NFL Betting: Early Conference Championship Rundown & Free Picks

Kevin Stott

Monday, January 18, 2016 1:19 PM UTC

Monday, Jan. 18, 2016 1:19 PM UTC

Let’s looks at some early numbers and pop out some first-thought NFL picks which will hopefully be a little more profitable than last weekend’s stinking pile of dung. It certainly won’t be hard.

New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos
Point Spread: Patriots -3 -115 (bet365)
Money Line: Patriots -165, Broncos +145 (bet365)
Best Super Bowl Odds: Patriots +225 (Boylesports), Broncos 4/1 (BetVictor)
Site: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colorado
Playing Surface: Desso GrassMaster
Weather: Partly Cloudy, 49°, Winds NNE 6-10 mph, Humidity 39%
Time: 3:05 p.m. EST/12:05 p.m. PST [20:05]
Radio: SiriusXM Satellite Radio
Online: NFL Game Pass
Patriots SU, ATS Record Seed: (13-4 SU, 8-7 ATS, #2 seed—AFC East Winner)
Broncos SU, ATS Record Seed: (13-4 SU, 8-8-1 ATS, #1 seed—AFC West Winner)
Head Coaching Showdown: Bill Belichick (16th year) vs. Gary Kubiak (1st year)
QB Showdown: Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning
WR Matchups: Julian Edelman/Danny Amendola vs. Demaryius Thomas/Emmanuel Sanders
Patriots Defense: #9, 5,431 yards, 374.4 yards, 19.7 ppg (Regular Season)
Broncos Defense: #1, 4,530 yards, 283.1 yards, 18.5 ppg
Patriots Offense: #6, 5,991 yards, 374.4 ypg, 29.1 ppg
Broncos Offense: #16, 5,688 yards, 355.5 ypg, 24.3 ppg
TO Differential: Patriots #5, +7, Broncos Tied #19, -4
Last Meeting: Week 12 (Nov. 29, 2015), @ Broncos 30 Patriots 24 (NE -2½, 43)
Fun Facts and Rhetorical Questions: If the Patriots had won the above meeting between these two teams in Week 12 of the Regular Season, they would be hosting this game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough instead of having to play here in Denver if everything else played out with these top two seeds advancing in the AFC...Denver defeated and covered as an Underdog seven weeks ago in Denver with Brock Osweiler at QB so why can’t they win and cover here as underdogs with Peyton Manning? The Broncos were the only who entered this Postseason with a negative TO Margin (-4). Can first-year Head Coach Gary Kubiak out-coach NFL coaching Grandpa and 16-year man Bill Belichick? The Broncos have the #1 Defense in the NFL. What have we seen more: Clintons and Bushes running for US President or Brady-Manning showdowns? Both Denver (6, 3, 3, 11) and Pittsburgh (7, 3, 3, 3) scored in every quarter in their AFC Divisional Round game here in the Rocky Mountains on Sunday...Will they 5,280-feet Altitude and 2-Hour Time Difference (EST to MST) have effects on the Patriots? Will it help that they just played here in late November? The host and #1 seed in the AFC, these Broncos came down to a Week 17 game against San Diego here in Denver where a Loss would have left them as either the #2, #3, #5 or #6 seed in the conference...Can you please stop with the rhetorical questions? QB Brady (6 yards) and WR Edelman (11 yards) almost had as many yards (17) on just 2 carries as New England’s two RB’s Steven Jackson (6 rushes, 16 yards) and James White (1 rush, 5 yards) did (21 yards)...Not intentionally.
The Big Things Here: The Homefield Advantage vs. Experience, Expectations and overall much Better Team. And also (for the Patriots) having TE Rob Gronkowski on your Roster and (for the Broncos) having 39-year-old Peyton Manning getting a game in (and a Win) under his belt before dealing with a team that isn’t all beat up like the Walking Dead Pittsburgh Steelers. And Uncle Bill knew this scenario was a possibility when he called off the dogs late in the season to let some of his key Skill Players on Offense totally heal. And with invaluable waterbugs Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman back at WR and the OL healthy, Belichick has his Roster right where he wants it Physically, Mentally and Emotionally although he would sure love to have either Dion Lewis (Knee, Injured-Reserve List) and/or LeGarrette Blount (Hip, Injured-Reserve List) at the RB position. But for now, Steven Jackson (6 rushes, 16 yards vs Chiefs) and James White (1 rush, 5 yards) will have to do, meaning New England will be passing on almost every single play. And, Denver really seems to be living a Charmed Life these days, almost not even making the Playoffs but getting some Luck with a capital ‘L’ and also having the Chargers at Home in Week 17 and then drawing the really, really, really beat-up Steelers (Big Ben, Brown, Bell, Williams, Pouncey) team in the AFC Divisional Round. And having a good enough backup QB (Brock Osweiler) to help get them to this point. But with the Broncos Offense still really suspect, expect Kubiak to try to develop a good Rushing game early on here with RBs Ronnie Hillman (863 yards, 7 TDs) and CJ Anderson (720 yards, 5 TDs)—something the Patriots won’t have at their disposal. Denver will have the better D, the Crowd and the Rocky Mountain Altitude and the last meeting all working for them as well as that hopeful Rushing attack but the Patriots are in the middle of a Dynasty and are still no doubt (pretending to be) mad about Deflategate or something else. But the biggest things that should matter here are the Patriots unwavering Confidence, Healthy Roster and TE extraordinaire Gronkowski, easily the most valuable and clutch player in the NFL.

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NFL Pick: Patriots -3 -115 
Best Line Offered: at TheGreek


Arizona Cardinals vs. Carolina Panthers
Point Spread/Total: Panthers -3, 46½ (Sky Bet)
Money Line: Panthers -170, Cardinals +150 (William Hill)
Best Super Bowl Odds: Panthers +210 (Paddy Power), Cardinals +400 (888sport)
Site: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
Playing Surface: Grass
Weather: Sunny, 53°, Winds W 5 mph, Humidity 50%, Moonrise 6:38 p.m. EST
Time: 6:40 pm EST/3:40 p.m. PST [23:40]
Radio: SiriusXM Satellite Radio
Online: NFL Game Pass
Cardinals SU, ATS Record Seed: (14-3 SU, 9-8 ATS, #2 seed—NFC West winner)
Panthers SU, ATS Record Seed: (16-1 SU, 12-5 ATS, #1 seed—NFC South Winner)
Head Coaching Showdown: Ron Rivera (5th year) vs. Bruce Arians (3rd year)
QB Showdown: Carson Palmer vs. Cam Newton
WR Matchups: Fitzgerald/Floyd/John Brown vs. Ginn Jr./Cotchery/Brown
Cardinals Defense: #5, 5,147 yards, 321.7 ypg, 19.6 ppg (Regular Season)
Panthers Defense: #6, 5,167 yards, 322.9 yards, 19.3 ppg
Cardinals Offense: #1, 6,533 yards, 408.3 ypg, 30.6 ppg
Panthers Offense: #11, 5,871 yards, 366.9, 31.3 ppg
TO Differential: Panthers #1, +20, Cardinals #4, +9
Last Meeting: NFC Wild Card (Jan. 3, 2015), Panthers 27 Cardinals 16 (CAR -5½, 37½ on the NFL odds board)
Fun Facts and Rhetorical Questions: These two very (once) underrated teams met a year ago in the NFC Wild Card Round here in Charlotte with the Panthers winning and covering as the game went Over the Total (37½) by 5½ points, but this season, the Total has opened at 47 at some sportsbooks, almost 10 points higher than last season. Why? Both teams are much better and Ryan Lindley started for Arizona who had Palmer (Knee) injured and out for the bulk of the season. The Cardinals also have the best Offense in the entire league in awhile and topped both the 30 ppg (average) mark and were the only NFL team to outgain opponents by more than 1 yards per play on Offense...The Panthers had a gaudy+20 Takeaway/Giveaway Margin (39 takeaways - 19 Giveaways =) and on Sunday in disposing of the Seahawks and Russell Wilson, Carolina was +2 with 2 Interceptions, including stud LB Luke Kuechly’s 14-yard one for a TD early on that set the tone for the day...Will the Panthers being held scoreless in the 2nd Half vs. Seattle have some effect on them? Carolina was 3-for-3 in the Red Zone on Sunday...Cam Newton is 25-18-1 ATS at Home, 7-2 ATS this season...Little girls in Pink getting handed footballs from RBs after TDs = 2.11 points plus Good Karma in The Future...The sense of Community seen in Charlotte on Sunday seems to have become quite powerful and expect the biggest showing and most support in the franchise’s history this coming Sunday afternoon when Arizona heads east to the Hornet’s Nest....Don’t underestimate the Panthers Receiving corps either like many talking voices on the lemming-like Radio did who proclaimed in August that Carolina QB Cam Newton had nothing to work with when star WR Kelvin Benjamin went down with a season-ending Injury before the Regular Season. TEs Greg Olsen and Oregon product Ed Dickson along with WRs Corey Brown, Ted Ginn Jr., Jerricho Cotchery and Rookie (Michigan) Devin Funchess offer the perfect mix for this team which prefers to not beat itself first and foremost, create TO’s and play great D and be able to Rush the ball well as they do with workhorse RB James Stewart—who had the longest run of his NFL career early on on the first set of downs against Seattle on Sunday—and with Newton when he has to. And he likes to, too.

The Big Things Here: Faces, Hands, Legs and the Site. Specifically, Cam Newton and Carson Palmer’s hands, faces and legs—as seen on display this past NFL Divisional Playoff weekend. Newton was smiling most of the game and happy and confident and pointing forward confidently after gains—as he has done all this season, easily his finest—showing opposing D’s he has the Size (6-5, 245 pounds) and is healthy and not afraid to get hurt and not like your average QB. Palmer was grimacing and nervous and looked bothered all game long against Green Bay and he was at Home (UoP Stadium in Glendale) and his team won. The Hands? Simple. Auburn product Newton’s are strong and healthy and producing without thought while Palmer’s Right Hand is not an optimal Right hand for a QB that needs to throw the football to his wonderful corps of Receivers, especially with main RB Chris Johnson on the shelf. Even that funky, flexible Cardinal-colored red tape couldn’t disguise just how much USC product Palmer is (over-) thinking when he throws the football because of the Injury. And Saturday’s Win over the Packers—where the officiating certainly didn’t help the visitors from Wisconsin—Palmer was overthrowing and aiming and trying to zip balls in, accommodating that bad finger, and it showed. And the legs? C’mon man. Carson Palmer can’t really run too much and isn’t expected to, especially coming back from an ACL injury (25 rushes, 24 yards, 0 TD) while Cam Newton may be running right now with a pizza in one hand and a football in the other as you read this and Newton rushed 132 times for 636 yards (4.8 ypc) and 10 TDs and lord knows how many crucial 1st Downs when receivers were covered downfield. And when that happens—QBs scrambling up-field for yards—opposing Defense get that in the back of their minds and have to be more aware of the potential run. In short, when Palmer fades back LBs and DBs pretty much know he’s throwing the pigskin somewhere. The same can’t be said for Newton, the Terminator QB. He will run and there’s nothing you can do but hope he doesn’t run too far or hurt you when you try to tackle him. Few have probably got hurt tackling Carson Palmer.

And playing in the friendly womb of Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte where they beat these guys last year and where little girls and boys could get handed a TD Football at any second, making their Lives and creating more good energy than a shipment of steroids ever could. Trying to overcome all of this and play TO-free Football after heading East—it’s harder to travel from West to East than from East to West in all sports—while losing 2 Body Clock Hours (MST to EST) after not playing a great game means backing the Cats to win is the call although the later start (second game of day) is a good thing for the visitors from the Grand Canyon State. Even though Arizona has played a much tougher schedule than Carolina, the Panthers haven’t had to travel, are very healthy, are playing the best Football they ever have and now have the added Confidence after pounding the un-poundable Seattle in Sunday. Oooh-eee. And with so much Speed (John Brown, Jaron Brown, Jaron Brown, Ted Ginn Jr,) and so much Passing and so much do-or-die, the Over seems like the best bet with both teams likely to get at least 3 TDs and a FG. With the Cardinals averaging over 400 ypg and 30 ppg and having future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald trying to carry the team on his old back along with Michael Floyd and John Brown as well as some temperate Southeast weather in the forecast, backing the Over in Charlotte is the first thought here for our NFL pick.

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NFL Pick: Over 47
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

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