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NFL's Final Four

   by Doc's Sports - 01/18/2016


It sure hasn't been a year for long shot bettors or value seekers. The four lowest-priced teams in the Super Bowl futures market last week all won their games. We have Championship games involving the top two seeds in both conferences. No Cinderella stories this year. That means, predictably, that there are not any fat prices to be had right now in the futures pool. These teams are all priced like the respected favorites that they are. It's not exciting, but it's still worth a discussion - there are always bets to be made, after all. So, let's make some Super Bowl predictions, shall we? ( Futures odds are from BetOnline):

New England Patriots (+200): I have been skeptical about the Patriots all the way through these playoffs and the closing weeks of the regular season. The problem wasn't their talent, experience, coaching or potential, obviously. Mostly it was just that the betting public was betting them down too far and making it impossible to take them seriously in the futures market. Well, this isn't exactly the most attractive price I have ever seen, but it's a lot better. More significantly, a lot of the issues, or at least causes for concern, I have had along the way have been somewhat nullified. The offensive line had a heroic game against the Chiefs despite all the changes and losses they have suffered, and I see no real reason that they can't replicate it. They are healthier than they have been in a long time. Gronk looked like a beast, so if he is indeed injured it's not debilitating. And Brady is playing as well as he is capable - and that's really, really well. For the first time I feel like the Patriots are legitimately the favorites to win it all. I believe they are going to win their second Super Bowl in as many years. They have a matchup this week I like a whole lot for them - more on that later - and the NFC looks more vulnerable than they have so far. New England is indeed the team to beat. If you like to bet on the frontrunner then you could do worse than this bet.

Carolina Panthers (+200): What a tale of two teams. If the Panthers that showed up in the first half against the Seahawks can show up again - and stick around for more than 30 minutes - then they will roll to a Super Bowl title. It won't even be a contest. If the team that showed up in the second half of that game makes a return visit, though, then their season will be just one more game long. That game exposed the biggest concern about this team - they are just awful at halftime adjustments. Too many times this year they have won only because their first half was strong enough to overcome their awful second half. I don't like their chances of repeating that pattern against Arizona, and I really hate their chances against the Patriots. They need to get their heads right and learn a little bit about maintaining momentum in a hurry. I like so much about this team, but I certainly can't justify betting them at the same price as the Patriots - not comfortably.

Arizona Cardinals (+375): The Cardinals looked exceptionally strong in overtime. I just hate that they needed overtime at all. Too many times in that game it looked like they were about to take it and finish it off, and they didn't. Like Carolina, there is so much to like about this team, but it is really hard to trust that you will see their best for a whole game. The NFC Championship game is like a life lesson on how tough it is to be consistent even when you are excellent. I would give the edge in the NFC Championship to the home team Panthers, but the margin is wide. It's hard to dispute, though, that the relative value is with the Cardinals - they are only three-point underdogs, so the gap between the two teams isn't nearly as big as the difference in these two futures prices.

Denver Broncos (+450): I have been very skeptical about the Broncos throughout the last six weeks or so. I am more skeptical than ever right now. They just don't belong here. Pittsburgh was playing with a quarterback with no shoulder and more painkillers in his system than most hospitals have in stock, and they were without their starting running back and best receiver, and they almost won. Peyton Manning has nothing left in his arm, and whenever he did find a receiver he could hit it felt like the receiver dropped it. This offense is a mess, and there is no sugar-coating that. The defense is good and can hide a lot of issues. Facing an offense as surgical and motivated as New England's, though, it's just not fair. Manning has had issues playing against Brady when it matters when he is at his best. Now it could just get ugly. The only big thing the Broncos have going for them is that they are playing at home. Not enough. This price is about a fifth of what it would need to be for me to seriously consider betting on the Broncos.

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