USA Today Sports

NFL's biggest betting mismatches: Conference Championships

Each week we take a look at some of the underlying mismatches in the NFL in order to find hidden betting value. Here are four mismatches you may not have considered when capping the NFL Conference Championship games:

San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons
(+3.5, 49)


Niners’ TE Vernon Davis vs. Falcons’ weakness to TEs

Everyone is pointing to the Falcons’ issues stopping the run this weekend but 49ers TE Vernon Davis could be the real killer. As pointed out by Mark Sandritter of The Falcoholic, Atlanta has struggled against tight ends this season. According to Sandritter, opposing tight ends averaged 85.7 yards in the Falcons’ three losses this season.

Seahawks TE Zach Miller finished with 142 yards and a TD versus the Falcons last week, and Saints athletic TE Jimmy Graham punished Atlanta for 146 yards and two scores in Week 10. Davis has been quiet since Week 11 but is one of the physically dominant TEs in the NFL and has shown up in the big games.

Falcons K Matt Bryant vs. Niners K David Akers


Matt Bryant is quickly becoming “the” clutch kicker in the NFL. His 49-yard field goal in the dying seconds of last weekend’s Divisional Round game resurrected Atlanta’s Super Bowl hopes after an embarrassing fourth-quarter collapse. Bryant has won five games for the Falcons in the fourth quarter over the past three seasons – more than any other kicker in the league.

David Akers entered the postseason not knowing if he would be the Niners’ kicker for the playoffs following a dismal regular season in which he connected on just 29 of his 42 field-goal attempts. San Francisco is sticking it out with Akers, who was called into duty once – a 36-yard FG – last weekend. The 49ers could find themselves going for it on fourth down rather than turning to the erratic Akers.

Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots
(-9.5, 51)


Ravens’ passive possessions vs. Patriots’ clock-eating ability

We looked at a similar mismatch last week for the Ravens versus the Broncos, and Baltimore – despite winning – lost the time of possession battle 40:06 to 36:36 and held on to the ball for only 26:24 in regulation before hogging it in the two overtime periods. The Ravens rank 30th in the league in average TOP (27:38) and lost the TOP battle with the Pats in their Week 3 meeting, 31:03 to 28:57.

New England is 12th in the NFL in average TOP, holding on to the ball 30:33 per game despite running a no-huddle attack. The Patriots’ dink-and-dump offense can chew clock like a cheap steak if they want and will likely try to wear down an aging Ravens defensive corps playing its third postseason game. The emergence of the rushing attack will also help New England control the pace of the game.

Ravens’ emotion vs. Patriots’ lack of intimidation

The Patriots win most games before they even hit the field. New England has a psychological edge over the majority of opponents, especially when inside the chilly confines of Gillette Stadium. However, that leg-up doesn’t work with the Ravens, who fear no team – especially during Ray Lewis’ swan song.

Not only is Baltimore eating up the emotional push from their captain but they also ride a huge wave of momentum after stealing a win in double overtime from Peyton Manning and the AFC’s No. 1 seed. On top of that, the Ravens proved they could beat the Patriots in Week 3 and still want revenge for last year’s AFC Championship loss to New England. The Patriots had won 11 straight home playoff games before losing to the Baltimore in the AFC Divisional Round in 2009.

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Posted by unowon
1 year ago

Brotherly love....Brother vs Brother this Superbowl....oh brother!
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Posted by 1junkie
1 year ago

Baltimore? In Foxboro? OK, I wouldn't bet the house on it. New England have the highest scoring offence in the NFL, I'm not sure yet if the amature officials got the call right in week three when the game winning field goal was booted possibly wide but close either way. I don't think Baltimore will be the threat everyone seems to believe they are. Good luck - and don't bet your house ... :)!
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Posted by aleopriest
1 year ago

I am looking at Balt/ Frisco Super Bowl.
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Posted by braves5795
1 year ago

dogs and unders
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Posted by petersrealpicks
1 year ago

YOU GUYS LOOK!!!!!!!!!! BALT AND ATL / GO SUPERBOWL
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Posted by Sharmuta
1 year ago

Falcons NE SB 2013 enjoy!
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Posted by gfoss59
1 year ago

This (NE-Balt) is one of those lines that's so out of whack it makes me wonder. I know, "don't outthink the room." But still -- 1. Didn't we see this matchup last year? Wasn't it an epic game which Ravens should have won, or at least tied, at the end? 2. Joe Flacco is the anti-Payton Manning. Pedestrian numbers, pedestrian season, but he gets playoff wins. When have Ravens been blown out in the playoffs during his tenure? What am I missing? 3. Balty ended season badly, but rallied against Denver (!). They're tired from 2x overtime. Yah, Yah. And Ray Lewis isn't 100%. But he's playing. And it is a motivator. Wouldn't be the first time (Jerome Bettis, Micheal Strahan, Elway) a team got a little extra kick. And of course, Gronk hurt. NE has lots and lots of weapons -- but there is only one Gronk. There's gotta be someone laying the 8 1/2 or whatever the line is today. What do you guys see that the rest of us don't?
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Posted by artdb
1 year ago

SF should be 1 or 2 pt. fav / NE 6 / Lots of value with dogs this week / Good luck to all.
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Posted by MTFN50
1 year ago

Even though SF is the better team ,I feel Atlanta is rested (,hasnt left there homefield in a few weeks now,)I think there Def. did a good job stopping the run last week and made Lynch a non factor, After watching film of Zach Miller u would hope they plug that hole up and dont let SFs TE do the same..Falcons QB and RB are better and have the playoff exper. over the young Colin Kap. Atl takes this 31-24. ,
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Posted by 2Team_Parlay
1 year ago

I agree... ravens niners superbowl
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Posted by stats1
1 year ago

Balt. Wins the game out right!!!
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Top Response

Posted by MTFN50
1 year ago

"Even though SF is the better team ,I feel Atlanta is rested (,hasnt left there homefield in a few weeks now,)I think there Def. did a good job stopping the run last week and made Lynch a non factor, After watching film of Zach Miller u would hope th..."