tom brady peyton manning

Opening Lines: Conference Championships

The Patriots opened as 5-point underdogs as they visit the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game.

If you listen to the oddsmakers, this is where the train stops for the Pats. You’d probably have to go back to Super Bowl XXXVI to find a game where the Pats gave up more than 3.5, even as a road team. And admittedly, as much as the media will crow about Brady’s head-to-head record in games against Manning, the Pats will have their backs against the wall in this game.

The win over the Colts was not unexpected – Indy has a good offense, but the defense yielded 4.5 ypc to RBs this year, and their secondary was nothing to write home about either. Now, New England faces a defense that gave up less than 4 ypc on the year and is fresh off a solid effort up front against a strong Chargers running game in the Divisional Round. And they still have the highest-scoring offense in league history to contend with when the defense is on the field.

What New England has in its favor are a few factors that are tough to quantify. First, they have the confidence of having beaten this Denver team after trailing by four scores at halftime. They have a reasonably healthy secondary to help keep Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Julius Thomas under wraps. They are among the most battle-tested teams in the league after pulling out so many close victories. And after years of being labeled a finesse team, they seem to have a newfound identity as the kind of team that will punch you in the mouth and tell your momma about it.

And finally, they have one final factor that could push them over the edge – I’m picking the Broncos to cover. Every time I’ve picked against the Pats, they’ve won. Every time I pick them, they lose. Do you really think I’m going to fuck with that formula. Give me Denver and the points, damnit!

49ers (+3.5) @ Seahawks

I’ve said since the beginning of the season that these Seahawks do not impress me all that much. They are a team that relies on defense and running the ball, which typically plays well this time of year. But they aren’t going to run roughshod over the 49ers D. What the 49ers have that the Seahawks lack is the presence of legitimate playmakers in the passing game. If Vernon Davis played for Seattle, he would be the best pass-catcher on the team. On his own squad, you could make a compelling argument that he is no better than the third option in the passing game. An undermanned 49ers team got mauled in Seattle early in the year. A full-strength San Fran squad beat the Seahawks late in the year in a close contest. This game should resemble the latter.

2013 Record ATS: 27-29-3

Record ATS since 2010: 133-127-5