for SEC title over LSU

Stetson Bennett passed for 274 yards and four touchdowns and No. 1 Georgia rolled past No. 14 LSU 50-30 in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday in Atlanta.

Bennett finished 23 of 29 and threw four touchdown passes as the defending national champion Bulldogs (13-0) took command.

Kenny McIntosh ran for two second-half touchdowns as they kept the Tigers (9-4) at bay and seemingly certainly wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff pairings that will be announced Sunday.

Jayden Daniels passed for 208 yards with one touchdown and one interception, but he did not play in the second half because of a leg injury.

Garrett Nussmeier replaced Daniels and threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Malik Nabers on LSU’s first possession of the third quarter to trim Georgia’s lead to 35-17. Nussmeier finished 15 of 27 for 294 yards and two touchdowns.

McIntosh ran two yards for a touchdown and Noah Cain answered with a one-yard touchdown run, leaving Georgia with a 42-23 lead at the end of the third quarter.

McIntosh ran eight yards to make the score 50-23 before Nussmeier threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jaray Jenkins.

On LSU’s second possession, Nazir Stackhouse blocked Damian Ramos’ 32-yard field goal and the ball rolled inside the 5-yard line. Georgia’s Christopher Smith approached and when he saw that the Tigers had given up on the play, he gathered possession and ran 96 yards for a touchdown.

On the ensuing possession, Daniels threw a 53-yard touchdown pass to Kayshon Boutte, but Bennett responded with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Brock Bowers for a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.

On the first play of the second quarter, Daniels’ pass was deflected twice before being intercepted by Smael Mondon Jr. On the next play Bennett connected with Ladd McConkey for a 22-yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead.

Bennett threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Darnell Washington and a three-yarder to Dillon Bell before Ramos’ 42-yard field goal left the Bulldogs with a 35-10 halftime lead.

–Field Level Media

Dec 4, 2021; Carson, CA, USA; Utah State Aggies quarterback Logan Bonner (1) and defensive end Byron Vaughns (11) hold the champions trophy following the victory against the San Diego State Aztecs in the Mountain West Conference championship game at Dignity Health Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Mountain West scrapping two-division format in 2023

The Mountain West Conference announced Friday that it will eliminate its two-division format beginning with the 2023 season.

The Mountain West will instead have the two teams with the top winning percentages play in the league championship game.

The move comes two days after the NCAA Division I Council changed policy to allow conferences to determine which teams compete in the title game. Prior to that, leagues with divisions were required to send the division winners to the championship contest.

“Our membership has been working on concepts since last summer, as part of our strategic planning for the future of the Mountain West,” Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said in a news release. “A single-division approach provides maximum flexibility to adapt the Conference schedule as the landscape continues to evolve, while also allowing member institutions to play each other more frequently.”

This season, the Mountain West will stick to the division format. The winner of the Mountain and West divisions will play Dec. 3 at the site of the team with the top record in conference play.

The Pac-12 announced it was scrapping divisions, beginning this fall, just minutes after the rule was relaxed on Wednesday. The two teams with the best winning percentages will meet in the Pac-12 title game.

–Field Level Media