NFL fans, bettors, sportsbooks, bar owners, television executives, and ole’ Roger Goodell have to be happy with the way the NFL playoffs have trickled down.
In the NFC Championship, the Seahawks and 49ers put on the gloves for Round 3 of their divisional grudge match, with exciting young quarterbacks pacing both sides. And in the AFC title game, we get one more chapter – perhaps the final one - in the Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning debate. It’s a perfect Sunday blend of old and new.
We talk to Peter Korner, founder of Nevada-based odds service The Sports Club, to get the story behind the odds for NFL Championship Sunday and where he expects those lines to move before kickoff:
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos (-4.5, 54.5)
It didn’t take long for the betting public to voice its opinion on the AFC Championship, cutting the spread as much as 1.5 points. Early action on the Patriots from sharps and the public dropped Denver from its opening perch of -6.
Korner says Denver’s unimpressive showing versus the Chargers in the Divisional Round is driving this movement but admits that he thinks Broncos -6 is the right number and believes the betting market will come back on the home team and return this spread close its opener.
Another factor playing into this movement - one that will be puffed up by the media all week heading into Sunday’s showdown - is the Brady vs. Manning angle and the fact that Brady has gotten the better of his counterpart in recent years, including a come-from-behind win over Denver in Week 12. Brady is 10-4 SU and 7-5-2 ATS in head-to-head matchups with Manning.
“It’s the main underlying current heading into this game,” Korner says of the classic QB rivalry. “'Brady versus Manning' hasn’t been a big success for Manning and I think people see this and it plays into this initial action.”
As for the total for the AFC Championship, Korner’s group of oddsmakers sent out 55 points and most books are dealing something similar, with some markets moving up with action on the Over. The Patriots and Broncos played Over the 54-point total in Week 12.
“We use that (Week 12) game as a guide,” says Korner. “I think the fact that Denver didn’t show much punch Sunday and New England definitely doesn’t have the same offensive punch we’re used to, there could be interest in the Under. But we want to have a high total on this.”
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (-3.5, 39.5)
You’d be hard pressed to find two NFL teams that know each other better than the Niners and Seahawks. These NFC West rivals seemed destined to meet in the conference championship, and Korner and his crew had this spread pegged at Seahawks -3.5 – which is what most books are dealing Monday.
“Seattle is still the team to beat, despite how well San Francisco is playing right now,” says Korner. “San Francisco is gathering steam and will be a big play up north (Northern Nevada, due to close proximity to Bay Area), but Seattle is like the heavyweight champ and until they’re knocked out they won’t be treated differently otherwise. The 49ers can win this one and it won’t surprise me, but I have no problem with this going up Seattle -4. I’d rather be too high on favorites than too low on dogs.”
The Seahawks and 49ers split their two regular season meetings with the home team winning both games. However, Seattle covered as a 2.5-point underdog in San Francisco, losing 19-17 in Week 14 after thumping the 49ers 29-3 as a 3-point home favorite in Week 2.
Both games played Under totals of 43.5 and 41 points, prompting this Sunday’s number to come down from its opening of 40 to 39.5 points. Seattle and San Francisco each stayed Under the total in their Divisional Round matchups this weekend.
“There is a lot of firepower on both of these teams, and I don’t mind seeing money coming in on the Under earlier in the week,” says Korner. “It’s really depends on the weather. If it’s good, (the total will) go up. If it’s bad, it’ll go down. As long as there is an influence on the Under. You don’t want to get stuck with the favorite and the Over in these games.”