The storyline for the NFC Divisional Round had a bit of everything this past weekend. Arizona's spot in this week's NFC Championship game was almost a foregone conclusion as the clock struck 0:00 in the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers. That was until divine intervention reared its beautiful head (depending who you ask) and blessed the Packers with a game-tying 41-yard hail mary completion from Aaron Rodgers to Jeff Janis. The crowd went from raucous to dead silent in a heartbeat as Packers fans celebrated. The heartache for Cardinals fans would be short lived as they proceeded to win the coin toss to start overtime (how does a coin not flip?) and march directly down the field and score the game-winning touchdown on just two plays from scrimmage.
Saturday was profitable for me on the props side of things. I could not quite pull the trigger for Sunday's games as I thought both matchups would be evenly contested. Watching the game as a fan (with no money on the line) is relaxing to say the least, but that is no way to live life. I was just as shocked (and amazed) as the rest of the world to see Carolina demolish Seattle in the first half. There are plenty of clichés in football, but no more evident than "football is a game of two halves". Momentum swings in football are huge and no more evident than in the second half of this game. Seattle came out gunning and almost completed the comeback. Ultimately, they ended up losing 31-24 after Carolina recovered an onside kick, but kudos to the Seahawks for not mailing it in.
The Seahawks may have provided Arizona with a blueprint on how to score points in bunches against Carolina. Arizona certainly has the firepower on offense to do so, and it will be interesting to see the game plan put in place by both coaches.
I finished 2-1 with my prop selections for the Kansas City vs. New England game and 2-1 with props from the Green Bay vs. Arizona matchup.
Let's dive into some of the best prop bets for each game with some picks, predictions and analysis.
Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers
Bank of America Stadium, 6:40 p.m. EST. Jan. 24, 2016
This NFC Championship Game features two heavyweight teams that have been dominant all season long. In the blue corner, you have the Arizona Cardinals (12-4 regular-season record), who rank first in total yards (408.3), second in total passing yards (288.5) and second in points scored (30.6). In the red corner, you have the Carolina Panthers (15-1 regular season record), who might be the most undervalued, one-loss team in NFL history. They come into this game ranking first in points scored (31.3) and second in rushing yards (142.6). If you expect a shootout, you have another thing coming. Both teams rank in the Top 10 in total yards allowed, passing yards allowed, rushing yards and points allowed. No score in this game would shock me. It could be 42-41 or 14-10. One thing that would shock me is if this game was a blowout.
Total Points 3-Way
Arizona - "Over" 20 points -138, "Exactly" 20 points +1100, "Under" 20 points +138
I'd be a little reluctant to pull the trigger with this bet had Seattle not scored 24 points in the second half and almost come back to tie the game last week. I think Arizona can use that as a "blueprint" and manipulate their game to expose whatever minor weaknesses the Carolina Panthers defense has. Arizona boasts a trio of wide receivers who can make plays and change the game in an instance (see Larry Fitzgerald in OT vs. Green Bay). John Brown and Michael Floyd line up on the opposite side of Larry and can make plays when called upon (see Michael Floyd fourth quarter tipped touchdown catch on fourth down). Don't get me wrong, the Panthers have a great defense, but they only have one Josh Norman. I expect him to be on Fitzgerald all day, which will open up space for the two aforementioned receivers. It could take the entire game for Arizona to score at least three touchdowns, but I see them getting the job done.
Pick: Arizona "Over 20 Points -138
Player Total Receiving Yards:
Devin Funchess "Over" 33.5 -110, "Under" 33.5 -110
I think this play is worth a look because of the way this game should play out. In my opinion, Arizona is going to score on Carolina (as stated in my first prop selection) which means Carolina might have to resort to pushing the ball up field in the passing game. While Greg Olsen is Newton's main target, he should get most of the defensive attention. Ted Ginn Jr. is a viable option, but he will likely draw more coverage than Funchess. Funchess had only 12 yards in the game last week against Seattle, but when you are up 31-0 at half time, receivers tend to be shafted on play calling. I will take a flyer here with the "over" 33.5 yards and watch Cam Newton hit the open receiver all day.
Pick: "Over" 33.5 -110
First Half Result 3-Way
Arizona Cardinals +138, Tie +850, Carolina Panthers -138
The Carolina Panthers are a good football team. They run the ball well and can move the ball through the air when they need to. Everything was set up for
Carolina to win that game last weekend against Seattle. Seattle flew to Minnesota, played in freezing temperatures, flew back to Seattle, and then flew to
Carolina. That is many miles and that takes a toll on your body and recovery. The Panthers did what any good team would do. They took advantage of the
opportunity and laid down a whooping in the first half. I can't see that happening again. Arizona is a solid team with a solid coaching staff. They will be
prepared, and Carson Palmer will play well. I expect this to be a close battle throughout, and I think the more offensively-dynamic team will assert their
authority first in this matchup. That team is the Arizona Cardinals. Give me Arizona 17 - Carolina 7 at halftime.
Pick: Arizona Cardinals +138
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