With the Divisional Round in the books, we are only two wins away from declaring the Super Bowl XLIX finalists. Here are our predictions against the spread for the highly anticipated Championship Round of the playoffs complete with NFL picks.
Packers +7.5 vs. Seahawks -7.5
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers descend on CenturyLink Field for the NFC Championship game. Standing in their way of the Super Bowl XLIX are the defending champions Seattle Seahawks, who are coming off a 31-17 win over the Carolina Panthers and sneaking narrowly the 13.5-point cover as home faves. Packers rallied to defeat the Cowboys 26-21 in high-octane afffair at Lambeau, only narrowly missing on the 5.5-point cover when they opted to go for the two-point conversion rather than kicking for the point.
As it stands, early money is almost split down the middle with 49% of the public backing the Packers and 51% backing the Seahawks. If Packers money continues to pour in, it's quite possible the NFL betting line will whittle down to 7-points or less. If you fancy the Packers to cover on your NFL picks, the extra half-point might be useful.
There are several key storylines for this game. On one hand, this matchup featured at the start of the season with the Packers losing 36-16 as the 4.5-point road pups. On the other hand, more recent developments, feature an Aaron Rodgers that is less than 100%. Granted it's not hindered the Packers as yet as they won their last two games with Rodgers hobbling on one foot, so it could be much ado about nothing. Then again the Seattle defense isn't something to take lightly.
Packers are 8-1 SU in their last nine game and 5-4 ATS, which includes a loss against the spread in as the 5.5-point home chalk in the Divisional Round 26-21 win over the Cowboys. Packers are not without their issues on the road this season, going just 4-4 SU and 3-5 ATS. What's more, they are also just 1-5 SU and ATS against the NFC West. By comparison, the Seahawks are riding a seven-game winning streak into the NFC Championship game and a solid 6-0-1 ATS mark. What's more, they are 5-0 SU and ATS in their last five meetings with NFC North opponents.
However, one NFL betting trend tips the scale towards the Packers: head-to-head, the Packers are 6-3 SU and 4-3-2 ATS in their last nine meetings with Seattle. Conventional opinion points towards the Seahawks based on the current form they are enjoying, but it's hard not to be swept up by what the Packers have accomplished and overcome to reach the NFC Championship game. We expect them to be more competitive than the NFL odds would suggest, if not defy the NFL odds completely. Hence, we're hanging our hat on the Packers on our NFL picks to keep it close.
NFL Pick: Packers +7.5 at 5Dimes
Colts +7.0 vs. Patriots -7.0
The Colts defied the NFL odds in the Divisional Round, upsetting the Denver Broncos 24-13 to cash both SU and as the 9.5-point road pups. Through to their first Championship title game with Andrew Luck at quarterback, the overriding question is whether they can take another step forward.
The Colts face a much tougher prospect in the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Tom Brady and Company are coming off a sensational 35-31 win over the Ravens in the previous round. Patriots shook off a slow start to the game and twice erased 14-point deficits before taking the lead in the final stages. Although that account revealed some vulnerability to the Patriots' core, it also showed they had fight-back and spirit.
Luck has struck out in three meetings with the Patriots. He is 0-3 SU and ATS when pit against Tom Brady, including a 42-20 loss at home as the 3-point chalk in week 11 NFL betting. In fact, all those losses have been 20-point plus defeats. Undoubtedly, Luck is a quarterback with lots of upside. Knocking off his predecessor Peyton Manning in the postseason is a step in the right direction. Beating the Patriots at the Foxboro is going to be a different kettle of fish though, maybe even a task too big for the maturing and developing star in his AFC Championship debut.
At this point, it comes down to experience and not just talent. Brady is one of the most successful postseason quarterbacks this side of the Century and the double B combo (Brady-Belichick) is one of the most successful partnerships in the playoffs. Consider this power couple is just one win away from the Super Bowl. It would take a spectacular effort by Luck and the Colts defense to keep this game close, never mind win it all.
NFL Picks: Patriots -7.0 at The Greek