NFL Playoff Predictions: Picks Against the Spread for AFC and NFC Championships

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NFL Playoff Predictions: Picks Against the Spread for AFC and NFC Championships
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This Sunday is the last real parlay opportunity for all those who love picking NFL games against the spread. Don't screw it up.

Me? I'm still riding high off a successful Chargers +8, San Francisco -3 and under 41.5 points in the Panthers-49ers game bet that netted about seven times the wager.

I know. Bragging is for amateurs. But after a rough regular season (114-136-9), I'm finally rolling in the playoffs at 5-2-1. Give me a break.

Actually, just give me one more winning parlay so I can blow all the winnings on ridiculous prop bets that include second-string tight ends scoring multiple touchdowns in the Super Bowl.

 

New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos (-4)

"Someone is a little full of themselves, expecting Peyton Manning to not only beat Tom Brady in a playoff game, but do it by four points."

One, the Peyton-Manning-is-a-choker thing is old, dumb and wrong. His record doesn't belie his greatness, but anybody who hangs last season's freak loss to the Ravens wasn't watching the same game. 

Elsa/Getty Images

And his Denver Broncos were pressing way too much to win the Super Bowl, perhaps sensing they might not get another chance with an aging quarterback. 

But that's not the mark of this year's team. The 2013-14 Broncos are ripping through defenses with relative ease thanks to an insane array of weapons led by the most efficient passer we may ever see (until 2014 Nick Foles is unleashed).

Denver will have to do without linebacker Von Miller and cornerback Chris Harris. They'll be fine thanks to the sporadically good Shaun Phillips and Quentin Jammer, who played well the last time these two teams faced off.

The New England Patriots, however, are without 37 defensive starters. Or at least that's how it feels .

The Pats could ill afford to lose another starter when they placed Brandon Spikes on the injured reserve for repeated violations of acting like a teenager. He joined defensive linemen Tommy Kelly and Vince Wilfork, softening up the middle of that defense before facing Denver's three-headed rushing attack.

And that big win over the Colts last week was aided by four Andrew Luck interceptions. Sure, Manning doesn't have the best playoff history, but he's never had so many options on offense. There isn't a single play where he'll have to force the ball.

Frankly, this game boils down to the fact that the Broncos don't do anything particularly poorly, as they lack a single area where they graded in the negative. And the strength of the team, a multi-faceted offense capable of scoring in an innumerable number of ways, is hitting on all cylinders with everyone healthy.

The Pats can't say that. 

Pick: Broncos -4

 

San Francisco 49ers (+3) vs. Seattle Seahawks

Grant Halverson/Getty Images

There are a lot of different ways to look at this game.

First, would you rather have Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick?

It's clear that Kaepernick's regular-season-ending run of three straight 108+ quarterback ratings did him well entering the postseason. He hasn't been as outstanding, but he has the confidence to make the right play at the right time, whether with his feet or arm.

It's difficult to make the same case for Wilson. The smallest quarterback left standing is impossible to pin down, and he rarely hurts his team. However, Wilson has only posted one solid performance in the last month and won't be able to rely on Marshawn Lynch against the 49ers ferocious front seven.

That segues nicely into a discussion about outside playmakers.

The 49ers have all of their playmakers ready to rock (Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin). The Seahawks will have Golden Tate, but Zach Miller and Doug Baldwin aren't big plays waiting to happen. Furthermore, Percy Harvin, he of the highest cash-to-snap ratio in the league, is out, per ESPN.com's Terry Blount.

The defenses are essentially a wash. Whatever the Seahawks' secondary can do, the 49ers can counter with the Smith brothers, and vice versa. There simply aren't many holes on either side.

That just leaves the 12th man as Seattle's only real advantage. That's not worth three points against the best team left in the playoffs.

Pick: 49ers +3

 

All advanced stats and rankings are courtesy of Pro Football Focus and require a subscription. All lines were sourced from Bovada.lv.

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