The 2013 NFL postseason begins this weekend, so it’s only appropriate to devote an entire piece to the upcoming show. Will Peyton Manning’s comeback campaign end with a second Super Bowl? Will Ray Lewis go out on top? Will Matt Ryan finally win a playoff game? We’re about to find out.
(All odds provided by Sportsbook.ag):
Denver Broncos (Even) – The Broncos have not lost a game since Oct. 7. They haven’t lost at home since Sept. 23 (to Houston). Should Manning and company face the Texans again in the playoffs, it will be also be in the Mile High City after Denver stole the No. 1 seed from pretty much out of nowhere.
New England Patriots (+110) – Houston’s late-season collapse wasn’t merely Denver’s gain. It also gave New England the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. We’re one win away for each team from a renewal of the Manning vs. Tom Brady rivalry in the AFC Championship.
Houston Texans (+900) – For much of the season, Houston and Chicago had strong chances of capturing the two No. 1 seeds. Unlike the Bears, the Texans at least maintained a playoff spot. But that’s about all they did. Having lost three of their last four, the Texans are suddenly afterthoughts in the AFC playoffs.
Baltimore Ravens (+1000) – Storylines abound in a mouth-watering wild-card matchup between Baltimore and Indy. Ray Lewis says this is his last hurrah, and Chuck Pagano is back at the helm of the most surprising team in the NFL. The winner will be a huge underdog in the divisional round, but any loss for either squad would not be for lack of effort or inspiration.
San Francisco 49ers (+180) – Heading into Week 17, the 49ers were the NFC’s third favorite behind Atlanta and Green Bay. What a difference one game makes, but it wasn’t one of their own. The Packers’ loss at Minnesota gave San Francisco the No. 2 seed, and with it a first-round bye.
Atlanta Falcons (+200) – Despite playing their starters (many of which got hurt), the Falcons still lost at home to Tampa Bay. That doesn’t inspire much confidence for this current group of Atlanta players and coaches getting its first playoff win—or a conference championship.
Seattle Seahawks (+300) – The ‘Hawks have “only” won seven of their last eight, which can’t match a Washington team (whom they face in the wild card round) that has won seven of its last seven. But there’s no denying that Seattle is the hottest team in the league outside of Denver.
Green Bay Packers (+400) – Interestingly enough, Aaron Rodgers has never won a home playoff game. He’ll have to (on Saturday against Minnesota) in order to win a second Super Bowl, but he may not have to win more than one at Lambeau Field because a No. 3 seeds means road trips are likely.
Denver Broncos (+250) – Almost anyone would love to have one Super Bowl ring (Dan Marino, perhaps?). But one is not enough for Manning, and he is in line for a second. The future Hall of Famer is two wins away from playing SBXLVII in a dome (where he played most of his games with Indianapolis) in the city of the team to which he lost SBXLIV.
New England Patriots (+300) – Christmas came late for New England and San Francisco in the form of last-minute first-round byes. The Pats may have to get past two familiar foes in Lewis and Manning before a possible rematch with San Francisco for the Lombardi Trophy.
San Francisco 49ers (+400) – You know what you’re getting from Denver and New England just about every time on the field. From the other 10 playoff participants? Not so much. The 49ers have been on a bit of roller-coaster ride of late, but there is no doubt that their defense is better equipped than any other NFC unit to deal with either Manning or Brady.
Atlanta Falcons (+600) – Super Bowl? Super Bowl?!?!? I just hope we can win a friggin’ game! That’s probably what Mike Smith is thinking, having compiled an 0-3 playoff record in his head-coaching career. Still, the Falcons are not even considered a long-shot to win the whole thing, mainly because they have home-field advantage throughout the NFC.
Super Bowl matchup
49ers-Broncos (+400) – It’s never easy to predict both (much less one) Super Bowl participants, but there may be some value on San Fran vs. Denver. The Broncos are at home throughout the AFC, and the only team the 49ers could face on the road prior to New Orleans is relatively unimposing Atlanta.
49ers-Patriots (+450) – The regular-season meeting between these two did not disappoint, with the Niners going into Foxboro and coming away with a 41-34 victory. Unbiased observers cannot be disappointed—or surprised—with a rematch in the Super Bowl.
Falcons-Broncos (+500) – Only three teams were lucky enough (and good enough) to capitalize on getting to play Manning and the Broncos in the very early stages of the season. The Falcons held off Denver, 27-21, in the Georgia Dome back in Week 2, but it may be a different story in the Superdome.
Falcons-Patriots (+500) – Headlines would be relatively difficult to conjure up for this possible matchup. It would pit two fundamentally-solid teams against each other, one that always seems to be in the Super Bowl and one that is almost never in the Super Bowl. It would not be a shock to see these diverging franchise paths all of a sudden converge in New Orleans.
Super Bowl early line
AFC -2.5 – The NFC is arguably deeper than the AFC, but the AFC is top-heavy with Denver and New England. If both the Broncos and Pats somehow stumble, the NFC will almost certainly take over as the favorite.
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