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Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Friday, January 22, 2016 at 12:00 PM

It’s amazing how much the two Conference Championship games this Sunday in the NFL Playoffs have in common. The key number of three is looming large in each matchup. And, Over/Under bettors are waiting to commit until they see game day conditions at each site.

Let’s discuss the AFC and NFC Championship matchup in the order they’ll be played on Sunday. We begin in the Mile High City for the latest, and maybe last ever on-field meeting between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

 

NEW ENGLAND AT DENVER: SUNDAY at 3 PM ET on CBS

You’ve probably read or heard that New England -3 is being heavily bet by the public. As I write this Friday morning, some stores are moving from -3 (-120) to -3.5 (even) to see whether or not that causes a balancing flood of underdog money from sharps. Sportsbooks are in a tricky position here in terms of risk.

*If they stay on the three…then they’re going to be heavily overloaded with square New England money that will have them desperately needing Denver to cover.

*If they move to -3.5, a ton of Denver money will likely come in from sharps and Broncos fans. That will help offset the exposure on the Patriots. But then a new kind of exposure is created. Should the game land right on the three…then none of the New England money would lose, and all of the Denver money would win. Disaster!

In the past, sportsbooks would generally aim for relatively balanced action and hope to dodge the game landing right on three. The more current strategy is to accept the extreme exposure on a favorite and hope to win. The public typically loses…so this is actually more profitable over the long haul. But, after sportsbooks took such a bath last week (almost all teasers won, so some places aren’t even offering them this week!), they don’t necessarily want to be that one-sided against Tom Brady and what’s seen as the best team in the NFL.

It will be very interesting to monitor this one between now and kickoff. Whoever you like here, you should be able to find a line favorable to your wishes. Through the week…sharps liking the Patriots got in early in advance of the public (this betting contingent became prominent last Saturday before the Kansas City kickoff when it was clear the Patriots had healthy receivers). Sharps preferring Denver have been waiting for the hook that’s just now starting to show up.

The Over/Under has been holding steady at the opener of 44.5. That’s about where quants made it. Plus, there’s a chance of rain that has been discouraging Over bettors from acting early. These teams played on this field not too long ago. That one landed on 48 at the end of regulation in a 24-all tie. Both offenses struggled to move the chains (6 of 29 combined on third down tries), but finished well on the drives they could sustain. Last week, New England and Kansas City played to 47, while Denver and Pittsburgh played to 39.

Generally speaking…when a total is frozen like this in advance of potential weather issues, it means sharps prefer the Over but are waiting to see game day conditions. Sharps preferring the Under would be happy to hear about rain, and would have jumped in at Under 44.5. That didn’t happen. So we can assume that good weather on Sunday in Denver will bring in sharp Over money. If there’s going to be some rain, we may see a drop to 44.

 

ARIZONA AT CAROLINA: SUNDAY at 6:40 PM ET on FOX

Similar situation here on the number, though it’s the home team in this case that’s favored rather than the visitor. Carolina has been heavily bet by the public at -3. Some stores are moving from -3 (-120) to -3.5 (even) to see if that brings in Arizona money.

You probably know that Charlotte is supposed to get nailed with horrible weather today and Saturday. The snowstorm is supposed to be long gone by kickoff. But, it remains to be seen how the local area will be affected. There could be power outages, or closed roads that have an impact on game preparation or crowd size. That’s limiting sharp involvement right now because sharps hate question marks!

If you like Carolina, this environment may not be hurting your cause. Everyone saw last week that the poor turf conditions are tough for visitors to get used to. Bad weather isn’t going to help player traction! Plus, Arizona is a dome team from the desert, likely ill-suited to poor outdoor conditions. Carolina money has no reason to be afraid.

Arizona money? Sources tell me there’s a lot of it waiting on the sidelines to see what Sunday looks like. A lot of sharps liked this team before the season began as a darkhorse…and kept right on liking them through the Fall. That’s why Arizona reached -7.5 in some spots last week vs. Green Bay. That money will stay on the sidelines if conditions aren’t very good. In fact, if sharp Arizona money starts to hit the market hard during the day Sunday, that will tell you what you need to know.

The Over/Under is up from 46.5 to 48, and hasn’t dropped despite the forecast. That’s astounding considering the combination of weather and turf conditions. This suggests that the thinking of sharps was greatly influenced by that 31-24 final last week on this field. Seattle did eventually figure out its footing…and scored 24 second-half points. Carolina’s defense has had some issues in second halves down the stretch. This total might have been 51 or 52 on a better field in good weather.

Bottom line…money for Arizona and the Over is waiting for a green light. We won’t know until Sunday morning or possibly early afternoon whether or not that light will turn green.

You can purchase my Conference Championship selections right here at the website with your credit card Sunday morning. I hope you’ll join me all weekend for basketball too. If you have any questions, call the VSM office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours Friday or before the first games get started over the weekend.

This is our next-to-last NFL report of the season. You football only people…I’ll be back the Friday before the Super Bowl to cover the big game. I have started doing midweek basketball reports that everyone is invited to read.

College Hoops on Wednesdays: This is always the busiest night of the week in college basketball. So, we’ll look at a variety of topics from now through early March. I’ll check in on Futures prices occasionally. But, it’s such a topsy-turvy season so far that the markets have mostly settled in on pricing the usual suspects as March favorites. (It doesn’t matter who those teams are losing to in January!)  

NBA on Thursdays: There’s usually at least one good game on TNT every Thursday night. So, we’ll peg our pro hoop coverage to the weekly TV doubleheader. Futures prices are fairly locked in right now because Golden State, San Antonio, and Cleveland are so far clear of the field. I’ll dig around to find other avenues of discussion.

Thanks for reading. Have a great Championship Weekend.  If you’re reading from the Mid Atlantic or Northeast, stay warm and stay safe! See you next week.

 

Be sure to follow:

Richie B. on twitter @vsm_baccellieri

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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