Do the bookies have it right or will the NFC deliver some surprises in the playoffs. Find out as we weigh the NFL odds and serve up our analyses and predictions.
The NFC Championship Race: Seahawks Team To Beat
Predictably, Seattle Seahawks, the defending champions, are the team to beat in the NFC Championship Race. The interesting bit: they have the NFL odds practically cornered as the prohibitive -138 favourites to win outright. This is a remarkable twist considering only seven weeks ago the narrative was ominous following a less than stellar start to the season and a 6-4 SU record through ten laps. So is there an NFC contender that can turn the NFL betting market on its head or do the bookies have this conference categorically right?
The defending champions roll into the playoffs as the -138 favourites to win the NFC Championship. They are a country mile ahead of their nearest threat the Green Bay Packers and, more importantly, on the favourable side of even money. No team in the AFC Conference enjoys such a favourable nob. Odds makers and NFL bettors alike are hanging their hats on the Seahawks' surge in form down the stretch, winning six games in a row through solid defending and sensible quarterback play, not unlike their Superbowl winning run. That being said the last time a team pulled off the double was the New England Patriots with back-to-back titles in the 2003-04 season and 2004-05 season.
The Green Bay Packers could have been the top seed in the NFC but for a costly 21-13 road loss to the Buffalo Bills in week 15 NFL betting. Had they not lost that game they'd have finished the season with a 13-3 record and the NFL betting landscape in this section could have been slightly different. In any event, they are the second seed and no less of a threat for it. They remain one of the top contenders in the NFC, second behind the Seahawks according to odds makers. In the eyes of many, they are the best bet given Aaron Rodgers' MVP contending season. Of course, everything depends on Rodgers getting fit in time for the divisional round. In the last lap of the regular season, the stoic Rodgers, suffering from a torn calf muscle, hobbled to a 30-20 win over the Lions. It was a singularly impressive performance by the elite quarterback, but if the Packers are to endure a lasting run in the postseason, they'll need Rodgers at 100% fitness. Last season, the Packers were eliminated by the Niners in the wildcard round.
Is this Tony Romo's year? That is the overriding question in NFL betting circles. Dallas has been gagging for a Superbowl since their heyday in the 90's and for the first time in approximately 25 years, they appear to have their best shot. Romo surpassed Rodgers (112.2) down the stretch as the hottest hand in the NFL with a 113.2 rating. As far as the broad spectrum of the playoffs go, the Cowboys stand well ahead of the wildcard chasing pack on +1100 NFL odds to win the Superbowl; that's quite the statement on the NFL odds board.
Of the group set to battle in the first round of the playoffs, they are the by far the team to spot. A win over the Lions would put them against the Packers in a battle between the undefeated road team vs. the undefeated home team. What's more, if the Cowboys could somehow overcome the Packers at Lambeau, they'd certainly fancy their chances in Seattle – the most likely destination for the NFC Championship game according to the NFL odds. Cowboys have a win over Seahawks on the road this season to their credit and should it come down to the pair colliding, the Cowboys could pull off the second straight upset.
Nobody is buying what the Lions are selling right now. On paper, they strike an attractive pose with the players they have. In reality, it's just not coming together as it should. Their last few rounds were excruciating to say the least, behind erratic play and less than convincing wins. In the battle for the NFC North title, they lost to the Packers and a hobbling Rodgers – not exactly a performance to endorse their NFL odds. What's more, the Lions have historical hurdles to overcome: they are winless in the playoffs for a couple of decades.
Although the Panthers enter the wildcard round as the favourites over the Cardinals, if they come through on their NFL odds they're destined to be the severe underdogs throughout the rest of their campaign. Simply put: they are a 7-8-1 SU team that got into the playoffs only by virtue of the disarray in the NFC South. It's hard to buy what they are selling in the face of a star-studded field that boasts elite quarterbacks, proven champions and teams riding the momentum of solid seasons.
Cardinals may have had a solid season but the NFL odds are stacked against them overwhelmingly because their championship hopes rest on the inexperienced shoulders of third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley. Of course, everybody loves a Cinderella story in championship competitions, an underdog that emerges out of nowhere, defies the odds to pull off the unthinkable. In this case, it's absurdly improbably that such a plot twist would emerge in the NFC Championship race.
NFC Championship Predictions: As it stands, it's hard to go against the script on the NFL odds board and NFL pick against the top two teams: Seattle and Green Bay. The must-see game if all goes to plan is certainly going to be the clash between the Packers and Cowboys (assuming Cowboys beat the Lions) and the winner of that matchup is going to be in a great position to win the NFC Championship title in our opinion. We're predicting the Packers and Seahawks collide in the Conference final and the Packers beat the Seahawks, thereby avenging their season opening loss to the Seahawks.
NFL Picks: Packers +240