The 2016 Super Bowl match-up is only hours away from being set as the Patriots/Broncos and Cardinals/Panthers do battle this afternoon with a chance at the big game on the line. These are four teams who entered the season with high expectations and unlike previous years, I think we got the four best squads in the in the league playing today (looking at you, 2014 Colts). The big headliner is obviously the fifth playoff meeting of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, but I think the Cardinals and Panthers could potentially steal in the show in the late game. There’s also only three more chances to bet on football games until September and let’s face, that’s what you’re here to read about anyway. I picked every game correctly last week and even nailed three of the four prop bets I recommended. I’ve also been calling Pats to win the AFC for a couple weeks now, so if you got them at +175, you’ve got some options betting this AFC Championship Game.
That being said, these are two evenly matched games and both are tough calls. The Patriots and Panthers seem to be the public picks with both getting at least 70% of the spread action. A Cam Newton/Tom Brady Super Bowl would be the most interesting match-up to me, but I’m not sure the Broncos and Cardinals will go quietly.
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos (+3.5)
Regular season: Broncos won 30-24
The Broncos handed the Patriots their first loss of the season with a 30-24 overtime win back in November. That game featured the great Brock Osweiler under center for Denver, but he’ll be glued to the bench this time around for Brady vs Manning V. The Pats are expected by most to win the game, but 3.5 is a lot of points to give the Broncos at home. Manning did just enough to get the Broncos the win last week against a depleted Steelers team and this could be another defensive struggle for most of the afternoon.
I don’t feel real comfortable with this many points, but I’m still going to roll with Tom Brady and the Pats. The Broncos are a tempting pick here, but I don’t think they can win the game outright. Unlike the Steelers, the Pats are pretty much fully healthy on offense and they’re nearly impossible to stop with both Edelman and Gronkowski in the lineup. I picked the Pats to win the AFC at the start of the playoffs and I’m not changing now. Still, can’t fight the feeling in the back of my mind that this is a sucker bet. As the kids say, stay woke.
PICK: PATRIOTS -3.5
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers (-3)
Regular Season: No Game
These two were undoubtedly the best two teams in the NFC (sorry Seattle and Green Bay) and now they’re playing to go to the Super Bowl. These two met in the playoffs last year where Cam Newton got his first ever playoff win as a 7-win division champion over the Ryan Lindley-led Cardinals. So things will be a little different this time.
Winning 16 out of 17 games in the NFL is extremely difficult and the Panthers needed a few lucky bounces to nearly make it through the regular season unscathed. But the Cardinals only lost two meaningful games this season and they’ve definitely flown under the radar as much as the attention has been on Cam and the Panthers. In fact, the Cardinals haven’t lost a game they’ve tried to win since October 18th! Carson Palmer is an MVP candidate in his own right and RB David Johnson might be rookie of the year.
Truthfully, I have no clue how this game will turn out so I’m taking the points. You can’t use their last meeting as a basis for comparison and these teams are very evenly matched. Homefield means little in the postseason anymore and I actually feel comfortable taking both road teams. Cardinals/Patriots Super Bowl isn’t very sexy, but it’s where I think we’re heading.
PICK: CARDINALS +3
PROPS, FUTURES, AND OTHER ASSORTED BETS
I’ve been slaughtering these prop picks to a tune of 75% accuracy and there’s no shortage of good ones this time around either. As always, numbers are from sportsbook.ag.
- UNDER 44.5 points in Patriots/Broncos game – Always take the under in these Brady/Manning match-ups, especially in Denver. It’s not a lock that both teams reach 20 points.
- OVER 10.5 punts in Patriots/Broncos – I did mention I’m expecting a low scoring game, right?
- Julian Edelman OVER 7.5 receptions – Just always take the over on Edelman receptions.
- CJ Anderson OVER 57.5 rushing yards – Anderson has topped this total in 5 of his last 7 games, including a 100+ yard outing against the Pats in November.
- Larry Fitzgerald UNDER 5.5 receptions – Fitzgerald won the game for Arizona last week, but expect him to deal with Josh Norman all day.
- Cam Newton UNDER 42.5 rushing yards – Cam ran over this total in his playoff debut and has been under it in his last 3 postseason games.
That’s all I got today, these games were tough to pick and sometimes the best bet is the one you don’t make. I don’t super confident with either pick, so take that for what it’s worth. Next week is the Pro Bowl (barf), but that means the Super Bowl is right around the corner and you can count on me having a Super Bowl Betting Guide ready to go for the big game. Happy wagering and always remember to fade the public.