The semi-finals for Super Bowl 50 – better known as the Conference Championships – take place on Sunday and with the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers joint-favourites at 2/1 with My Club Betting to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
In the AFC, the reigning AFC Conference champion and last season’s Super Bowl heroes New England travel to Denver to take on the No.1 seed Broncos, who are 4/1 to win the Super Bowl.
NFC no.1 seed Carolina, who have lost just once this season, face Arizona’s high-powered attack and the Cardinals are 3/1 to win it all.
After another winning season against the handicap, MyClubBetting handicapper and Lindy’s Sports UK Editor Simon Milham takes a look at the betting trends and some of the best bets ahead of Sunday’s AFC Championship game.
The odds are correct at the time of writing and are available on your club’s betting service.
(Handicap is denoted by +/- for the home team)
NEW ENGLAND at DENVER
Sunday 8.05pm – Sky Sports
(+1.5, Total Points 45.5)
And so he faces the final curtain. Peyton Manning’s glorious career looks set to come to an end on Sunday and what a fitting way he will go out – duelling with New England quarterback counterpart Tom Brady.
Brady and head coach Bill Belichick have been the spoiler in Manning’s career. He would arguably have been the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time), but for that duo. Manning has all the significant passing records, he’s tied with Brett Favre for the winning-most quarterback of all time – but Brady and Belichick have the Super Bowl rings. Four to be precise. Manning and the Broncos stand in the way for a shot at ‘one for the thumb’.
Last year, Brady won his fourth Super Bowl ring (joining Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw) and third Super Bowl MVP trophy in New England’s come-from-behind 28-24 victory over Seattle. Belichick joined Chuck Noll as the only coaches with four Super Bowl rings.
Manning has one ring, a bum shoulder and a 5-11 record against Belichick and Brady. For the 17th and possibly the final time – Manning is unlikely to be in Denver next season and with little zip on his passes, he may decide to retire after an 18-year career – the bad guys face the good guy for the right to play in the Super Bowl.
Manning is 2-0 against them in home AFC Championship games, however, once with Indianapolis in 2006 and again with Denver in 2013. The home quarterback has never lost a Brady/Manning game in the playoffs, but Brady is 5-1 when the game kicks off with a temperature of less than 40 degrees.
Brady’s two career wins in Denver came when facing Tim Tebow and Danny Kanell and the Patriots are 3-17 at Denver since 1969, when they were known as the Boston Patriots.
New England have already been beaten by the Broncos this season, with back-up QB Brock Osweiler leading Denver to an overtime win. The Sheriff, who missed the clash with a torn plantar fascia injury, will be in charge on Sunday.
The game that will be defined by two very good defences and whether or not Manning and his offense are capable of rediscovering their form. Manning was 7-2 as a starter this season but threw just nine touchdown passes to 17 interceptions. Despite going 21 of 37 for 222 yards with zero interceptions, he was throwing dying quails rather than tight spirals and rainbows in the win over an injury-hit Pittsburgh last weekend.
Yet he played better than the bar stats suggest, with numerous dropped passes plaguing Gary Kubiak’s team (perhaps a result of the ball not hitting its mark quickly enough and receivers getting jittery, expecting to be hit).
In his defence, the wind that caused untold problems at Mile High last weekend, is not due to be anywhere near as severe and gusty. Perfect football weather is forecast.
The Patriots easily dealt with Kansas City last weekend, ending their 11-game winning streak, and their underrated defense will dare Manning to throw deep on them, staking the box to stop the run.
Denver simply has to be able to run the ball effectively to keep Brady off the field for as long as possible. C.J. Anderson ripped off almost five yards per run against Pittsburgh last week and more of the same is imperative if the Broncos are to have a chance.
He is currently a 10/1 chance with My Club Betting score the first touchdown, and that is a fair bet.
The Broncos’ defense is marginally better than the Chiefs’ and, looking at this simplistically, Brady will have to get receiver Julian Edelman involved early to keep them Broncos off balance. Edelman is 8/1 to get the first score.
The Patriots have only scored 24 points or more on four of their last 22 trips to Denver and with such a marauding Broncos defense, we feel that hitting that mark again might be a stretch, particularly if Brady is under fire and forced to make throws into coverage.
We hope the Broncos win it, but the odds are stacked against Manning and company. Still, New England’s awful record at Mile High cannot be overlooked. We are betting with the heart a little bit, hoping that Manning can have one more day in the sun, but there are a few other bets to take advantage of.
VERDICT: DENVER 23 NEW ENGLAND 16
BEST BET: NEW ENGLAND UNDER 23.5 POINTS @ 1.83
OTHER SUGGESTIONS FOR THE BIG GAME:
HANDICAP: DENVER +1.5 @ 2.2o
TOTAL POINTS: UNDER 43.5 @ 1.95
FIRST TD SCORER: C.J. ANDERSON @ 12.00
RACE TO 10 POINTS: DENVER @ 2.10
HT/FT: DRAW/DENVER @ 17.00
WINNING MARGIN: DENVER WIN BY 7-12 POINTS @ 5.50
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