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Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff (16) runs with the ball during the fourth quarter of a regular season NFL game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Detroit Lions. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire)
January 28th, 2024
For only the second time during the Super Bowl era, Detroit will play in the NFC Championship Game, traveling to face top-seeded San Francisco. Both teams have been tested in the playoffs, as Detroit held off the Los Angeles Rams by a point in the wild-card round and San Francisco rallied to defeat Green Bay by a field goal in the Divisional Round, and two of the top five scoring offenses will be on display.
Detroit, which owns a league-best 13-6 ATS record, has played indoors of late, but the Lions showed their versatility winning outside on grass at Kansas City, Green Bay, and Tampa Bay earlier this season, compiling an overall 7-2 ATS mark in away games. Their versatility produces a lot of points, as the Lions average 131.8 rushing yards behind a pair of quality backs (Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery). And Jared Goff, who directs the third-best passing offense, has been fantastic, guiding Detroit out of a three-week November slump with strong performances over the last two months.
San Francisco received a big boost when Deebo Samuel was cleared to play, he’s an important piece to the high-powered offense, and the Niners are a threat to overpower Detroit with their weapons. Christian McCaffrey proved instrumental to the 49ers' second-half comeback last week, rushing for 98 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but Brock Purdy will need to play better. The second-year quarterback was under MVP consideration after leading San Francisco to a 11-3 record, but Purdy has completed only 41 of 71 passes (57.7%) and has thrown four interceptions over the last two home games.
Championship Sunday is finally here! pic.twitter.com/XA2aSE14Am— Detroit Lions (@Lions) January 28, 2024
Championship Sunday is finally here! pic.twitter.com/XA2aSE14Am
The passing game will be key for both teams, as Detroit ranks second versus the run and San Francisco third. The Niners excel at pressuring opposing quarterbacks, but they must do a better job against the blitz. Purdy completed only four of nine passes, with two interceptions, when blitzed by Baltimore in a Week 17 home game, and Detroit has forced six turnovers over its last four games.
We expect an offensive shootout. San Francisco has held its opponents to 21 points or fewer in 13 of 18 games, but Detroit ranks in the top five in most offensive categories and takes advantage of red-zone opportunities (third-ranked in red-zone TD rate). The Niners have not played their best football over the last five weeks, outscoring the last four opponents by only a 90-85 margin, and they enter on a 1-3 ATS slide.
San Francisco has the coaching and talent to prevail in a close game, but the 49ers are 9-9 ATS overall this season and have proven vulnerable as a heavy home favorite, going 0-5 ATS in the last five home games (4-1 SU). Too much risk involved in laying a lot of points with San Francisco given its recent form. We will side with the team with confidence and momentum.
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YouBet NFC Championship pick: Detroit +7
Jared Goff (Detroit): Over 255.5 passing yards -115
George Kittle (San Francisco): Over 58.5 receiving yards -120
Christian McCaffrey (San Francisco): Under 84.5 rushing yards -115
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