Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 6:01 PM
Many Las Vegas sportsbooks have already posted tentative Super Bowl opening lines even though the NFC and AFC Championships haven’t been played yet. That’s actually great news for sports bettors. It means you can spend today figuring out who you’re going to take in the big game, and the price points you want to attack.
By now you’ve read our stat previews for each of Sunday’s games. You know what keys will determine who’s going to win and cover. Let’s start looking ahead at the four possibilities that await you in the Super Bowl.
NEW ENGLAND (-2.5) over SAN FRANCISCO
This is the game most are expecting to see in early February because it represents the two favorites surviving Sunday action. We strongly encourage you to keep an open mind through the day because you have to be prepared for ALL contingencies. But, we’ll start with this one because it’s the most obvious.
The early line of Patriots -2.5 tells you that oddsmakers are afraid of the key number of three. Remember that these two teams played a few weeks ago in Foxboro. New England was only favored by four in that game, and they lost outright! Vegas knows sharps liked San Francisco in that game…and would surely like San Francisco at +3 on a neutral field. That earlier meeting suggests New England should be -1 or pick-em on a neutral field. The number above represents a Vegas assumption that the public will want the Patriots because of past Super Bowl history, but sharps would love the Niners at +3.
What should you be thinking? You need to watch today’s action with an eye on whether or not New England has improved since that earlier meeting…and whether or not San Francisco strikes you as a team that can play a third good game in a row with an inexperienced quarterback. They will have had to play two good games in a row to earn this berth in the big one.
Oh, remember that a combination of New England barely surviving Baltimore, while San Francisco beats Atlanta badly would likely result in a line closer to pick-em. Who would you take at the lower number? Is it worth trying to exploit the market’s tendency to overreact to what just happened?
NEW ENGLAND (-7) over ATLANTA
New England’s line with Baltimore has been dropping through the week. Should the Pats barely survive a close game, while Atlanta plays impressively in an upset of the Niners, it’s easy to see this line dropping too. Remember that Atlanta would be more highly regarded after a win over SF than they are as we write this.
On the other hand, if New England wins a blowout, while Atlanta barely survives in a replay of the Seattle game, it’s possible that the Patriots would be even higher. The public loves betting on Tom Brady in blowout situations!
For this matchup, we suggest you look at New England’s defense. How they handle (or don’t handle) Baltimore’s offense will give you some insight about a Super Bowl encounter with the Falcons. Atlanta and Baltimore have some similarities talent-wise, and have been comparable in most respected Power Ratings through the season. Also, keep in mind that this week’s sharp sentiment for Baltimore would probably repeat on Atlanta because of those similarities. The sharps liked Baltimore in Foxboro at a comparable price! They would like Atlanta at +7.
SAN FRANCSICO (-5.5) OVER BALTIMORE
This one could get very interesting. Were Baltimore to reach the Super Bowl after upsetting both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on the road, they would be quite a Cinderella story. They would also have earned tremendous respect from the public. It’s hard to imagine a tougher postseason challenge than that! You should think seriously about hitting the Ravens at the opener in advance of sharp and public sentiment. Even though San Francisco proved themselves as championship caliber last week…and would have again were they to be playing in the Super Bowl…a line that far over a field goal would create some uncertainty. We believe it would take a San Francisco BLOWOUT of Atlanta to create a number that high over a Baltimore team that had just knocked off the Patriots.
One thing to watch with San Francisco Sunday, if they’re in position to win and force this 49ers/Ravens matchup, is their ability to handle success. We know that this is a tough team that would respond well to adversity. But, if they get a lead over Atlanta…do they finish the job, or get a little panicky before holding on? Garbage time scoring potential would be an issue at the price you’re seeing above for a 49ers/Ravens game. Make San Francisco prove to you that the line above is legitimate.
ATLANTA (-1) OVER BALTIMORE
We just mentioned that these teams have been seen as relatively even in Power Ratings much of the season even if Atlanta had the better record. You can see that a projected neutral site meeting is close to pick-em. Were this “battle of the underdogs” actually to take place, BOTH would have “us against the world” storylines they could play too. Atlanta felt disrespected nationally even though they were a #1 seed. Baltimore was a longshot to get this far, and needed a miracle just to beat Denver in what was a 97% losing scenario in the final minutes.
Ultimately, the line here would be influenced by who was more impressive in the conference championships. If Atlanta looked great in dispatching San Francisco, they would be more than -1 over beat up Baltimore. If the Ravens kicked their play up a notch and were somewhat dominant, it’s not outlandish to see the Ravens at -1 over a Falcons team that won on a late field goal. All possible opening lines would be influenced by what just happened. This game would be influenced the most because it represents the biggest surprise.
To sum up the most likely market influences:
*Early smart money would be looking to bet SF at +2.5 or higher vs. NE
*Early smart money would be looking to bet Atlanta at +7 or higher vs. NE
*Early smart money would be looking to bet SF at -3 or better, but Baltimore at +5 or better
*Early smart money would judge Atlanta/Baltimore exclusively on championship round developments
If you haven’t already purchased JIM HURLEY’S championship Sunday combination, you can take care of that before kickoff right here at the website. We’re also looking at Sunday basketball. Among the highlights on the schedule:
Indiana at Northwestern on the Big 10 Network
Clemson at NC State on ESPNU
LA Lakers at Toronto in an early NBA tip
Oklahoma City at Denver in a potential NBA playoff preview
Don’t forget that Monday is Martin Luther King Day, which means plenty of afternoon NBA along with Big Monday in the colleges on ESPN! The best way to lock yourself in for all the best from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK is to sign up in the office at 1-800-323-4453.
We’re now just hours before kickoff on what’s shaping up as a fantastic Sunday of NFL action. It’s Atlanta at San Francisco for the NFC Championship on FOX, followed by Baltimore at New England for the AFC Championship on CBS. When championships are on the line, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!