What an interesting game football is. We break it down and try to make our understanding of it so complicated. And then things like this championship round happen. What does it take to go deep in this current edition of the NFL? Well, three of the quarterbacks are stone cold locks to be Hall of Famers, and the three are the very best in the league at preparing and performing for the biggest games. The fourth QB, Matt Ryan, isn't a Hall of Famer but could conceivably could be if he closed his career strong - and he is deep into the race for the MVP this year. So, to win in this league a team needs a truly elite QB, a good coach, and the patience to let those two work together. Simple - yet so very difficult to execute. So, now that we have these four quarterbacks ready for a big weekend of football, how about we revisit our Super Bowl predictions for this week (odds to win the Super Bowl are from BetOnline ):
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New England Patriots (+140): You know what impressed me most about New England's inevitable win over the Texans? It sure wasn't Brock Osweiler. It was that even when things were going rough for the two - fluky interceptions, and effective pass rush getting to Brady, and a much closer game than anticipated - no one on the team seemed at all concerned. They went into the half giving off an aura that things were going to be just fine and in the second half they came out and dominated. And Tom Brady didn't get particularly concerned by what had happened, even though he quickly matched his interception total for the entire season. This team is just cold-blooded and hungrier and more focused than I have ever seen them - and that's saying something. They aren't the most talented team top to bottom remaining in these playoffs, but it's about a whole lot more than just talent in this league. I trust this team not to beat themselves this year - and that alone distinguishes them from the field. They remain my confident, albeit chalky, pick to win it all.
Atlanta Falcons (+250): I entered last week feeling like the Falcons hadn't proven anything. They are a talented team, but that is nothing new for them. For a long time, though, they have had serious issues with their mental game, and it has badly limited their ability to near their potential. Well, against Seattle they looked good. Matt Ryan remained hot, and the defense was sound. They rolled. Here's the thing, though, they still haven't proved anything to me. Seattle was a flawed team that was lacking the intensity they had in recent years, and that offensive line was just a bad joke. They were a long way from a great team, so in beating them all Atlanta did was the bare minimum expected of them. Every reservation I had about this team heading into the playoffs still holds now. Are they talented enough to win it all? Sure thing. No real question about that. When push comes to shove, though, do they have it in them to want it more than Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, and will they be better prepared and better focused than the Packers or Patriots? I wouldn't bet on that - at least not at this price. No value to be found here.
Green Bay Packers (+350): For Rodgers and company do what they did without Jordy Nelson is very impressive. They are wildly confident, can back it up with experience, and have plenty of talent. Their defense isn't elite, but neither is any other in this field, really. I like their matchup this weekend, and I really like the +175 moneyline you can get on them in that game. Beyond that, I'm not so sure - mainly because if they wind up playing the Patriots and you give the teams two weeks to prepare it is a monumental mismatch in favor of New England. For those who don't like reading between the lines, I'm saying that the Packers are going to win the NFC but lose the Super Bowl. If you like the Packers to win it all, though, I would skip this price, bet them on the moneyline this week, and then let it ride next week - chances are pretty good your ultimate profit would be quite a bit better than you get here.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+500): There is a crazy, crazy stat that comes out of Pittsburgh's win at Kansas City. The Steelers became just the third team in 148 similar situations since 2000 to win a game without scoring a touchdown while their opponent scored at least two. That's amazing. And also concerning. We know the team can run the ball, and we know they can kick field goals. But can they score? New England is likely to have an easier time finding the endzone than Kansas City did, so Big Ben is going to have to convert some of those drives if he wants to be able to keep up. Given how often these two teams have made deep playoff runs, it seems odd that they haven't met each other in the playoffs more. Both teams know what they can expect from their opponent, though, and despite the win last week I am less convinced than ever that the Steelers have what it takes to win this one. They were my pick to win it all earlier in the year, and that running game is very easy to fall in love with - how impressive is it for a guy to set a franchise playoff record for a storied team like this one week then break it the next week? - but the Steelers in general haven't quite felt like all pistons were firing this season, and it still feels that way. What makes this championship round so compelling is that all four teams could win and it wouldn't feel like an upset, but of the four Pittsburgh is deservedly at the bottom of the pile.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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