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♦'NFL Conference Championship Games'♦ Sunday 1/24/16

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    Championship Notes
    By VI News

    ♦Patriots at Broncos♦
    3:00 PM EST – CBS

    Line Movement:
    New England opened as a 2 ½-point road favorite at Westgate Las Vegas, but that number has quickly moved to -3 (-120). Sportsbooks is the only offshore book offering the Patriots at -3 ½, while the rest of the offshore books show New England at -3 with juice from -115 to -125. The total opened at 44 ½ and that hasn’t seen much movement, except at CRIS where it has dropped to 44.

    New England Road Record: 5-3 SU, 3-5 ATS

    Denver Home Record: 7-2 SU, 3-5-1 ATS

    There wasn’t a Tom Brady/Peyton Manning matchup this season, but the Broncos rallied past the Patriots in overtime at home in Week 12 by a 30-24 count. Denver erased a 21-7 fourth quarter deficit to force overtime, capped off by a 48-yard touchdown run by C.J. Anderson to hand New England its first loss following a 10-0 start. The Broncos knocked off the Patriots to win the 2013 AFC Championship at home, 26-16 as five-point favorites. Brady and Manning have split four career playoff matchups with Manning’s teams winning the last two meetings in 2013 and 2006 in the conference title game.

    Playoff Notes:
    The Patriots advanced to their fifth straight AFC Championship after holding off the Chiefs at home, 27-20 in the divisional round to cash as six-point favorites. New England has won eight of its last 11 playoff games dating back to the 2012 postseason, while covering six times in that stretch. The Patriots are the first road favorite in the AFC Championship since 2004, as New England blew out Pittsburgh as a three-point chalk, 41-27.

    The Broncos didn’t play their best game in the divisional round, but found a way to stave off the Steelers, 23-16. Denver advanced to the AFC Championship for the first time since 2013, while the Broncos pushed as seven-point favorites, moving their ATS record to 0-3-1 in the divisional round with Manning at the helm. The Broncos have won four of the last six playoff games at Sports Authority Field, while being listed as an underdog in the playoffs for the first time with Manning.

    Total Notes:
    Denver moved to 6-2-1 to the ‘under’ at home this season after the Pittsburgh victory. Since cashing the ‘over’ in the second round double-overtime loss to Baltimore in 2012, the Broncos have finished ‘under’ the total in each of the last four home playoff games. The Patriots eclipsed the ‘over’ in five of eight road contests this season, while going ‘over’ the total in six of the last eight playoff games since 2013.

    ♦Cardinals at Panthers♦
    6:40 PM EST – FOX

    Line Movement:
    Carolina opened up as a three-point home favorite at most sportsbooks, while the total came out at 48 ½ at the Westgate Las Vegas. The total dropped to 47 ½ at the Westgate, while offshore book 5Dimes has listed the total at 47.

    Arizona Road Record: 7-1 SU, 6-2 ATS

    Carolina Home Record: 9-0 SU, 7-2 ATS

    These two teams didn’t face off in 2015, as the Panthers eliminated the Cardinals in the 2014 Wild Card round, 27-16 as 5 ½-point favorites. Carson Palmer didn’t face Carolina as he sat out with a torn ACL, as Arizona’s offense was limited to 78 yards behind backup Ryan Lindley. The Panthers own a 1-2 SU/ATS record against Arizona in Cam Newton’s career, as the Carolina quarterback threw for 422 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut against the Cardinals in 2011.

    Playoff Notes:
    The Cardinals outlasted the Packers in overtime, 26-20 to advance to their first NFC Championship since 2008. Arizona won the NFC title that season over Philadelphia, 32-25 as 3 ½-point home underdogs. The Panthers jumped out to a 31-0 halftime lead over the two-time defending NFC champion Seahawks in the divisional round before holding off Seattle, 31-24. Carolina evened its mark at 2-2 in the playoffs with Cam Newton at quarterback since 2013, as both victories came at Bank of America Stadium.

    Total Notes:
    Panthers have hit the ‘over’ in 11 of 17 games, while going 6-2-1 to the ‘over’ at home. The Cardinals cashed the ‘under’ in six of the final seven contests, but finished ‘over’ the total in five of eight games away from University of Phoenix Stadium. Last year’s Wild Card game between these teams went ‘over’ the total of 37 ½, while Carolina has hit the ‘over’ in three straight playoff games.


    NFL oddsmakers spill why Patriots, Panthers deserve to be championship faves
    By Colin Kelly

    The Denver Broncos are the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs, with the home-field advantage conferred by that status. But their offense has struggled for weeks, with Sunday’s AFC divisional playoff game proving to be no exception, and the oddsmakers clearly took note of it.

    John Lester, senior lines manager for Bookmaker, opened the second-seeded New England Patriots as 3-point road chalk for next Sunday’s AFC Championship Game in the Mile High City.

    Denver had to rally in the fourth quarter to beat sixth-seeded Pittsburgh 23-16 Sunday, pushing as a 7-point home favorite while getting to its total with just one touchdown and five field goals. The Broncos (13-4 SU, 9-8 ATS) didn’t get that TD until three minutes remained in the game, again leaning heavily on their defense, even with Peyton Manning seemingly healthy.

    No. 2 seed New England, meanwhile, was in control throughout its 27-20 victory Saturday over No. 5 seed Kansas City, covering as a 6-point home fave. The Patriots (13-4 SU, 8-7-2 ATS) led 27-13 before giving up a late TD. The win ended a two-game SU and ATS skid, the reason New England will be on the road this week.

    The Broncos and Pats met in Week 12, with Denver rallying from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to snare a 30-24 overtime victor – again as a home underdog getting 2.5 points. That was the second of seven games that Manning sat out with a foot injury.

    This game will feature yet another meeting of Manning and Brady, with a Super Bowl berth on the line.

    “New England is road chalk because it is the more complete team, and the bettors aren’t going to back off that side,” Lester said. “We initially took Patriots money and moved to -3.5, but now we are back to the opener after a sharp bet on Denver. As the regular gamblers get involved, we could see the total push up a bit.”

    Johnny Avello, executive director of race and sports for Wynn Las Vegas, noted New England is much healthier this time around.

    “The Patriots opened a 3-point favorite and closed -2.5 on their last visit to Mile High. In that contest, the Pats had no Julian Edelman or Danny Amendola, but had a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter,” Avello said. “The Broncos had no Peyton in that one, however they do for this one. But I’m not sure if that’s a positive or negative.

    “I opened the Patriots a 3-point favorite again, and the early money was on New England, driving this number to -3 (-120). I’m trying not to get off of 3 if I can help it.”

    ‘NFC Championship Game’

    Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers (-3)

    The Panthers looked so much like a No. 1 seed in the first half Sunday that they overcame a second-half slumber against two-time defending NFC champion Seattle. Carolina, 2.5-point home chalk against the sixth-seeded Seahawks, led 31-0 at the break, didn’t score the rest of the game but still got the 31-24 win and cover in a divisional-round game.

    Carolina (16-1 SU) improved to 12-5 ATS, easily the best spread-covering mark among the remaining playoff teams.

    Top-seeded Arizona, laying seven points at home to No. 5 seed Green Bay on Saturday, also had a gut-check thriller. The Cardinals (14-3 SU, 9-8 ATS) gave up a Hail Mary touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Jeff Janis as the fourth quarter expired, tying the game at 20-20.

    But on the first play of overtime, Carson Palmer hit Larry Fitzgerald with a short pass that ultimately covered 75 yards, and the same duo then finished the job with a 5-yard TD shovel pass to give Arizona a 26-20 victory.

    “I divided each team’s first and second-half showings this past weekend before I hung this number,” Avello said. “Arizona started poorly but finished strong, and Carolina started strong and finished poorly. Looking deeper, the Panthers haven’t played well in the second half in three of their last four games.

    “I opened the Panthers as 2.5-point favorites because of the strength of home field, although I expected to see Cardinals money. The opposite happened, as the number was bet up to -3. I do believe the price will drop below 3 again, as the Cardinals are certainly as good as the Seahawks and may not fall completely asleep in the first 30 minutes of the game.”

    Lester said while the NFC finale may not have the flair of Brady-Manning, he’s expecting a very competitive contest.

    “It’s not the sexy matchup like we have in the AFC, but this should be one heck of a game,” Lester said. “It’s a simple home-field edge factor when setting this spread, as these teams are as close as they get in terms of power ratings. We expect to see the wise guys on Arizona early, but I doubt this moves off the key number by kickoff.”


    Patriots, Panthers open faves as Conference Championship odds hit board
    By Andrew Caley

    Well the NFL got the AFC Championship matchup it wanted as Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will meet one more time.

    But what is interesting about this matchup from a betting perspective, is the fact the No. 2 seeded Patriots have opened as 3-point road favorites against the No. 1 seeded Broncos. The total opened at 44.5. This is a case of Manning clearly being on the decline and Brady looking like the same old Brady.

    Brady was his usual self this season, throwing for 4,770 yards, with 36 touchdowns to just seven interceptions, leading the Patriots to a 12-4 record straight up and 7-7-2 against the spread.

    Meanwhile Manning, who made his first start since Nov. 15 after battling a foot injury in the second half of the year, passed for just 2,249 yards with nine touchdowns to 17 interceptions. The Broncos were 5-4 SU/ATS in Manning’s nine starts.

    This will be the 17th time Brady and Manning will face off during their illustrious careers and the fourth time for the AFC Championship. Brady leads the all time matchup 11-5 SU and 8-6-2 ATS. The over/under record in their 16 meetings is 10-6 O/U.

    Meanwhile in the NFC, the No. 1 seeded Carolina Panthers opened as 3-point home favorites against the No. 2 seeded Arizona Cardinals. The total opened at 47.

    The Panthers, lead by sure-fire MVP Cam Newton, are the best bet remaining in the playoffs. They went 11-5 ATS in the regular season and followed that up by covering the 2.5 chalk in their Divisional matchup with Seattle. Carolina was also a great over bet this season, going 11-5-1 including playoffs.

    The Cardinals, led by their own MVP candidate Carson Palmer, went 9-7 ATS this season, and while they managed a 26-20 OT over Green Bay they were unable to cover as 7-point home favorites. They are 9-8 O/U this season including playoffs.


    Cashing in your NFL Conference Championship bets takes perfect timing

    Each week during the pro football season, Art Aronson of AAA Sports looks at the NFL odds and tells you which spread to bet now, which one to bet later and and which total to watch as the week plays out.

    ‘Spread to bet now’

    Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers (-3)
    What to make of the Panthers? Carolina was driving a Ferrari in the first half against the Seahawks, but came out in the third period behind the wheel of a VW Beetle. It got just a little bit dicey in the late going as the Panthers went into a four-corner Dean Smith-type offense in the second half. Expected league MVP Cam Newton wound up throwing the ball only 22 times as the Panthers burned clock after going up big early.

    The Panthers are unlikely to have their way in the late game against a Cardinals team that is ranked in the Top 10 in the NFL against the run, against the pass and overall. Books figure that this game is a push, giving the field goal to Arizona as the road team. There appear to be no major injuries or other factors that could alter that line, though early money is on Carolina to cover.

    ‘Spread to wait on’

    New England Patriots at Denver Broncos (+3)
    The Patriots are now paying the price for that debacle at Miami in the final game of the season in which they played much of the game to protect the health of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. A win over the pathetic Dolphins would have likely meant that the AFC title game would be played in Gillette Stadium (though the divisional round matchup would have been different), and New England would have been a solid touchdown favorite.

    As it is, the Patriots are giving the three, based on New England’s bounce-back effort against white-hot Kansas City last week. New England’s defense is a notch better than Pittsburgh and no one can occupy Peyton Manning’s skull more effectively than Bill Belichick can. Bettors like New England two to one in the early going, but bear in mind that the Patriots and Brady have not ever fared well in Denver since the teams started going at it back in the 1960s.

    ‘Totals to watch’

    Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers (’47’)
    Both the Cardinals (9-7) and the Panthers (10-5-1) have been Over teams this season, led by MVP-candidate quarterbacks. More importantly, both teams have coaches who are now afraid to let the ball fly – even with the stakes so high.

    New England Patriots at Denver Broncos (‘44.5’)
    Interesting number, considering that when the teams played in late November, they put 48 points on the board in regulation. The Patriots offense is healthier now than it was two months ago and the Broncos have turned back to Manning, even though they had 433 total yards behind Osweiler in November.


    Championship Angles
    By Jim Feist

    NFL Playoffs: Conference Championships at Stake!

    This is it, the final weekend of games before the Super Bowl. The last month we’ve been hearing about playoff seedings, bye weeks and home field advantage. Are all those things really important? Historically it has been during the second round of the playoffs. Teams with the bye have home field advantage and two weeks to prepare, both of which are usually important edges this time of year.

    However, during the conference championship games that kick off this weekend, history shows us that the two remaining teams in each conference are often on fairly equal footing, both straight up and against the spread. You might think the team with the home field has a big edge, but that’s not usually the case this deep into the season.

    A year ago the favorites split, with New England crushing the Colts, 45-7, but Seattle failed to cover as -8.5 chalk against Green Bay, 28-22. The Packers were never in doubt of covering, either, leading 19-3 late before a shocking Seahawks comeback win in overtime.

    Three years ago the underdogs went 1-0-1 ATS in the title games, with the 49ers winning 28-24 at Atlanta as 4-point chalk and the Ravens beating the Patriots on the road, 28-13.

    Four years ago both underdogs covered in squeakers, with the underdog Giants beating the 49ers in OT (20-17) and the 7-point underdog Ravens nearly winning at New England, blowing a late field goal in a 23-20 defeat.

    The last seven years, 10 of 14 home teams won but went only 7-6-1 ATS.

    Notice that since 1992, the home team has won just 26 of 46 NFL title games straight up and the visiting team is 24-21-1 against the spread. Going 27-18-1 straight up is an edge for the home teams, though far from dominant than many might expect to find in the second-biggest game of the season.

    Within those statistics remember that there have been plenty of road underdogs that not only got the money, but won the game and advanced to the Super Bowl, including the Ravens and Giants the recently, both going on to win the Super Bowl.

    The Packers last January were one botched onside-kick away from advancing as a road dog.

    In 2008 both road teams covered. The Patriots topped San Diego, 21-12, but failed to cover, while the +7 underdog road Giants won at Green Bay, 23-20.

    In 2007 Pittsburgh was a road dog at Denver, but clobbered the Broncos 34-17.

    Coming into this weekend, the dogs are 18-11-1 against the spread the last 15 years in the NFL title games.

    The NFC has seen the dog go 11-4-1 ATS the last 16 years, including five of the last six seasons with the Giants, the Packers twice and the Cardinals were home ‘dogs to the Eagles. Philadelphia’s trouncing of the Falcons in 2005, 27-10, ended a six-year run by underdogs covering in the NFC championship tilt.

    Certainly you can’t discount home field advantage. However, there is generally greater balance between teams simply because at this point in the season, the remaining four teams are very strong and often evenly matched. In mid-January, you rarely find a team that has glaring weaknesses, for example, ranking at the bottom of the NFL in some offensive or defensive category.

    It’s difficult for teams with major weaknesses to make the playoffs in the first place, and if they do make it, opposing coaches will attack those weak spots to their own advantage. The cream rises, which is what competition is all about. You also know that teams will be playing at a high level of intensity, as there is so much at stake — the winners go to the Super Bowl, the losers go home and sulk about what might have been. After such a long season, teams that have come this close to the Holy Grail are going to give everything they have for four full quarters.

    Slicing the history another way, we find that the favorites are 29-14-1 SU in NFL championship games but 22-21-1 ATS the last 22 years. The total is 24-19-1 “over” during that time. Oddly, there have been more blowouts by the underdog than the favorite.

    The NY Giants rolled 41-0 in 2001 over Minnesota as two-point home underdogs. In January of 2000, Tennessee ripped the Jaguars 33-14 as a 7-point road ‘dog, and three years ago the underdog Ravens won by 15.

    Several big favorites have struggled, as well.

    Still, before you jump on the live dogs, remember that the favorites had a nice run of their own from 1993-97 going 8-2 against the spread in the NFL title games. This is why looking at trends and angles must be approached with great caution.

    The Current Trend:
    The favorites are on a very mild 9-6-1- ATS run in Conference Championship games.


    NFL Football Betting Trends – Sunday – Jan, 24

    New England at Denver, 3:00 ET
    New England: 11-2 ATS revenging an upset loss against opponent as a road favorite
    Denver: 24-8 OVER after allowing 7 or more yards/play in their previous game

    Arizona at Carolina, 6:40 ET
    Arizona: 3-7 ATS after having won 8 or more out of their last 10 games
    Carolina: 7-0 ATS in games where the line is +3 to -3


    NFL Conference Championships betting preview:

    AFC Championship Game – New England Patriots at Denver Broncos (+3, 44.5)

    Future Hall-of-Famers Peyton Manning and Tom Brady could be squaring off for the last time and, appropriately, a Super Bowl berth is on the line when the Denver Broncos host the New England Patriots on Sunday. Brady carries an 11-5 advantage into the 17th career meeting between the two best quarterbacks of their generation, but Manning won the last postseason matchup in January 2014.

    The second-seeded Patriots lost at Denver in overtime in Week 12 and dropped their final two regular-season games to give the Broncos home-field advantage, but they rebounded to end Kansas City’s 11-game winning streak with a 27-20 victory last week. “It’s pretty hard to get to this point,” Brady said. “There’s only four teams standing. Two of these teams have to go home. Hope we’re not one of them.” Denver capitalized on a late turnover to score 11 points in the final three-plus minutes for a 23-16 victory over sixth-seeded Pittsburgh last week. Manning, who did not play in the earlier meeting with New England, made his first start since Nov. 15 in last week’s victory.

    TV: 3:05 p.m. ET, CBS.

    The Patriots opened as a rare 3-point road favorite visiting the No. 1 ranked team and can still be found at that number at most books, but there are some Patriots -3.5 popping up at some places. The total has held steady at 44.5.


    Patriots – WR M. Slater (probable Sunday, shin), T S. Vollmer (probable Sunday, ankle), QB T. Brady (probable Sunday, ankle), WR B. LaFell (probable Sunday, foot), TE R. Gronkowski (probble Sunday, knee), WR J. Edelman (probable Sunday, foot), WR D. Amendola (probable Sunday, knee), LB J. Collins (probable Sunday, back), LB D. Fleming (questionable Sunday, back), LB J. Freeny (questionable Sunday, hand), LB D. Hightower (questionable Sunday, knee), DE C. Jones (questionable Sunday, abdominal), DE R. Ninkovich (questionable Sunday, shin), TE S. Chandler (questionable Sunday, knee), DB N. Ebner (questionable Sunday, hand), OL L. Waddle (questionable Sunday, shoulder), G T. Jackson (out Sunday, knee).

    Broncos – CB C. Harris (probable Sunday, shoulder), TE O. Daniels (probable Sunday, knee), QB P. Manning (probable Sunday, foot).

    There is a 44 percent chance of rain at kickoff that can turn to snow as the game moves along. Temperatures will be in the low 40’s and will drop throughout the game. There will be a slight 3-5 mile per hour wind gusting towards the southern end zone.

    “The look-ahead line last Sunday morning was going to be Patriots -1.5 (at Broncos). However, after Denver’s lackluster win over Pittsburgh, the oddsmakers opened New England -3. The line has gone back and forth from -3 to -3 -120 during the week with a few sportsbooks moving to -3.5. This is a very key number as NFL favorites win by exactly a field goal 10% of the time. Denver won the earlier meeting this season in overtime as a +2.5 home underdog. The Broncos held a 433-301 total yards edge (5.6-4.9 yppl), including a dominating 179-39 rushing edge. However, New England was short-handed on offense in that game as WR Julian Edelman did not play due to injury.” – Steve Merril.

    ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (13-4, 8-7-2 ATS, 10-7 O/U):
    Slot receiver Julian Edelman, who missed the last game in Denver, returned from a two-month injury absence and provided an immediate spark to New England’s offense with 10 receptions for 100 yards. Tight end Rob Gronkowski shook off knee and back ailments to grab seven passes for 83 yards and a pair of touchdowns as New England had just seven rushing attempts from its running backs. Brady threw for 280 yards and three touchdowns in November but was missing both Edelman and Danny Amendola while Gronkowski was carted off the field with just under three minutes to play in regulation. The Patriots were second to Denver in the regular season with 49 sacks but lost starting linebacker Jerod Mayo to a shoulder injury.

    ABOUT THE BRONCOS (13-4, 8-8-1 ATS, 6-10-1 O/U):
    Manning, who threw only nine touchdown passes versus 17 interceptions during the regular season, finished 21-of-37 for 222 yards in last week’s win for Denver, which was limited to four field goals before finally getting in the end zone with 3:04 to play. C.J. Anderson has come alive down the stretch, rushing for 240 yards over his last three games while averaging a healthy 6.2 yards per carry. Emmanuel Sanders, who had five receptions for 85 yards last week, made nine catches for 113 yards in the first matchup with New England. The Broncos led the league with 52 sacks and also ranked No. 1 in passing yards (199.6) and total yards against (283.1).


    * Patriots are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 road games.

    * Broncos are 1-5-1 ATS in their last 7 playoff games.

    * Over is 4-0 in Patriots last 4 playoff games.

    * Under is 4-1 in Broncos last 5 playoff games.

    The public is backing the Patriots in Brady-Manning 17, with 61 percent of wagers on New England. As for the total, 61 percent of the wagers are on the over.

    PREDICTION: Broncos 23, Patriots 20


    NFC Championship Game

    Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers (-3, 47)

    The Carolina Panthers are perfect at home this season and hope to ride that advantage to the second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history when they host the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night in a matchup of the top two seeds in the NFC. The Panthers rolled to the best record in the league behind an unblemished home record that remained intact with last weekend’s 31-24 victory over Seattle.

    “They say to get something that you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done,” Carolina quarterback Cam Newton said. “For us, we’ve never had that vibe in the streets of Charlotte and I expect nothing less than what we saw on Sunday.” The No. 2-seeded Cardinals also are seeking to reach their second Super Bowl and will have a bit of added motivation against the Panthers. Playing with their third-string quarterback, Arizona dropped a 27-16 decision at Carolina a year ago and was held to an NFL playoff record-low 78 yards. The Cardinals, who outlasted Green Bay 26-20 in overtime last week, boast the league’s No. 2 scoring offense at 30.6 points per game – behind only the Panthers (31.3).

    TV: 6:40 p.m. ET, FOX.

    line for the NFC title tilt has held steady at the opening number of Panthers -3 with just the juice getting adjusted. The total opened at 47 and spent some time at 47.5, before getting bet back down to the opening number.


    Cardinals – RB D. Johnson (probable Sunday, toe), QB C. Palmer (probable Sunday, finger), WR J. Brown (probable Sunday, shoulder).

    Panthers – RB F. Whittaker (probable Sunday, ankle), RB J. Stewart (probable Sunday, ankle), TE G. Olsen (probable Sunday, stinger), DE J. Allen (out Sunday, foot).

    Plenty of snow hit Charlotte this weekend, but it should be clear, albeit chilly for kickoff. Temperatures will hover around freezing for the game and there will be minimal wind.

    “The look-ahead line before last week for this possible matchup was Carolina -3 and that is exactly where the oddsmakers opened the real line. It appears the public is backing the Panthers, so this line might rise to -3.5 by kickoff. Last week, heavy money came in on Carolina (vs. Seattle) near game time as the Panthers went from -1 to -2.5/-3. It will be interesting to see if the public money pushes this line higher once again this week.” – Steve Merril.

    ABOUT THE CARDINALS (14-3, 9-8 ATS, 9-8 O/U):
    Arizona’s high-powered offense has stalled of late, managing only six points in a loss to Seattle in the regular-season finale and 10 through three quarters in last week’s matchup versus Green Bay. Quarterback Carson Palmer admitted to being “tentative” in the first half against Green Bay before throwing for 275 of his 349 yards after halftime. Larry Fitzgerald had eight receptions for 176 yards and the winning touchdown, but rookie running back David Johnson struggled for the second straight game as he was limited to 35 yards on 15 carries. Arizona’s defense sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers eight times in Week 16 but got to him only once last weekend.

    ABOUT THE PANTHERS (16-1, 12-5 ATS, 11-5-1 O/U):
    Carolina delivered an early knockout punch to the Seahawks, bolting to a 31-0 halftime lead before holding off a late comeback for its 12th straight home victory. Jonathan Stewart returned from a three-game injury absence to rush for 106 yards and a pair of touchdowns, alleviating the pressure on Newton, who threw for only 161 yards and a score. Tight end Greg Olsen is the top target of Newton, going over 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons while hauling in seven passes for 77 yards and a TD against Seattle. Carolina’s defense dominated the Seahawks up front and recorded five sacks, but defensive end Jared Allen may be unavailable due to a fractured foot.


    * Panthers are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 versus NFC.

    * Cardinals are 1-6 ATS in their last seven versus a team with a winning record.

    * Under is 6-1 in Cardinals last seven games overall.

    * Over is 5-1 in Panthers last six home games.

    The public likes the home side with the NFC title on the line with 62 percent of wagers on the Panthers. As for the total, 66 percent of wagers are on the over.

    PREDICTION: Panthers 26, Cardinals 23


    NFL’s top seeds battle in rare – and profitable – spot on Championship Sunday


    Since 1985, there have been 29 (out of a possible 60) instances when the No. 1 seed met the No. 2 seed in the NFL Conference Championship, so it’s far from a rare event.

    However, the last time both conferences featured the top two seeds in the AFC and NFC, which is what football bettors have this Championship Sunday, was way back in 2004. It seems that the NFL has featured more parity over the past few years and therefore, reduced the likeliness of this happening.

    So what happens when the No. 1 seed plays the No. 2 seed? Well, in short, the No. 1 seed wins more often than not.

    In 19 of the 29 instances, the No. 1 seed progresses to the Super Bowl. This is, of course, not unexpected. Not only does the No. 1 seed get home-field advantage for the game, but they are presumably also the better team during the regular season.

    This seems to suggest that Carolina and Denver will be the teams to progress, right? Not so fast.

    Denver finds itself in the somewhat weird position of being an underdog at home against New England, with only five previous No. 1 seeds being tagged as the pup. And the line does a better job of predicting the outcome than seeding.

    Although during the regular season, the lines only predict the correct outcome around 65 percent of the time, during the conference finals when the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds play, they correctly predict it 76 percent of the time (22 of 29). So it’s actually more likely for New England to progress this weekend (as a 3-point favorite).

    So, more importantly, who wins the betting matchups when the No. 1 seed plays the No. 2 seed? Unfortunately, it seems like there is no advantage to be gleaned from the lines – the No. 1 has covered the spread 14 of 29 times – nearly exactly 50 percent.

    However, one interesting trend has been that the team expected to win has also covered the spread more often than not. Teams projected to win by the oddsmakers have covered the spread 17 times and lost 12 only times.

    This isn’t that large of a discrepancy, but it’s more pronounced when you look at cases where the home team (and No. 1 seed) is the betting underdog (as Denver is).

    In these cases, of which there have only been five among the entire No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups, the home underdog has covered only once, the other four times the away favorite has covered the spread. Not a large sample size to be sure, but one that suggests taking New England nonetheless.

    We can also look at totals, and see how often a game goes Over the number. In all No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups, it has gone Over 18 times and Under 10 times (with a push one time) – going Over the total 64 percent of the time. That’s not large enough to be statistically significant (given the small sample size) but definitely large enough to be practically significant.

    One thing to notice, however, is that when the home No. 1 seed is a betting underdog to the away No. 2 seed, the games actually lean to the Under more often (2-3 Over/Under).

    That means that when the No. 1 seed is favored, as Carolina is, the game goes Over nearly 70 percent of the time. So rather than betting both Overs Sunday, the NFC Championship may hold some extra historic No. 1-versus-No. 2 value in terms of a high-scoring finish.


    Sharps take Broncos, ‘Under’ in NFC as books brace for weekend action
    By Jason Logan

    Wednesday marked media day for the NFL conference championships, with players and coaches fielding questions from the football-crazed masses at pressers in New England, Denver, Arizona and Carolina. However, in Las Vegas, things were a little quieter.

    Jeff Stoneback, sportsbook manager at the MGM Mirage, was mulling over the potential prop offerings for Sunday’s NFL games while Jason Simbal, vice president of risk management at CG Technology, was sitting through some midweek meetings.

    That laid back pace won’t last for long, as tourists start rolling into town Thursday, Friday and Saturday and betting limits go up, luring in some big-money players to the sportsbooks. “It’s very much the calm before the storm,” Stoneback.

    At the week’s midway mark, sportsbooks were mainly juggling the juice (vig) on the two spreads for Sunday’s conference title games, trying hard to stay at three points – the set number for both the AFC and NFC games.

    In the AFC, the New England Patriots opened as 3-point road favorites visiting the Denver Broncos, with sharp money coming in on the home underdog but public money pulling the other way. At MGM, they took an early bet from a professional player on Denver +3 (Even) but are facing a ticket count leaning toward the Patriots at a 6/1 rate as of Wednesday.

    “I expect it to stay that way,” Stoneback says. “People aren’t believers in the Broncos and the Patriots looked good in that last game, and got their offense firing. That line will go back up, not past three, but they’ve already taken Denver +3 (Even) and we know we can get that back. It might get to +105.”

    At CG Technology, which operates a number of sportsbook including The Venetian, The M and the Cosmopolitan, they haven’t seen much movement on the side for the AFC title game but are maneuvering their moneyline in an interesting way. They opened New England -180/Denver +160 and have since trimmed that to -160/+140.

    “Part of the reason why we have such a good price on the Patriots is because of our futures book,” Simbal. “We’re kind of in a bad spot with the Broncos in the futures and good with the Pats, so we’re making that price favorable on New England to draw some action and help limit that liability.”

    Offshore, at online market Bookmaker, they’ve had enough Patriots money to warrant a move to New England -3.5, which was gobbled up by bigger bettors who scooped the home underdog with the half-point hook. According to John Lester, lines manager for Bookmaker, 70 percent of the ticket count is on the defending Super Bowl champs while the money is split 60/40 in favor of New England

    “That didn’t last long as one of our sharp clients hit that with a limit bet so we moved back to the opener,” Lester says of Patriots -3.5 (+100). “The juice has been weighted on New England’s side for the most part. After momentarily going to -3.5 again, we’re back to the opener with standard juice.”

    Things are a little less hostile when it comes to booking the NFC Championship. The top-seeded Carolina Panthers opened as 3-point home favorites to the No. 2 Arizona Cardinals, and what little action that has come in has been on Carolina.

    Stoneback says ticket count is 4/1 in favor of the Panthers with more money on Carolina at a 5/1 rate, including moneyline bets and parlays. While wiseguys haven’t got involved in the side just yet, MGM books did take a limit play ($3,000) on the Under which moved their total from 48 to 47.5.

    “Since we took that bet, there’s been a little more Over than Under money coming in,” he says. “We may go back up to 48.”

    At CG Technology, they’ve actually taken early money on the Over, which has bumped their opening total from 47.5 to 48 and while the spread is fairly untouched, they have received a few Arizona moneyline plays, which has slimmed the juice on Carolina -3 from -115 to -110.

    “Haven’t seen a ton of sharp plays on this spread just yet,” Lester says of Bookmaker. action on the NFC title game. “The total has moved up a point since opening. Bettors see two teams that can get up and down the field in a hurry.”

    He reports 80 percent wagers on the Over, which also holds 70 percent of the handle with total bets.


    H&H Sports

    NFL – Conference Championship : Sunday, January 24, 2016
    5* ‘Playoff Game of the Year’
    New England Patriots -2.5 (-120)

    ‘Triple Dime’
    Arizona Cardinals +3.5



    ‘Championship Round’
    313 Arizona/Carolina – Over 47.5
    1 Unit


    Scott Rickenbach

    NE Patriots -3

    *10* NFL Playoff GAME OF THE YEAR!
    Arizona Cardinals +3

    *4-0 last weekend.
    *3-2 on wild card weekend.



    New England Patriots-3

    Carolina Panthers-3


    NEWSLETTER NFL Football Prediction From Vernon Croy

    Play ‘Over’ 44.0 New England at Denver (3 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 24)
    This pick falls into one of my top NFL systems, and I have this game flying over the posted total Sunday. We have arguably two of the best NFL quarterbacks to ever play the game and it will be a very tough task for ay defense to slow them down Sunday. Manning has a full game under his belt, so you can expect him to be much better this week, and Brady can pick apart any defense, yes even the Broncos. The O/U is 4-0 for the Patriots in their last four playoff games, and the O/U is 5-1 for the Patriots in their last 6 road games when playing a team with a winning record at home. The O/U is 34-15 for the Broncos in their last 49 home games when playing a team that has a winning record, and the O/U is 6-1 in the last 7 games played between these two teams. The Broncos defense just gave up 311 passing yards to an injured Roethlisberger, so what will happen against a healthy Patriots team. The Patriots have given up 20 points in three consecutive games, and now they face the best offense yet at this point in the year. Play the ‘over’ with confidence.

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