Just eight teams remain in contention during the 2014 NFL playoffs and the field will be whittled down to just four after the weekend’s Divisional Round.
If you’re looking to get an advantage over the public and receive good odds on a Super Bowl bet, now is the time to do so. Once the amount of contenders is cut in half, the odds for each will decrease significantly.
Identifying a potential winner from each conference is the smart choice, as it affords bettors a potential hedge opportunity if they are fortunate enough to have both picks advance to the big game in New Jersey.
Let’s take a look at the updated odds for each team to make Super Bowl XLVIII, plus highlight two teams you should back before the games start this weekend.
|San Francisco 49ers||5-1|
|New England Patriots||8-1|
|New Orleans Saints||12-1|
|San Diego Chargers||12-1|
Projected AFC Winner: New England Patriots
The Pats' road to the Super Bowl begins on Saturday night, with their longstanding rivalry with the Indianapolis Colts once again getting renewed in the playoffs.
However, New England is widely expected to take care of business against Indianapolis and has been installed as a seven-point favorite according to Bovada.lv.
The Colts needed a historical, 28-point comeback at home to fend off the Kansas City Chiefs—playing without top offensive weapon Jamaal Charles for almost the entire game—in the Wild Card Round. Indianapolis still gave up 44 points in the affair, proving that its defense isn’t capable or stable enough to make a serious run at a championship.
Those types of miracles simply won’t fly against a disciplined, tough Pats squad that prides itself on limiting opponents defensively. No opponent put up more than 31 points against New England in 2013 and it isn’t likely to happen in a win-or-go-home situation.
As long as Tom Brady and the offense can get going early and put some easy points on the board against a soft defense, this game should go in New England's favor.
However, that isn’t exactly a guarantee with this Pats team. Brady admitted as much after a narrow loss to the Miami Dolphins in the regular season, as per ESPN Boston:
Our margin of error is very slim. We can't make any mistakes or give them any opportunities. If we have plays that are there to be made, then I've got to throw it and hit it. We've got to come up with them.
We're not winning by 30 points. Every game comes down to the end. We've just got to do a better job when we have opportunities as a team in all three phases to make plays to help us secure wins.
Will the Pats make the Super Bowl?
Regardless, it would be foolish not to get behind Brady and head coach Bill Belichick, the winningest tandem in the post-merger history of the league. They’ve combined for five Super Bowl appearances and three wins, and are seemingly on the cusp of yet another showing in the big game.
Winning in Denver—should the Broncos emerge victorious against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday—would be tough, but the Pats came back from a 24-point deficit to defeat the Broncos earlier in the year. Brady is also 9-4 in head-to-head matchups with Peyton Manning and his side looks poised to get it done wherever and whenever it plays this postseason.
Projected NFC Winner: Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks will get their playoff journey underway at CenturyLink Field on Saturday afternoon, hosting the New Orleans Saints for the second time this season.
It did not go that well for the Saints the first time around, as they lost 34-7 in a nationally televised, Week 13 Monday Night Football contest.
They had no answer for the ‘Hawk’s smothering defense and balanced offense led by quarterback Russell Wilson, who went off for 310 yards and three scores on 22 of 30 passing, plus rushed for 47 yards on eight carries.
Considering the Seahawks lost just a single game at home in 2013 and ranked at or near the top of the league in a number of significant defensive categories—including number of rushing and total yards conceded to the opponent—the Saints will be lucky to even keep this one close.
Seattle’s official Twitter feed noted just how great its rushing defense has been as of late:
Best stat in last 4 games of 2013: 38 combined rushing yards allowed by Seahawks defense. http://t.co/aOL1FB0t6K— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) January 1, 2014
With New Orleans likely to be quickly reduced to a one-dimensional passing offense, it stands little chance of putting up enough points to hang with the Seahawks.
Because of its No. 1 overall seed in the conference, Seattle would then play host to the winner of the San Francisco 49ers vs. Carolina Panthers contest. While both teams are tough and have Super Bowl-worthy defenses, their offenses aren’t as powerful compared to the Seahawks.
Seattle put up 26.1 points and averaged 339 yards per game this past season, while San Francisco mustered up 25.4 points and 323 yards in that span. Carolina was even worse, generating just 22.9 points and 316.8 yards per game in 2013.
That tiny bit of offensive production will be a make-or-break stat in a defensive-oriented NFC Championship. It will allow the Seahawks to represent the conference in the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2005 campaign.