NFL Playoff Picks: Conference Championship Predictions

Doug Upstone

Wednesday, January 14, 2015 3:26 PM UTC

Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015 3:26 PM UTC

We are down to the Conference Championships and for those making NFL picks, this gets a little dicey. As we know, the sportsbooks numbers are going to be spot-on, thus we have to choose the best value.

Seattle to Return to Super Bowl with Victory and Cover
Green Bay returns to the NFC title game for the first time in four years and has a rematch with Seattle. In the Week 1 confrontation, Seattle dominated the action 36-16, as the Packers run defense was gouged for 207 yards and a healthy Aaron Rodgers ended up with only 175 yards passing. Green Bay’s road woes have been well-documented at 4-4 and 3-5 ATS, averaging just 21 points per game.

Seattle is the first Super Bowl champion to win a playoff game in nine years and they certainly do not look like they are done yet. The way Seattle is playing, it appears the only thing that can slow them down from beating the NFL odds is themselves.

For the Packers to cover, let alone pull the upset, the offensive line will have to play outstanding in protecting Rodgers from the pocket and having it running backs rushing for at least 150 yards. On defense, Green Bay has to keep Russell Wilson in the pocket, find ways to create negative plays on first and second down. The Pack is 1-8 ATS in last nine underdog assignments.

If Marshawn Lynch finds running lanes, this opens up everything Wilson would like to do on offense and with his skill as a runner and passer on the move, he places tremendous pressure on opposing defenses. The defense is healthy, fast and tenacious and the secondary not only has exceptional cover skills but competes for the ball like none other in the NFL.

If Green Bay cannot run the ball, Rodgers is a sitting duck in the pocket. The Seahawks are 8-0 ATS after two straight wins by 10 or more points since last season and win by 13 or more.

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Are the Colts Destiny’s Darlings?
As NFL football handicappers and those placing sports picks have witnessed, when lower seeded teams start making deep runs into playoffs, inevitably they have that “ah ha” moment that is not known to the outside world and evolves from the inside.

After having one rushing yard against Dallas in Week 16 42-7 thrashing at Dallas and just 65 the following game against Tennessee, the offensive line has helped Indianapolis rush for 114 and 99 yards in two playoff games.

Andrew Luck was quoted saying the O-Line was “good” before the Bengals game and he’s been sacked once in two contests. Luck is 0-3 against New England and has thrown eight interceptions, but he’s been playing smarter or late and checking down to running back Dan Herron when wide receivers are covered.  

Tom Brady understands what his team needs to do to advance to the Super Bowl, stayed “balanced” against Indianapolis. In the Week 11 42-20 rout of the Colts, New England rushed for 246 yards, which had followed up rushing for 234 yards in the postseason last year in the 42-23 beatdown. The Patriots will need to find balance after last week, in which they overcome two 14-point deficits and rushed for 13 total yards.

The Patriots offensive line will face a suddenly confident Indianapolis crew that will come in believing if they can get in Brady’s face, they can slow him like they did Peyton Manning. The Colts secondary is also dramatically better then Baltimore’s and they are 6-0 ATS after allowing 17 points or less in two straight games. In addition, if the Pats defense cannot do better than surrendering 428 yards to the Ravens, Luck can and will carve them up.

I’ll stick with New England advancing to Super Bowl winning, just by three or four points.

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