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NFL Betting: AFC Championship Game Preview

Posted by Stan Jenkins on 1/17/2015 8:19:03 PM

The NFL playoffs move from the divisional playoff round to the conference championship round. The NFL is down to its final four – which two teams will make the Super Bowl?

Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots – Sunday, January 18

The New England Patriots could definitely be questioned after their shaky win over the Baltimore Ravens this past Saturday. Tom Brady threw an interception. The Patriots allowed 4.9 yards per rush to the Ravens and were generally outplayed along the front lines. Baltimore got a solid pass rush, and the Ravens led by 14 points on two separate occasions, once in the second half. Baltimore led 31-28 midway through the fourth quarter and had a first and five at the New England 36 with over a minute left in the game, with a very realistic chance of winning at the end of regulation. The Patriots fumbled twice in the game but were able to recover both fumbles. If the ball doesn’t bounce the right way against Indianapolis this Sunday, New England could be in for a long day.

You could also say that Indianapolis showed against Denver that it is ready to counter New England. The Colts held the Broncos to 88 rushing yards. If they do that against New England, they’ll have a great chance. Indianapolis held Peyton Manning to 211 passing yards (minus 11 yards on sacks, for a 200-yard total). The Colts’ defense did not give up big plays in the secondary. Indianapolis has a quarterback – Andrew Luck – that is better than Baltimore’s Joe Flacco, despite Flacco’s generally strong postseason statistics and performance record over the years. There are legitimate reasons to think that Indianapolis, after a great defensive performance on the road against an elite team, could do the same thing this upcoming Sunday and advance to the Super Bowl.

However, the larger reality of this game is that it is a terrible matchup for the Colts. What Indianapolis might want to do against Denver is something it can’t do against New England. First of all, while New England barely ran the ball at all against Baltimore (only 12 running plays, some of them when trying to drain the clock at the end of the fourth quarter), it sprung Jonas Gray for 201 yards in the regular season meeting between these teams. Last year in the playoffs, the Patriots were similarly explosive on the ground against the Colts.

Second, New England looked rusty after the bye week in the playoffs. With more rhythm, and having survived a shaky performance, the Patriots are very likely to play a crisp and efficient game on Sunday. They do not have any significant injuries, unlike last year, when Rob Gronkowski and Aqib Talib were unable to make a real difference in the AFC Championship Game at Denver. Everything is set up well for the Patriots.

Keep in mind, too, that Peyton Manning was playing with a torn quad against the Colts. That affected him, whether you like it or not. Tom Brady is in perfect health.

The Patriots are going to win this game and win it big.

Pick: Patriots -6.5

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