5 AI-Powered NFC Championship Predictions for Lions vs. 49ers

Christian McCaffrey, Jared Goff

Getty 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey (left) and Lions QB Jared Goff (right).

The NFC Championship is set, with the Detroit Lions heading to Levi’s Stadium to take on the San Francisco 49ers on January 28.

San Francisco is fresh from beating the Green Bay Packers, 24-21 in the divisional round. Down 21-14 at the start of the fourth quarter, 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy led the team to a comeback win, with superstar running back Christian McCaffrey scoring the go-ahead TD.

The Lions got here by beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 31-23, last weekend. Now, The Lions, led by quarterback Jared Goff, will head to their second NFC Championship game since 1991.

Heavy’s AI-powered projections have the Niners favored by 5.5 points, with a 69% chance of winning the game. The over/under is currently at 54 points — more on that later.

Here’s a look at five AI-powered predictions for the NFC Championship game. And if you’re interested in more free AI projections for DFS or sports betting, you can sign up here.

1. Lions ‘D’ Will Keep 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey in Check

McCaffrey led the NFL in rushing yards (1,459) and total yards from scrimmage (2,023) during the regular season and he picked up where he left off in the divisional round. Against the Packers, McCaffrey tallied 128 total yards and 2 TDs.

He has been a touchdown machine this season, netting 21 total TDs, 14 of which were on the ground. McCaffrey had seven games of 100 or more rushing yards during the regular season, which also led the NFL.

Quarter4’s projections have the All-Pro RB finishing with 82.5 yards on 19.1 rushing attempts (up from his 17.0 average), but their AI-powered predictions have McCaffrey’s chances of rushing for a score far lower than normal. The Heavy model has McCaffrey rushing for 0.5 TDs. That’s a 44.4% decrease from his 0.9 per-game average, which feels significant.

Watching the Niners’ all-everything back go up against Aidan Hutchinson and company promises to be one of the better matchups in this game.

2. Arik Armstead Could Have a Big Game

San Francisco defensive tackle Arik Armstead played in 12 games during the regular season, and hadn’t played since December 3 before returning to action last week against the Packers.

He made his presence felt on the interior immediately, finishing with 5 pressures on 29 pass rush snaps. Quarter4 predicts Armstead will have another big game against Detroit.

Armstead had 5.5 sacks in his 12 games (that’s a 0.4 per game average), and the Heavy model has him at 0.7 sacks for this game. That’s a 75% increase on his average, which is significant. Quarter4 also has the Niners’ D-lineman upping his solo tackle average in this one by 38.5%.

3. Mark Down an Amon-Ra St. Brown TD

Lions wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown had his first All-Pro campaign this year, and for good reason. Including Detroit’s two playoff games, the third-year WR has 134 catches for 1,702 yards and 11 scores on the season.

He has 15 receptions for 187 yards (12.5 yards per catch) and one touchdown this postseason, and our model has his hot streak continuing against the 49ers.

Quarter 4’s predicted stat line for St. Brown is 6.5 catches for 84.3 yards and 1.0 TDs. The Lions WR averaged 0.6 TDs per contest on the season, so that’s a 66.7% positive differential. He has scored a TD in eight of his last 11 games, including one last week in the divisional round against the Buccaneers. Look for him to find the end zone again here.

4. San Francisco’s Defense Will Strike First

The 49ers had the NFL’s third-best scoring defense during the regular season, surrendering just 17.5 points per contest. Led by Armstead, defensive lineman Nick Bosa and LB Fred Warner, San Francisco’s defense has pestered opposing QBs all year. Goff may want to prepare himself.

Quarter 4’s projections have San Francisco with an 80% chance to snag the game’s first interception and an 82% chance to get the first sack.

San Francisco had the NFL’s second-highest interception rate (3.5%) and the defense finished with 48 sacks on the season. After having a first-round bye, the Niners ‘D’ had some rust and didn’t have a sack against the Packers last week. They should get the rust off and get to Goff in this one.

5. Take the Over, Because This Should Be a High-Scoring Game

Other sportsbooks have the over/under at 50.5 or 51.0 points. The Heavy model has it at 54.0 points. With both teams boasting solid defenses and explosive offenses, offense is likely to win out.

Both Goff and Purdy rank in the top five in passing yards and TDs thrown this season, so a shootout could be coming.

One thing to keep an eye on: The injury status of 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel.

In the three games Samuel missed this season, San Francisco averaged just 17 points per game on offense. Samuel suffered a shoulder injury against the Packers in the divisional round, and his chances to play here are 50-50, according to ESPN.

Here’s a look at how our model compares to others heading into Sunday’s matchup:

Outlet Spread Total
Heavy* 49ers -5.5 54
MGM 49ers -7 51
DraftKings 49ers -7 51
FanDuel 49ers -7 50.5
SugarHouse 49ers -7 51
PointsBet 49ers -7 50.5
Bet365 49ers -7 51
ESPNBET 49ers -7 50.5

* The Heavy data point is a projected spread powered by Quarter4. The other outlets in the table are all sportsbooks.