The top four seeds in the 2016 NFL playoffs have reached the AFC and NFC Conference Championship games. After the road teams dominated wild-card matchups and the home teams went undefeated in the divisional playoffs, one road team and one home team are favored on the final playoff weekend before Super Bowl 50.
The New England Patriots are road favorites against the Denver Broncos, according to vegasinsider.com, despite having lost in Denver during the regular season. The Carolina Panthers are home favorites against the Arizona Cardinals in the first meeting between the two teams this season.
In the past 20 seasons, road teams are 15-25 in conference championships, though they have covered 22 of 40 point spreads, according to OddsShark. A road team hasn’t won a conference title game since 2012, when the Baltimore Ravens won in New England and the San Francisco 49ers beat the Atlanta Falcons on the road.
Below are picks against the spread for both conference championship games, as well as updated betting odds at Las Vegas casinos.
New England Patriots (-3) at Denver Broncos
Even though history favors home teams in the AFC Championship, the Patriots have a good chance to win comfortably Sunday. Now that New England is healthy, the offense looks like it did in the first half of the year when the Patriots won their first eight games by seven or more points. Peyton Manning did little in the divisional playoffs to prove that he can go toe-to-toe with a top-scoring team, and it could be a long day for the Broncos.
New England is 5-2 straight up and against the spread in their last seven games against Denver. When the Patriots are made a favorite on the road, they usually deliver, going 19-8 straight up in their last 27 games as road favorites. If the betting line doesn’t go higher than three points, they aren’t likely to lose against the spread with a victory in Denver.
Prediction ATS: New England
Arizona Cardinals (+3) at Carolina Panthers
Carolina is favored by more in the NFC Championship Game against the No.2 seed Cardinals than they were in the divisional playoffs against the No.6 seed Seattle Seahawks. Even though they didn’t score in the second half against the Seahawks, the Panthers continue to look like the NFC’s best team. Arizona struggled against the Green Bay Packers in the last round, but they’ll likely bounce back in what should be a highly competitive game.
The Panthers have the edge at home, where they’ve won 12 straight games. They are 10-4 against the spread in their last 14 games, though the Cardinals are 6-0 straight up and against the spread in their last six games as underdogs of three points or less. Arizona can score, and they have a chance to hang with Carolina for much of the way, but the Panthers have lost just one game this season for a reason and they might not lose again until next year.
Prediction ATS: Carolina