We’re heading into conference championship week in the NFL playoffs, with one No. 1 seed intact and the other No. 1 already undone. Covers talks about the opening lines for next weekend’s matchups with Jay Kornegay, vice president of race and sports at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, and Scott Cooley, odds consultant for offshore sportsbook
Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons (-4)
Green Bay sent the top-seeded Dallas Cowboys home from the playoffs in a hurry, though in a thrilling game. The Packers (12-6 SU, 11-6-1 ATS) got out to a 21-3 lead, then squeaked out of Big D with a 34-31 victory as a 5.5-point underdog. Aaron Rodgers led two late field-goal drives, sandwiched around a Cowboys field goal that tied the game at 31 with 35 seconds left. That was just enough time for Rodgers to work his magic, and Mason Crosby hit a 51-yarder as time expired to send the Pack to the NFC Championship Game. Fourth-seeded Green Bay will ride an eight-game SU win streak – and 7-1 ATS – into Atlanta. The second-seeded Falcons (12-5 SU, 11-6 ATS) had no trouble dispatching No. 3 seed Seattle on Saturday night, coasting 36-20 as a 6.5-point home favorite. Matt Ryan and Co. have won five in a row (4-1 ATS) and six of their last seven. “A lot of people think the line on the Atlanta game is too high,” Kornegay said, though he noted there was an early burst and then a drawdown with the line. “We opened -4, and the market moved to -5.5, then back to -4.” Bookmaker.eu opened the Falcons -6, but that didn’t last long. “Initial sharp action has come on the Packers and the over, moving the line to Atlanta -4.5 and 60.5,” Cooley said. It later ticked down to Falcons -4. The total is perhaps as interesting as the spread. Bookmaker opened at 59.5 and, as Cooley noted, bumped up to 60.5 on sharp money. “The over/under is the highest ever for a conference championship or Super Bowl,” Cooley said. “The New England at Denver total during the 2013-14 playoffs closed at 57. In Week 13 of the 2014-15 regular season, Bookmaker.eu posted a 61-point total in a game between the Packers and Patriots.” The Superbook’s opener of 60 on the total prompted Kornegay to say, “I can’t remember a higher total.” These two teams met in the regular season, on Oct. 30, when Atlanta eked out a 33-32 home win laying 3 points. Sunday’s NFC title tilt kicks off at 3:05 p.m. Eastern.
Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots (-4.5)
Pittsburgh is as hot as any of the remaining playoff teams, having peeled off nine consecutive victories while going 7-1-1 ATS. In Sunday’s AFC divisional playoff at No. 2 seed Kansas City, the third-seeded Steelers couldn’t score a single touchdown, but six field goals proved just enough in an 18-16 victory as a 2.5-point underdog. Mike Tomlin’s troops improved to 13-5 SU, 11-6-1 ATS. New England (15-2 SU, 14-3 ATS) led just 17-13 at halftime of Saturday’s divisional contest against Houston, and Tom Brady threw an uncharacteristic two interceptions, one in each half. But the top-seeded Patriots ended up rolling to a 34-16 win as a 16-point home fave. Bill Belichick’s squad is on an 8-0 SU and 7-1 ATS run as it prepares to host the AFC final, at 6:40 p.m. Eastern Sunday. “The New England line was easy to make, and we almost had a consensus at -4.5,” Kornegay said, while adding that number got bet through 5 and up to 5.5 shortly after the Superbook posted the line late Sunday night. “But those are dead numbers to go through. The market moved up, but we expect it to come back, just like the Falcons line.” Bookmaker.eu opened New England at -5.5, and Cooley said early action took the number to 6 in short order. “Two teams the public loves to bet on, so it will be interesting to see how this line is shaped,” Cooley said. “It’s an odd opener, and some of the oddsmaking team wanted to be higher with the Pats because of the unparalleled perception of this squad currently. They look invincible, and the bettors can’t get enough of them.” Had Kansas City advanced to face New England, Kornegay said it would have been tough to draw two-way action. “We can expect the public to lean on Green Bay and maybe split on the AFC Championship Game. That will help us,” Kornegay said. “If Kansas City would have won, it would have been all New England money.”
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