NFL Picks: Conference Championship Weekend's Top Bets

Doug Upstone

Wednesday, January 15, 2014 4:48 PM GMT

With only two football games to choose from, the options narrow on wagering choices, thus we will look ahead to the various aspects which should offer value on sides, total money lines and props. Sage NFL football handicappers have all this covered and have or are ready to pounce on the right numbers and know which betting odds to avoid.

Public Showing Little Faith in Manning and the Broncos 

Football bettors making NFL picks have expressed a lack of faith in Peyton Manning and Denver in dumping them two points from sportsbooks original release of -6.5 to -4.5. The 37-year old Manning, has lost three times in his career as a No.1 or No. 2 seed before reaching the Super Bowl, which is a cause for skepticism, along with the fact he is 4-10 SU vs. New England and Tom Brady in his career.

Nevertheless, Denver is 21-11-2 ATS since Manning decided to put on a Broncos uniform and they are 15-5 ATS as 3.5 to 9.5-point favorites.

The initial returns have the betting public backing New England against the spread by a 3-to-1 margin, but the Patriots needed a miracle to win earlier this season and that was at home and their defense is far and away the worst of the final four. Plus I uncovered, teams that score 40 or more points before their conference championship are 2-8-1 ATS the past 18 years.

On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 is highest): 4* on Denver

[gameodds]16/255405/?r3=43-19-349/dec&r-1=43-19-349/us[/gameodds]

NFC Championship in Need of New Basement

Since the total in the NFC title tilt was released at 41, it has fallen like Alex Rodriguez popularity ratings, down all the way to 39 points. The reasoning is obvious; both previous matchups this season were in the low 40’s for closing numbers and neither battle reached 37 total points.

Both Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh coach their teams from a bygone era, thinking run-first. Oh sure they use read-options and jet sweeps which are popular today, but both teams average over 55 percent run plays on the season and each has a fabulous defense which can suffocate the opposition.

With Seattle on a sweet 6-0 UNDER run, I see no reason to consider the Over.

3* on the UNDER

[gameodds]16/255344/?r3=43-19-349/dec&r-1=43-19-349/us[/gameodds]

Harder Wagers to Make

This football season I did a weekly article and video for SBR Forum called “Games to Avoid or Fade”. In those two formats, I suggested which contests NOT to make sports picks for various reasons. With just two offerings in the NFL this week, it is difficult for me to say not to play a side or total, but I do find situations which would cause me and possibly you to make smaller wagers.

For example, the total on New England and Denver was listed at 55.5 and with two high-powered offenses led by Hall of Fame quarterbacks facing suspect defenses, playing Over the total seems a natural. However, the Broncos defense has only surrendered 17.7 points a game in their last four outings, which places some doubt at least in my mind.

In addition, San Francisco with the hook at +3.5 is tempting the way they are playing, but Seattle has covered five in a row against the 49ers, potentially setting up a coin flip against these NFL odds.

1* N.E./ Denver Under

1* San Francisco +3.5

Money Line Action

Most sportsbooks greatest fear this time of year is big spread, which means big money lines, which the public is more than willing to take on a long shot.

While is can be an appealing strategy, there has been only six winners out of 20 the last decade in the Conference Championship contests. New England offers a larger payout, but of the six outright upsets, only three were by four or more points.

Packed with this information, San Francisco is the more attractive play for my money.

1* San Francisco on the Money Line

Favorite Prop Bet

The proposition wagers will continue to come as the week progresses, but one that really caught my eye was….

49ers vs Seahawks - Over/Under Largest Lead of the Game (After Conversion Attempt) – Over 13.5 (-130), Under 13.5 (Even)

I understand Seattle has whipped the Niners the last two times at home, but I see this as a very evenly matched contest and unless the turnovers are one-sided, it is hard for me to comprehend either team would have a two-touchdown lead.

3* Under 13.5 on Largest Lead of the Game