For those already freaking out about the fact that the Super Bowl is coming up in just over three weeks, the AFC and NFC Championship Games might suffice.
Just four teams remain, with the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts facing off after the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers do battle. With a Super Bowl spot on the line, fans can expect an all-out brawl in both championship games.
Bettors looking to place their wagers on the eventual winner will want to jump on with a new team this weekend. Those who chose a team already eliminated might want to bank on a favorite or another underdog like the Colts.
Before the championship round kicks off, here's a look at the full Super Bowl odds and players expected to step up in the crucial matchups.
|Green Bay Packers||119-20|
|New England Patriots||193-100|
Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
Who Will Shine Brightest on the Big Stage?
Trying to narrow this weekend's list down to just three players is tough, especially considering the amount of superstars on the field. The only team left off the list was the Patriots, due in large part to the fact that they have so many weapons it's literally impossible to choose just one.
Both quarterbacks have been catalysts for their respective franchises, but Rodgers has been doing this just a little longer. He's also already led the Packers to a Super Bowl win, something Luck is still working on in Indy.
One key part of Rodgers' game to watch this weekend will be his ability to roll out of the pocket and create plays. ESPN Stats & Info noted just how significant that asset has been for the Packers:
Aaron Rodgers leads all QB over the last 5 seasons w/ 33 passing TD outside the pocket, 8 of them coming this season pic.twitter.com/9yjtodyxLd— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 16, 2015
The elite quarterback suffered a calf injury in the final game of the season and hasn't been at full strength throughout the postseason. Despite the injury, Rodgers still threw two of his three touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys out of the pocket.
Seahawks safety Earl Thomas isn't quite believing the ailment is hindering him too much.
“I'm not buying into this leg issue,” Thomas said, via Terry Blount of ESPN.com. “I saw him scramble close to the goal line on the Cowboys, so he's not fooling me with that. I'm not falling into that.”
One player who is clearly at full health this postseason is Luck. The third-year quarterback has played phenomenal football all season and has the Colts in the AFC Championship for the first time in his career.
Now, he'll have to beat the Big Bad Brady in order to advance. Unlike Rodgers, Luck told coach Chuck Pagano he feels the best he has all season, via Zak Keefer of The Indianapolis Star:
Andrew Luck told Pagano earlier this week that this is the best he's ever felt physically. Impressive, considering it's Game No. 19.— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) January 14, 2015
Expect Luck to come out and put on a show at Foxborough, though it may not be enough to take down the Patriots. With three wins already over Luck by an average margin of 26 points, Brady and Bill Belichick seem to have his number. He can change that perception this weekend.
Last, but certainly not least, is Marshawn Lynch. Beast Mode was put on pause against the Carolina Panthers, but that's normal. In his last four games against Carolina, Lynch has not reached more than 85 yards rushing in a game and has no touchdowns.
However, his last date with the Packers saw a completely different side of Lynch. He went off for 124 total yards and two touchdowns against Green Bay. Even when he was held in check by Carolina, Lynch still found a way to break away for one big run, as ESPN Stats & Info notes:
Marshawn Lynch had 23 yards after contact on his last rush. On his first 11 carries he had 18 combined yards after contact.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 11, 2015
He might not put up the exact same numbers, but there is no better big-game running back in the league than Lynch. When the pressure's on this Sunday, look for him to shine against the Packers defense.
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