NFL Conference Championship Special Props Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 1/17/2014
Before I get into some props for the best Sunday of the NFL season, the two conference championship games, know this: the weather looks like it won't be a factor in either Seattle or Denver, at least from what you would expect in mid-January in both locations. It should be mid-40s with almost no chance of rain in Seattle. Shockingly, it will be even nicer in Denver, with temperatures in the mid-50s and sunny. Those conditions should affect both games in that they shouldn't.
Let's start with our “mosts” again this week. I hit on one of the three in the wild-card round but was 0-for-3 last week. Nine times out of 10 when a guy rushes for 140 yards in a divisional round game he's going to lead all running backs for the weekend, but Seattle's Marshawn Lynch (my pick), finished 26 behind sudden star LeGarrette Blount of New England. The passing yardage prop was totally flipped upside down last week with favored Peyton Manning finishing fourth of the six QBs with 230 yards against the Chargers and second-favored Tom Brady with only 198 against Indy. That the Patriots won by 21 points with Brady throwing for less than 200 yards and no scores has to be a misprint!
As expected, Manning is the -150 favorite at Bovada this week to throw for the most. We all know how he struggles in the cold, so the weather would seem to be a huge positive for him. That said, Manning has thrown for less than 300 yards in three of his past four games (he was pulled in the season finale against Oakland). He had a season-low 150 in the first meeting with New England, but it was very cold in that one, and top Broncos tight end Julius Thomas sat out. Manning has an “over/under” of 320.5 passing yards, with over a -125 favorite. He also has a +169.5 spread prop on his passing yardage from the first meeting at -115. I think he finishes with about 285.
I actually like Brady better at +200. Yes, Brady hasn't topped 200 yards in any of the past three games. That's because the Patriots running game has been so good. I also think the Broncos are very aware of that, and Bill Belichick is the type of evil genius who will throw all day in this one just to prove he is smarter than everyone else. Plus, Denver's best pass rusher (Von Miller) and its best cornerback (Chris Harris) are out -- they played in the first meeting, and Brady still had 344 yards. I'd be a bit surprised if either Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson (both +600) top 200 yards passing in the NFC title tilt. Also take Brady at over (-125) 269.5 passing yards. His spread compared to the first meeting is set -74.5 yards (both -115).
I like Denver's Eric Decker at 11/2 to have the most receiving yards. He had at least 117 yards receiving in three of his final five regular season games but was quiet last week against San Diego. He also did squat in the first meeting with New England with a catch for five yards. He will be about the fourth focus for the Patriots defense this time and will catch a few long ones.
On the rushing, I like the long shot Frank Gore at +400. I think Blount (+275) is a bit of a fluke. Knowshon Moreno (+250) killed New England in the first meeting but hasn't sniffed 100 yards otherwise. And the 49ers are going to stack the line to stop Lynch (+120) and make struggling Wilson beat them. So even though Gore probably doesn't get more than 20 carries, I think around 95 yards could be enough this week. Gore's total is set at 67.5 yards, with the under a -125 favorite. I like over.
Perhaps my favorite prop this week in terms of a lock is Kaepernick -2.5 rushing yards against Wilson. The latter is more of a scrambler than a rusher, while Kaepernick could probably play some tailback. Wilson has 11 carries for 35 yards in two games vs. the Niners this year. Kaepernick has 18 for 128. He also has carried at least seven times in both playoff games. Easy money there. Kaepernick has a rushing total of 37.5 that I'm taking over (-125). Wilson has 30.5, and I'm leaning under (even).
The site also has a few interesting TV rating props for this weekend. Patriots-Broncos is the -300 favorite to have the better rating. When the teams met back in November, it was the best rating for a prime-time NFL game in that month in 17 years. This one, however, starts at 3 p.m. Eastern. So presumably 49ers-Seahawks would have the edge with the 6:30 start, and you know all the early-game fans are going to tune in. It really comes down to casual fans -- i.e. women. Will they only tune in to see Brady and Manning? I'm taking the later game. Denver is the -200 favorite to have the highest rating of the four cities. It's a 1 p.m. start there. I like Seattle at +300.
Another cool prop is the number of false start penalties for the Niners this week in front of the loudest crowd in the NFL, Seattle's 12th Man. CenturyLink Field led the NFL in false start penalties. The Niners didn't have any in Green Bay or Carolina. The over/under is 2, with the under at -140 and I do lean under there. Teams are prepared for the noise by this point in the season. The Niners did have two in the first visit to Seattle but only 20 all season.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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