NFL Playoff Betting Value Picks For Conference Championships

LT Profits Sports Group

Saturday, January 23, 2016 5:03 PM GMT

After all four road teams won two weeks ago, the home teams prevailed last week, so we have two one-seed vs. two-seed matchups for our NFL picks this weekend in the NFL Playoff Conference Finals.

 

Conference Championship Player Props
Conference Championship Betting Handbook

It has been a very formful NFL Playoffs up to this point, as even when all four road teams won during the wild card round, three of them were actually favored and the fourth was close to a Pick’em, and then all four higher seeded home teams prevailed in the divisional round last week. Thus we have two highly anticipated one-seed vs. two-seed matchups in the Conference Championships, and we are here with our NFL picks on the sides and totals of each game.

In the AFC, the second seeded Patriots won and covered vs. the Chiefs, and will now visit the top seeded Broncos in Denver after the latter rallied late to beat a game but short-handed Pittsburgh Steelers team. Over in the NFC, the second seeded Cardinals were almost victimized by another Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary before beating the Packers in overtime, and they will visit the top seeded Panthers, who outscored the Seahawks 31-0 in the first half and prevailed 31-24.

While the top-seeded Panthers, who have lost just one game all year, are the home favorites in the NFC, it is somewhat interesting that the second seeded Patriots are favored in the AFC despite playing at one of the more difficult venues for visiting teams in the entire league in Denver. As usual, these NFL odds come from Pinnacle.

 

Sunday, January 24th
Denver Broncos +3 (-107) over New England Patriots (3:05 ET):
First of all, we will concede that Peyton Manning is a mere shell of his former self and that while he was victimized by quite a few dropped passes last week, it does not change the fact that all of his downfield passes beyond 20 yards or so were fluttering butterflies. So it is a slam dunk which team has the better quarterback right now as Tom Brady showed no ill effects from his injured ankle in the 27-20 win over Kansas City last week. Fortunately for the Broncos though, football is not a one-on-one sport and when you consider the other 42 players that will be on the field this Sunday, we feel it is prudent to go against the masses here and back the Broncos as home underdogs. Incidentally, the Broncos were never home underdogs since Denver signed Peyton Manning in 2012 until they were home underdogs twice this year, and they won both of those contests outright, beating the Green Bay Packers with Manning under center and the then undefeated New England Patriots with Brick Osweiler at quarterback. So why do we think that Denver will make it a hat trick as a home underdog in this biggest game of all so far? Well, that would be because the Broncos have the superior running game and better defense, a formula that has won many Super Bowls in the past. In fact, if the Patriots do go on to win the Super Bowl, their 87.8-yard rushing average this season would be the lowest per-game rushing average of any Super Bowl winner. We do not think that New England will get the opportunity to do that though unless they have some unforeseeable success in the running game here, for as great a quarterback as Brady is, we have to side with a Denver team that led the NFL in passing defense this season allowing just 199.6 yards per game through the air vs. a one-dimensional passing offense, especially playing in the altitude of home.

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New England Patriots, Denver Broncos ‘Under’ 44½ (+100): We just touched on our belief that the Broncos are more than capable of containing the New England offense better than most other teams, and we believe that Denver will lean rather heavily on the running game offensively, a combination that seems quite conducive to an ‘under’ at this posted total. Granted, the Broncos did allow Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers to pass for over 300 yards last week, but as pointed out by SBR contributor Troy West, all that yardage did not translate to a lot of points and remember too that the Steelers were able to run the ball better than many expected, thus forcing the Denver defense to play honestly. In this game, we see no problem with the Broncos keying on Brady and his receivers and playing pass all the way without fear of the washed up Steven Jackson and the rest of the pedestrian New England running backs. On the other side, while the Patriots were not at the Broncos’ level defensively, New England was still very solid defensively overall ranking ninth in the NFL in total defense and 10th in scoring defense allowing only 19.7 points per game. So while we do expect the Broncos to score enough points to spring the upset, we still think both defenses will do enough to keep the scoring here to a minimum.

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Arizona Cardinals +3 (-104) over Carolina Panthers (6:40 ET): This is actually a meeting between the teams with the two best records in football, with the Panthers finishing the regular season 15-1 and the Cardinals finishing 13-3 with one of the losses basically being a throw-away to Seattle in the season finale with nothing at stake. Still, despite nearly squandering away that game vs. the Packers last week, we think a strong case can be made for Arizona actually being the better team here. Granted the Panthers surprisingly led the NFL in scoring this season averaging 31.2 points per game, but they were only 11th on total offense, indicating that many of their points were set up by their excellent defense creating good field position. But speaking of that defense, it did its best to let Seattle back in the game last week, allowing 24 unanswered points in the second half after racing out to that surprising 31-0 halftime lead. Jeff Cadillac correctly points out that was not the first time Carolina relaxed with a lead this year, and while the Panthers may not be in that same position vs. Arizona here, it is re-assuring from a Cardinals’ perspective that they will never really be out of this game even if they fall behind. Not that we anticipate that happening, or at least not to the extent that the Seahawks did, as the Cardinals were second in the league in points scored with 30.6 per game and first in total offense with 408.3 yards per contest. And the Cardinals are a difficult team to defend because of their great balance, as not only does Carson Palmer have a ton of weapons to throw to resulting in Arizona ranking second in the league in passing, but the running game also took off once David Johnson became the permanent starter, resulting in the Cardinals finishing eighth in rushing. Add in a defense ranked fifth in total defense and seventh in scoring defense as we are calling for the upset.

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Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers ‘over’ 47½ (+100): So if you were paying attention, you probably picked up on the surprising fact that these were the top two scoring offenses in the NFL this season! And although both teams are also very good defensively, we still feel that there will be no shortage of points scored in this game. We have already alluded to the excellent balance of the Arizona attack, and if the Carolina defense continues its alarming pattern of shutting down in the second half, the Cardinals could very well approach their season’s scoring average here, a feat that would almost certainly result in an upset. And while Carolina was only 11th in total offense, the Cardinals have not really faced a dual threat quarterback like Cam Newton all season that actually has running plays called for him, so the Panthers could use that wrinkle to generate offense vs. an Arizona defense ranked eighth against the pass and sixth against the run. Also, the Carolina defense does figure to at least give the offense good field position a few times, and then there is Ted Ginn, Jr. to spark the kick return game. Add this all up and, despite the two great defenses, we still foresee this contest getting into the 50s.

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