The 2014 NFL playoffs may be winding down, but the coming Sunday projects to be one of the best days of football we will have had fortune of watching this season.
Perhaps the only way to get more excited about these games—unless you are a fan of one of the four teams involved—is to place down a wager on the outcome.
If you aren’t sure which way to lean and are seeking out advice, look no further as I have you covered. Keep reading for an updated spread on each game, plus my picks and predictions for both.
AFC Championship: New England Patriots (2) at Denver Broncos (1)
When: Sunday, Jan. 19 at 3 p.m. ET
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colo.
Betting Line: Broncos -6 (via ScoresAndOdds.com)
The Pats are the smart pick in this game, especially now that Broncos money is pouring in, and the line has drastically shifted closer to the opener as a result.
As per ScoresAndOdds.com, the game opened up with New England as a 6.5-point ‘dog, but soon it was bet down to NE +4.5. Now that you can get the Patriots at a shade under a touchdown, it’s an even safer bet on a side that has a great chance of not only covering but also outright winning on Sunday.
Looking at the marquee quarterback matchup, you can see that Tom Brady has historically dominated Peyton Manning. The Pats signal-caller is 10-4 lifetime against the Broncos' record-setting man under center, but it is worth noting that they are split, 1-1, in AFC Championship tussles.
However, Brady proved his mettle against Manning and the Broncos this season. He engineered a 24-point comeback, the largest in franchise history, in the second half of their Week 12 Monday Night Football matchup. The captain threw 344 yards and three touchdowns that evening, helping New England to cover the spread and win a critical game straight up.
The emergence of LeGarrette Blount will also significantly aid the Pats in their quest for another Super Bowl appearance. He will make the defense pay if it decides to focus in on stopping Brady, as he has done the past two games.
Blount embarked on his current assault on opposing defenders in Week 17 when he gashed the Buffalo Bills for 166 yards and two scores on 24 carries. He received the same amount of touches out of the backfield in the divisional round against the Indianapolis Colts, generating 189 yards and four touchdowns in a blowout win.
Given that the Broncos have gone 0-5 SU against the AFC East in their last five meetings and covered in just two of their last nine playoff appearances, it’s more than worth taking the Pats as a slight ‘dog here.
In fact, gambling men may pull the trigger on the New England money line now that it’s going off at +200. Noting the Patriots performance against Denver earlier this year and Brady’s superiority over Manning, 2-1 odds seem absolutely fantastic for this showdown.
Prediction: Patriots 28 – Broncos 24
NFC Championship: San Francisco 49ers (5) at Seattle Seahawks (1)
When: Sunday, Jan. 19 at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
Betting Line: Seahawks -3.5 (via ScoresAndOdds.com)
This promises to be nothing short of an intense battle between two divisional rivals that have been duking it out for superiority in the NFC West, and NFC in general, over the past few years.
It’s the third showdown that these two defensive-oriented, run-heavy machines will be involved in this campaign, with each team defending home-field advantage during the regular season.
Seattle head coach Pete Carroll elaborated on the buzz surrounding this rubber match, as per Terry Blount of ESPN:
I think it's the matchup that everybody wanted like to see. We don't mind it one bit and they don't mind it, either. It'll be a great one…These are the two teams everyone was talking about early in the year, so it's interesting how accurate all the [predictors] were. There's not a better matchup you could find right now in the NFC. We're thrilled about it.
Considering the contest will take place in the Pacific Northwest, the Seahawks are more than a safe bet to not only win but also cover the small spread. They’ve absolutely dominated San Francisco in the last two games played at CenturyLink Field, outscoring their rival 71-16 in that span.
Seattle hasn’t just dominated the Niners at home, but it’s been consistent against everyone over the past two seasons. During the regular season the Seahawks lost just a single game to the 49ers since the start of the 2012 campaign, while they are currently undefeated against San Francisco in their home digs during that same stretch.
Which team will cover?
Boasting a defense that gave up just 14.4 points per game in 2013—the top mark in the league—it’s hard to bet against Seattle covering and advancing to the Super Bowl.
The Niners are tough, but the Seahawks have dominated at CenturyLink and will continue that trend on Sunday.
Prediction: Seahawks 21 – 49ers 14