The No. 1 seeds have drawn most of the early money for Sunday's Conference Championship round. Are the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots sharp NFL picks?
Every once in a blue moon, the top four teams actually make it all the way to the semifinals. Remember when Kansas, Memphis, UCLA and North Carolina all advanced to the Final Four of the 2008 March Madness basketball tournament? Good times. As for the NFL, the last time the top two seeds in each conference made it to the Conference Championships was at the end of the 2004 season. Hmmm... who was it that won the Super Bowl that year?
Oh, yeah: the New England Patriots. Once again, New England is in the AFC title game as the No. 2 seed, facing the No. 1 Denver Broncos this Sunday (3:05 p.m. ET, CBS) at Mile High. And wouldn't you know it, the Patriots are 3-point road faves, just like they were 11 years ago when they beat the No. 1 Pittsburgh Steelers 41-27. No wonder so many people are pouring money into the Pats this week. Our consensus reports show 67 percent of bettors on New England, supplying 81 percent of the action for Sunday's matchup.
Am I Blue?
It's pretty much the same story in the NFC. The No. 1 Carolina Panthers are the home team in this case, but they're also 3-point faves on the NFL Odds for Sunday's tilt (6:40 p.m. ET, FOX) with the No. 2 Arizona Cardinals. The early money was on the Panthers; at press time, our consensus numbers show 60 percent of bettors on Carolina with 87 percent of the monies wagered.
Is any of this sharp action? It's a little harder to tell than usual. Ideally, when we're browsing the consensus numbers looking for a piggy-back opportunity on a sharp pick, we want a team that's getting a minority of bettors, but a majority of the action – a considerable majority at that. That's not the case this week. However, the Patriots and Panthers have each drawn six $1,000+ wagers on our reports, while the Broncos and Cards have combined for three such bets as we go to press. Big money is plausibly sharp money.
Must Read: Where's the Public Love for the Underdogs?
We're not convinced here at the ranch. With all four top seeds advancing to the Conference round, there's bound to be considerable public money on all four teams – especially the Patriots, and to a lesser extent on Cam Newton and the Cats. Neither Denver nor Arizona fit the typical profile of a sharp NFL Pick; yes, they're underdogs playing against public teams, but again, the Broncos and Cardinals have drawn tons of public money themselves this year.
Not a problem. At this time of year, fading the squares is more important than following the sharps. It's always nicer when those two paths lead to the same obvious conclusion, though. We'll see what happens at Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara; in the meantime, may the prolate spheroid be with you.