Super Bowl LI
We went a little further down the road to Super Bowl LI but barely got out of first gear during wildcard weekend, with all the favourites winning. The only brief moment of excitement came in Green Bay, and that was only for the first half.
Four games where the home favourites cruised through with very little degrees of difficulty. Houston got past Oakland in a predictably turgid affair. Detroit hung around in Seattle before being comprehensively beaten late. Miami made the playoffs a year before they were ready and were done up like a kipper in Pittsburgh. Lastly the New York Giants dominated for 25 minutes in what seemed to be a competitive affair in Green Bay, only to then lose by 25 points.
Happily this weekend promises to be much better with three matches on paper that look interesting. Houston also travel to New England.
In our AFC Winner market the New England Patriots are still red hot favourites after their week off. Best price is 1.68/13 on Monday lunchtime. They are 15.5pt favourites to beat Houston on Saturday (take New England -15.5pt) and will have home advantage to either Pittsburgh or Kansas City. You can see why they are such a short price.
The Steelers are 4.47/2 with the Chiefs 5.14/1. This is kind of surprising as both the Sportsbook and Exchange currently have Kansas City as small favourites to beat Pittsburgh on Sunday. The Steelers might be value at that price but you bet against New England at your peril.
Over in the NFC Winner market, the prices are much more bunched up. The traders don't see a dud team nor a hot favourites. Dallas top the list at 2.789/5 with Seattle bottom at just 4.84/1.
The Cowboys are involved in the game of the round as they entertain the Green Bay Packers in the late window on Sunday. Dallas have consistently been the best team in the NFC all season long but the Pack are clearly the hottest team in the NFL. If you put the Cheeseheads on a pedestal next to a Carolina Reaper then even the most ardent chilli fiend will say Aaron Rodgers and co are warmer at the moment.
On Saturday, Seattle travel to Atlanta to open up proceedings and looks a game well worth watching. The Seahawks have been frustrating all year, apparent world beaters one week but then looking like they would lose to a team made up of employees of the local Walmart the next. That offensive line one week is cohesive and strong. The next they look like people who had won a competition to play.
As for the Falcons, they have the hottest name on the lips of teams wanting a new head coach. Kyle Shanahan looks like a distinct possibility to takeover in Denver come the end of Atlanta's run and the reason everyone wants him is his offense is potent. They can put up points with the best of them. I even saw journalists at ESPN and CBS had Matt Ryan as their MVP of the season.
The NFC is a nightmare to pick at this stage. In the AFC I'd be surprised if New England don't make it to play for all the marbles, in the NFC I wouldn't be blown away if any of the four remaining teams make it. I rolled with Dallas before the season and I'm not getting off that bandwagon but the NFC is where it is at this weekend.
You can join us here later in the week as Romilly Evans takes you through all the games in his weekend tip sheet and Neil Harvey and I breakdown all four match-ups with our betting previews.