NFC Championship Game Betting Advice: NFL Playoffs Keys and Distractions
by Trevor Whenham - 1/18/2017
Handicapping successfully in an environment as oversaturated in media coverage as the NFL Playoffs can be a tough thing. There are so few games and so much public interest that every minor detail gets major coverage. Good handicappers have to learn to absorb the information that is important and discard that which doesn't matter. You can't get distracted by trivialities, and you need to focus on what really matters.
To help in that, here's a look at the keys for each team in the NFC Championship Game and the distraction you just need to ignore.
But first, let's talk the numbers that matter most to us. Atlanta opened as five-point home favorites , and that is where the number remains. The total opened at a very high 59.5, and it has only gone higher. It now sits at 61, which is astronomical in NFL terms. In fact, it is the highest playoff total ever and second-highest total period behind only a 61.5 for St. Louis and San Francisco back in 2001 (that game ended 34-24, so narrowly went under). If Jordy Nelson suddenly got healthy that number would be in the rearview mirror - and it still might be because bettors are understandably loving the "over" here. Fitting with the odds in this one, BetOnline has Atlanta the second choice behind New England to win the Super Bowl at +250, with the Packers at +375.
Key: Are they tough enough? I've been saying for weeks now that I still don't trust Atlanta because I am still not convinced that they are no longer the weak-under-pressure squad that has made an art of wasting potential for years now. People are saying that they are really different this year, but how do we know that? Their playoff opener was against a Seattle team that has such a horrible offensive line that they just couldn't be relevant. By winning that game all Atlanta did was do exactly what they are supposed to do. They didn't prove they were bigger or better than ever. And in the final quarter of the season when stakes are highest and the pressure is supposed to be amplified, the Falcons played the Rams, Niners, Panthers and Saints. That's hardly a daunting gauntlet. So they haven't been truly tested since they hosted the Chiefs in week 13 - and they lost that one. I get that there are reasons to think that this could be a better, tougher team. If you are taking it as a given, though, then you are fooling yourself. And when you line up against Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs you need to be wearing your big boy pants, and if you are not tough and ready you are doomed.
Distraction: Kyle Shanahan. As of Tuesday the reports are that the Niners intend to offer their coaching job to Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan when the season ends, and Shanahan intends to at least talk to the team again. Some are questioning what impact that will have on the team. The answer is simple - very little. Shanahan has been dealing with this kind of attention for a couple of years now, and he has been interviewing and flirting with teams through these playoffs. He's far from the first guy to be in this situation, and by now we know he is enough of a pro to get through it without negative impact. If he needs advice all he has to do is ask his boss - Dan Quinn coached the Seahawks' defense in the Super Bowl on Feb. 1, 2015, and was named head coach in Atlanta the next day. Seattle lost that game, but it sure wasn't Quinn's fault.
Key: Coping without Jordy Nelson. At this point it seems like Green Bay's star receiver is not going to be available. This is a different and much better team with him in the lineup. They did fine last week, but the margin for error was razor thin. Atlanta is averaging 36.6 points in their last seven (again, with a bit of an asterisk because they have played some real dud teams in that time), so the pressure is going to be heavy on the shoulders of Rodgers and company to score early and often. They have done a great job of scoring in crazy ways these playoffs, but in a perfect world they would make things less dramatic in this one. To do that without the biggest weapon is going to be a big challenge, though they will be aided to some extent by the fact that they aren't facing the best defense this league has ever seen.
Distraction: Aaron Rodgers' personal life. There is way too much coverage of the quarterback off the field these days. His brother is a reality TV star, and Rodgers is forced to answer questions about that. His dad just gave an interview saying Rodgers has changed and that father and son haven't spoken since 2014. His movie star girlfriend is highly visible and gets blamed for every misstep the player takes. So, what does all of this actually matter here? None of it. Not a thing. Rodgers knows he leads a crazy life, and it isn't new to him. Over the last few months he has played some of the best football of his career while still being a resident of his own bizarre world. It all makes good headlines, but it won't make a meaningful impact here. So step away from the tabloids, and focus on things that may actually matter.
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