Super Bowl XLVIII is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 2, but the excitement over this weekend’s AFC and NFC conference championships has many football fans running to the betting window to make a wager on the latest odds.
With San Francisco scheduled to square off against Seattle in the NFC, and New England battling Denver on the AFC side, the matchups satisfy both hardcore and casual football fans alike.
The 2014 conference championships have all the earmarks of becoming instant classics.
FanSided.com provided a visual representation of the playoff bracket:
Here is the full schedule for the remainder of the 2014 playoffs:
|Round||Date (Time)||Time (ET)||Visitor||Home||TV Info|
|AFC Championship||Sunday, Jan. 19||3 p.m.||New England Patriots||Denver Broncos||CBS|
|NFC Championship||Sunday, Jan. 19||6:30 p.m.||San Francisco 49ers||Seattle Seahawks||Fox|
|Super Bowl XLVIII||Sunday, Feb. 2||6:30 p.m.||TBA||TBA||Fox|
Here are the latest odd for each team’s Super Bowl dreams:
|San Francisco 49ers||13/5||+300|
|New England Patriots||24/5||+425|
Source: Bovada and Vegas Insider
Safest Bet: Denver Broncos
There is no questioning the playoff experience of the New England Patriots (12-4) and quarterback Tom Brady, but the better overall team in Sunday's AFC Championship Game is the Denver Broncos (13-3).
Led by 2013 MVP favorite Peyton Manning, Denver's offensive unit has been the best in the NFL. With a league-best average of 457.3 yards, 37.9 points and 27.2 first downs per game, as well as an NFL record 606 points this season, the Broncos figure to hang at least 28 points on the scoreboard against the Patriots.
As NFL Network’s Andrew Siciliano points out, the history between Brady and Manning is undeniable:
Brady has faced Manning three times in the playoffs. Home team has won all 3 games and has gone on to win the Super Bowl each time.— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) January 13, 2014
New England will not go down without a fight, however, and will continue to feed the ball to running back LeGarrette Blount after he racked up 166 yards and four touchdowns against the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round.
The Patriots' ground game may be playing well right now, but Denver’s ability to hold the San Diego Chargers to just 65 total rushing yards to earn its spot in the AFC Championship Game will stifle New England’s game plan.
This game will be close, but the Broncos have more talent on both sides of the ball and will steal the victory.
Final score: Denver 28, New England 24
Long shot Worth a Wager: San Francisco 49ers
The Broncos have the inside lane to the AFC Championship, but the best battle of the weekend will happen on the NFC side of the schedule when the Seattle Seahawks (13-3) host the San Francisco 49ers (12-4) later on Sunday.
Both franchise are built on stellar defensive units that pride themselves on big hits and in minimizing the damage that an opposing offense can do. While there won’t be an intimidation factor from two of the toughest offensive units in the NFL, there is no denying the ability of both the 49ers and Seahawks to get in the heads of an offense.
San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis talked to Jeff Darlington of NFL Network, per NFL.com, about what kind of game it will be against the Seahawks:
A battle. A brutal battle. It will be sparks, flames, you name it. It's going to be tough, and we know that. We have to go back to Santa Clara, look at film and correct some of the things that we need to correct from our last match.
This will be a physical battle, but Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin tweeted that he is ready:
Wouldn't want it any other way...— Doug Baldwin Jr (@DougBaldwinJr) January 12, 2014
With the defenses forcing a stalemate, the difference in the game will be in the rushing attacks. Seattle boasts an impressive duo of Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson, but the tandem to watch in this matchup will be running back Frank Gore and quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
The 49ers beat the Seahawks in Week 14, 19-17, and racked up an impressive 163 yards rushing against Seattle's vaunted front seven.
If San Francisco can stick to its run-first game plan and find some consistency, the 49ers will stun the Seahawks to earn a spot in the Super Bowl for a second straight season.
Final score: San Francisco 17, Seattle 13
*All stats via NFL.com.