NFL Conference Championship Picks

Joe Berra here, about to give you some much needed information before you go to America’s Bookie and get your picks in for this weekend’s NFL Conference Championships. I got my weekend started on the right track last night, hitting on my two Friday picks, have a look at my Friday Betting Free For All. I got my account primed and ready for some great Sunday football action, so let’s get to it!

The Conference Championships get started at Sports Authority Field at Mile High where the Denver Broncos (13-4, 8-8-1 ATS, 6-10-1 O/U) will host the New England Patriots (13-4, 8-7-2 ATS, 10-7-0 O/U) at 3:05 PM ET on CBS. As you can see from my article NFL Divisional Round Recap | Early Lines and Futures, the spread has held steady at 3, with the Patriots the road favorite. The total has crept up ever so slightly, opening at 44 and now at 44½.

I’m not going to bore you with the Brady-Manning rhetoric; you can read that in my Championship Wednesday Report, because this match-up is much more than that. It features the top defense in the league, with Denver allowing the least yards per game (283.1), pass yards/game (199.6) and rank third in rush yards allowed/game. New England’s D also ranks in the top 10 in a lot of categories, including yards/game and points/game.

On the offensive side of the ball, Manning’s woes are well documented with his 9 touchdown to 17 interception ratio this season. However, the Broncos have more than overcome it, finishing the regular season with the 16th most yards per game. But this is where Tom Brady and the rest of the Pats offense have the edge. They finished with the 6th most yards per game, scoring 29.1 points/game, good for 3rd in the league…and all this with their fair share of injuries.

This one is going to come down to who makes the fewest mistakes. If the regular season is any indication, the Patriots have the upper hand leading the turnover battle 7 to -4. The Pats had 12 interceptions and 9 fumble recoveries opposed to throwing 7 interceptions and fumbling 7 times. The Broncos caught 14 INT’s with 13 fumble recoveries while throwing 23 INT’s and fumbling 8 times.

Expect a close fought AFC Championship tilt that will most likely come down to the last possession. I’m most comfortable taking the Patriots moneyline at -160, because I feel this might come down to 3 or less points. The UNDER looks like a good bet too.

The NFC Championship gets underway at 6:40 PM ET when the Arizona Cardinals (14-3, 9-8 ATS, 9-8 O/U) meet the Carolina Panthers (16-1, 12-5 ATS, 11-5-1 O/U) at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. The line is also unchanged from the open at this time, with the Panthers a 3-point home favorite with the number also climbing a half-point to 47½.

These two teams are very similar, featuring the top two scoring offenses (Carolina 31.3/game, Arizona 30.6/game), the 5th and 6th ranked defenses (Arizona 321.7 yards/game, Carolina 322.9 yards/game) and the 1st and 4th ranked in turnover differential (Carolina 20, Arizona 9).

Although North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency on Thursday as more than a ½ inch of ice and 2½ inches of snow is in the forecast for Saturday, skies are supposed to clear for gameday. Only time will tell the effect this will have on the players.

In my opinion, the two X-Factors in this one both favor the Panthers. The first is Cam Newton, who should be the league’s MVP with the second going to the Panthers defensive unit as a whole. Their linebacking core of Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis is the best in the league with their defensive backfield loaded with ball-hawks.

I expect another great match-up to finish off Conference Weekend that I predict will go OVER. I’m going to the world’s best online sportsbook and taking Carolina, as I feel they will do enough on both sides of the ball to win this one and cover the spread in the process.

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