As of the writing of this article the Hawks can be found as a 3-point favorite in the NFCCG and Denver a 4-point favorite in the AFCCG. As of note, the lines have moved down from 3.5 and 6.5 points in each of those games, respectively. And the lines have moved per a good reason. Per SBR Forum, 60 percent of bettors and a full 87 percent of the money is on San Francisco for a game in Seattle. The early backers of New England are just as numerous, with 98 percent of early money falling behind them. 98 percent! That's the power of public perception for you.
AFC Championship Game Picks
With my AFC pick I am inclined to agree with the massive early money and take the 4 points with New England. The fact that the line has moved so much makes me believe that this is not mass delusion, but a real effort by Vegas to even out the action. A 2.5 point line move in one direction is significant in this regard. As their early matchup showed, either team can go on scoring runs, but the game should end up close and 6.5 points was just too much value. The Patriots are 0-7 ATS in the last seven AFCCG's and I see that as a trend to be broken. With injuries to the Broncos secondary and a newfound Patriot rushing attack (which will be useful in keeping the ball away from Manning), I think NE has what it takes to keep this game to within a field goal. Weather should not be a factor so each passing game will be allowed to operate at full efficiency with the injury advantage to NE. If you can still find a line at +4.5 for NE, all the better.
The over/under for the AFCCG is currently listed at 55 points, with the early money hammering the over. This line may even move to 56 by game time so if you are inclined to take the under it would be worth it to wait for the line to move that direction. Although not a lock if NE starts to find success with the running game and wins TOP, I am again inclined to follow the public on the over here. After all, the longest Denver scoring drive of the year was last weekend at just over seven minutes. This season New England has scored and average of 28 points per game while Denver scored an average of 38 points per game. That allows for one team to score ten points below their season average while still covering an over wager at 55. With injuries to the NE front seven (Wilfork, especially), I don't see Manning getting bothered enough not to have an average day on offense. Again, with the weather not a factor the value appears to be favoring offense. I'm jumping on the early over line of 55.
NFC Championship Game Picks
While I'll leave the deep analysis of this game to Rob Davies and the rest of the great contributors we have at Field Gulls, I love the fact that the "public" perception is that the Seahawks are underdogs in this game. ESPN pundits aside, this fact is backed up by actual wagers. Although I'm sick of hearing it, I'm sure Pete Carroll and staff are taking notice and using it as motivation. Unlike the AFCCG however, the line has not moved as much, even with the public hammering the SF side. What does that mean? To quote Admiral Ackbar, "It's a trap!". Seattle is 5-0 ATS in the last five games against SF at home, and covered in the loss in week 14 on the road (as 3-point dogs). Although the week 2 matchup was a blowout and the crowd definitely a factor, the atmosphere for the NFCCG should be cray-cray. This stadium noise goes to 12. You get the idea. One overlooked factor is the extra day of rest for Seattle, you could call it two with SF coming from the east coast after their game on Sunday. In a game like this, which should be won by who can create pressure, it should make a difference. I expect some sharps to come in late on Seattle and the line to move back to -3.5, so take the Hawks now at -3.
The over/under on this game is currently listed at 39.5. In my gut that sounds about right so I'm going to stay away from it. Just like last week though I am going to suggest waiting for the 1st half O/U to be posted and take the under. It should be around 20. We'll defer again if we win the toss and SF should start the game with a 3 and out. That will eat up enough clock to create some value on the wager.
Alternate Approach: The Hedge
To quote wikipedia, a hedge is an investment position intended to offset potential losses/gains that may be incurred by a companion investment. In big games, I have often used this strategy to make it bearable for me to watch the game. It's like emotional insurance. Be warned - it involves betting against the Seahawks.
To use the definition, our "companion investment" has already been placed. It is our devotion to the Hawks and the absolute nastiness that we would all feel with a loss on Sunday to SF. Since the Hawks are a favorite we can create the following scenario:
- The Seahawks win by more than 3 and go to the Super Bowl - and I lose some bucks but who cares at that point.
- The Seahawks lose (or win a really close one) - and I am given cash as consolation.
How much is a Super Bowl berth worth to you?
AFC Championship Game
NE + 4, Over 55
Prediction: Denver 31 New England 28
NFC Championship Game
SEA -3, Under 1st Half 20
Prediction: Seattle 23 San Francisco 9 (SEA 10 SF 6 and heartburn at Half)