Early Super Bowl Odds and NFL Matchup Spreads
by Alan Matthews - 1/14/2014
The NFL's wild-card weekend was about as exciting a playoff weekend as you will find with three wild-card teams beating division leaders and only one game -- San Diego at Cincinnati -- not going down to the wire. Two were decided on the final play of regulation.
Compared to the wild-card round, last weekend's four divisional games were pretty bland. None went down to the wire, although perhaps the Saints would have had a shot at a potential tying 40-yard or so Hail Mary attempt against Seattle -- New Orleans also would have had to convert a 2-point conversion -- if receiver Marques Colston had simply run out of bounds instead of trying a stupid forward lateral pass across the field that wasn't even close to being legal. According to Grantland, the four betting favorites won on divisional weekend for the first time in nine years, and all four were decided by at least a touchdown (the underdog Saints and Chargers did cover).
It's hard to argue with the four teams left in the playoffs as they were the top-four Super Bowl preseason favorites in San Francisco, Denver, Seattle and New England. And in my opinion, conference championship weekend is the best day of football all year. Seeing Peyton Manning and Tom Brady face off for the 15th and quite possibly the final time is great theater. So is 49ers-Seahawks, which has replaced Steelers-Ravens as the NFL's most physical and heated rivalry. It wouldn't surprise me to see coaches Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll to get into some sort of argument in the post-game handshake a la Harbaugh and former Lions coach Jim Schwartz once did.
Seattle is a three-point favorite this weekend in the later game and Denver at -4 against New England. Of course, the Seahawks and Niners split in the regular season, and the Broncos blew a 24-0 lead at New England in a 34-31 overtime defeat. But you know the lines for this weekend. Let's look at the potential Super Bowl lines courtesy of William Hill. These are also available to wager on right now at BetOnline.
--49ers -2 over Patriots, with a total of 47: I am quite surprised that this matchup has the biggest spread of the four possibilities. I guess oddsmakers presume that if the Niners can win at Green Bay, at Carolina and then at Seattle, they are the best overall team in the NFL. San Francisco is the hottest team going, having won eight straight games. The Niners played at New England in Week 16 last season and won 41-34 despite blowing a 31-3 third-quarter lead. Brady threw for 443 yards, but it took him 65 attempts to do so, and he had just one touchdown and two interceptions. Brandon Lloyd and Aaron Hernandez combined for 20 catches for 282 yards and two scores, but both are now ex-Patriots. Colin Kaepernick threw for four touchdowns on just 25 attempts. At Bovada, 49ers beating Patriots right now pays at 15/2. New England over San Francisco is the 10/1 long shot.
--49ers 'pick' vs. Broncos, with a total of 47.5: This one surprises me too as Denver would have been a favorite over every NFC team most of the season. Manning hasn't faced the 49ers since Week 8 of the 2008 season in Indianapolis. That 49ers team finished 8-8. 49ers over Broncos is 6/1 at Bovada, while Broncos over Niners is 11/2. I think this game would get the highest TV ratings.
--Seahawks -1.5 over Patriots, with a total of 47: Seattle beat visiting New England last year 24-23 in Week 6 on Russell Wilson's 46-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Rice with 1:18 remaining. The Patriots were up 23-10 with less than eight minutes remaining. Brady was 36-of-58 for 395 yards, two touchdowns and two picks; former Patriot Wes Welker caught 10 balls for 138 and a score. Wilson threw for three scores. At Bovada, Seattle over New England is 11/2 and Patriots over Seahawks is 9/1.
--Broncos -1 over Seahawks, with a total of 47.5: This would be the ideal matchup, I think, with Manning's record-setting offense against what is clearly the best secondary in the league. The last time both No. 1 seeds made the Super Bowl was in 2009 when Manning's Colts lost in Miami to Drew Brees' Saints. I would expect this line to be bigger in Denver's favor were it in a dome or warm-weather location as usual. The likely weather in New Jersey on Super Bowl Sunday would seem to hugely favor Seattle and its strong running game, especially with Manning's shaky record when temperatures are below freezing at kickoff. Seattle over Denver is 3/1 at Bovada, while the opposite is 7/2.
I would like the "under" on all four matchups with the weather expected to be such a factor.
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