Put your money on the Patriots and 49ers
Patriots (+5.5) over BRONCOS
You've probably heard enough of the Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady thing. Blah, blah, blah. So, we're gonna focus on a few other angles that might not have received as much ink or air time as this hyped quarterback matchup. Like Von Miller, Denver's All-Pro, All-Everything linebacker.
Lemme bring you back to the game in New England when the Patriots stormed back from a 24-point deficit to win, 34-31, in OT. Miller, who was terrorizing Brady all game long, was virtually responsible for 14 points. He returned a fumble 60 yards for a TD, then strip-sacked Brady which led directly to a Knowshon Moreno score. Miller's gone, Brady's happy.
Not only is Tommy happy, but he has gotta be even more confident than usual, knowing that, no matter how far the Pats fall behind, he can put on his magic act and lead them to the Super Bowl.
What about the Broncos 'D' without Miller? Tough to tell, really. They played the Raiders, a true cupcake, and beat 'em, 34-14. Then slipped past the Chargers last week, 24-17 (no cover) because Philip Rivers and the offense were snowboarding somewhere in the Rockies, and forgot that the game had started. In the second half, Rivers picked Denver apart, and almost brought the Lightning Bolts all the way back. And that was with 1,000-yard RB Ryan Mathews mostly on the bench, and a badly banged up offensive line.
Brady and the New England 'O' line are all healthy. Don't pay attention to what you read about him missing practice, or having a shoulder issue on the injury report. He and Belichick have been reporting that shoulder thing to the NFL for the last 10 years. With LeGarrette Blount looking like Jim Brown, and Julian Edelman (1,056 yards on 105 receptions) playing like Wes Welker, Double V is gonna make the Patriots the Best Bet.
49ers (+3.5) over SEAHAWKS
Very, very, very tough to go against Seattle inside that noise machine they call CenturyLink Field. No matter what you think about the Seahawks stealing the "12th Man" thing from Texas A&M, or waving those silly No. 12 flags, it is a distinct edge for the home team. I mean, it got so crazy last week against the Saints that the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network registered a small freakin' earthquake! Now that's what you would call home-field advantage.
Throw in Seattle's work against San Francisco the last two times at home - two wins by a combined score of 71-16 - and there does not seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel for the 49ers. However - and you know there had to be a however - let's take a look at two factors that push us toward the Niners: money time and road work.
First up is "money time," or the playoffs. Since Jim Harbaugh has come on board, San Fran is making its third straight trip to the NFC title tilt. The Niners have played in seven playoff games in the Harbaugh era, and have a 5-2 straight-up record, with a 3-2-2 spread mark. But the really important part of this equation is that their only two playoff losses under Harbaugh have been by only three points each: a 20-17 loss to the New York Giants and the 34-31 loss to the Ravens in last year's Super Bowl. Either they win or lose by three points, which is why the hook is a must. Even if you have to buy the half-point, which many places offer, make sure you get down at +3.5!
Now for the "road work." Look at the Niners away from home this season, and you'll find a very healthy - and very profitable - 7-1 record. Staying with the road angle, Colin Kaepernick is perfect on the road in the playoffs, with a 3-0 slate straight up, and 1-0-2 against the spread. So, with a ton of respect for Pete Carroll and the Seahawks, we're gonna roll with the 49ers.