New England Patriots at Denver Broncos – Sports Authority Field at Mile High live at 20:00 on Sky Sports 1
The top two seeds from both the AFC and NFC have progressed to the conference championship playoffs, they now stand one last win away from a trip to San Francisco to play in Super Bowl 50!
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First up is the AFC clash between the reigning champion Patriots and number one seeded Broncos in Denver. The media naturally have entitled this as Manning v Brady 17, as the two future Hall of Fame QB’s go head to head one more time, before Peyton Manning retires, as everyone expects.
Despite being the number one seed and having the advantage of playing at home, the Broncos have been chalked up as three point underdogs to claim the AFC Conference crown tonight. To be honest, I think that three point spread is a touch generous.
New England, are getting all their best players back from injury just at the right time and Tom Brady is playing the game at an incredibly high level. Peyton Manning is not and even with the Broncos formidable defence, I cannot see how they will be able to live with a healthy Patriots team.
The one big factor that could swing the balance towards the Broncos is the weather, it is going to be cold, very cold and could snow which is not good news for the Patriot pass heavy offence. Earlier in the season the Patriots lost here against Denver, again in cold and snowy conditions.
However, the Patriots defence has been a strong point for them this season, especially when they were struggling to overcome multiple injuries on their offence. Now, with the likes of Julian Edelman and Sebastian Vollmer returning, the defence should not be under as much pressure to keep the team in games.
Ultimately, these teams are relatively even overall but with Brady playing at a significantly higher level than Manning, I expect the Patriots to get the job done and take another step towards defending their Super Bowl crown.
Handicap Betting Pick: New England Patriots -3 at 1.99 with Matchbook
Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers – Bank of America Stadium at 23:40 live on Sky Sports 1
The NFC Conference game looks like it could be a close and highly entertaining affair, as two well balanced and high powered teams meet for the first time this season.
Again the difference between these two could well be the QB’s, Carolina’s Cam Newton has this season become virtually unplayable, with records tumbling as he destroys opponents using the full range of passes and devastating, athletic running out of the backfield.
Arizona’s Carson Palmer has himself, played at a near MVP level, but was worryingly under par in last week’s 31-24 win over Seattle. As you might suspect, I think that Cam will be the difference here and he will lead the Panthers to a fully deserved appearance in Super Bowl 50.
However, with injuries to their secondary, the Panthers are susceptible to quality air attacks such as the Cardinals. Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Michael Floyd and David Johnson are sure to have some success downfield against the previously solid Panthers DBs.
In a game where both teams have very strong defences, it seems a little strange to be backing Over 47 points but, Carolina are the league leading offence and when you combine this with their current weakness in the secondary, a high scoring encounter is entirely possible.
Both games should be hugely entertaining and any combination of teams would make a great Super Bowl 50, but the one most neutrals would want to see, has to be New England v Carolina and that is what I think will happen.
Handicap Betting Pick: Split Stake on Carolina Panthers -3 at 1.94 & Over 47 Points at 2.02 with Matchbook
Prices correct at the time of writing.