Quality football, it’s what’s for dinner!
After a couple weeks of playoff duds – and one game for the ages (thanks Packers/Cowboys!) – there should be some solid ball in store for the Conference Championship games this weekend. We’re left with two of the best offenses in the NFL squaring off in the NFC and two surprisingly effective defenses battling in the AFC.
Not to sell the Patriots and Steelers’ offenses short, of course. Any time you get Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown together, you can expect a few points. (I say a “few” because they’re clearly all going to come from another half-dozen Chris Boswell field-goals.)
Before the Steelers/Patriots and Packers/Falcons get underway this weekend, Matt and I have put together an almost comprehensive list of props for the games. Why should the Super Bowl have all the fun?
Sure, you can get odds on who will win the games anywhere (including here). But where else can you get odds to win the games and odds that Bill Belichick and Mike Tomlin will give each other a snuggle during the post-game handshake?
Just here. I think.
On that note…
Conference Championship Game Props
Odds to win Super Bowl LI
New England: 7/4
Green Bay: 4/1
The Pats are still the favorites. They played one of their worst games of the season last week, but they still won … and covered … as 16-point favorites.
The Falcons/Packers game might feel like a coin-flip to some, but the Falcons actually have a decent home-field advantage at the Georgia Dome (fake crowd-noise or otherwise) and their offense is more dynamic than Green Bay’s. They can beat you in a multitude of ways, whereas the Packers are reliant on magic. I mean Aaron Rodgers’ arm.
Odds to meet in Super Bowl LI
Odds of scoring a TD on the Opening Drive of the Game
Odds all four teams score a TD on their opening drive: 40/1
Atlanta had the best success rate in the regular season, scoring TDs on 35-percent of their drives. They (and everyone else) are even better on opening drives (seven straight TDs). Why? Teams typically have most of the first drive pre-scripted.
Odds the first TD in the Steelers/Patriots game is scored by a player whose first or last name begins with a B (e.g. Ben, Bell, Brown, Blount, Brady, Bennett): 3/5
That feels like every realistic option, but it’s not. Odds are the Pats score the first TD, and there are a lot of non-Bs on New England who can take the ball to paydirt, including Dion Lewis, who did it three times last weekend. (Also see Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell.)
Odds the Steelers attempt a two-point conversion following their first TD of the game: 5/1
The Steelers slowed their two-point roll a bit this year. They went for two nine times this season versus 11 last year. Why the down-turn? Because they only converted three. Last year, they hit on eight of 11 (73-percent). That’s almost as good as the league average for extra points. (That’s not as much of a joke as it should be. The NFL average was 93.6-percent on extra points.)
Odds a player other than Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, or Matt Ryan attempts a pass: 5/1
Neither of these games are going to get so out of hand that a coach lifts his starter, so this is basically the same as asking, “odds a QB gets injured to the extent he can’t finish the game.” Those are pretty low, even with Bud Dupree on the field.
Odds the Falcons/Packers game features zero punts: 149/1
There have only been three no-punt games in NFL history. Two of those games came in 2014, coincidentally. While there’s a much better chance the Falcons and Packers do it than, say, the Texans and Raiders in the Wild Card round, the chances are still slim.
Odds Aaron Rodgers throws a successful Hail Mary Pass: 80/1
Not much has changed on this front from the Divisional Playoffs, except that the Falcons have a worse pass defense than the Cowboys. In other words: yes, Rodgers has hit three in his last 25 games. But that’s not a true indication of the likelihood that he strikes again. Not only are Hail Marys desperation plays, but the situation doesn’t arise that often.
Odds on the Mike Tomlin/Bill Belichick post-game handshake
Odds they shake for less than a second: 1/1
Odds they shake for more than a second: 5/3
Odds they do not make physical contact: 7/1
Odds they hug/embrace: 99/1
Odds they fist-bump: 999/1
Oh my goodness, one really good NFL team isn’t a fan of another really good NFL team? Alert the press! What did everyone think fired-up coaches say in the locker room? If you think Bill Belichick cares about what Mike Tomlin said, you don’t know Belichick. It’s going to be business as usual after the game.
Statistical Leader Props
Odds to record the most sacks in the Conference Championships
Vic Beasley, Falcons: 11/2
Nick Perry, Packers: 7/1
James Harrison, Steelers: 8/1
Dwight Freeney, Falcons: 9/1
Julius Peppers, Packers: 10/1
Trey Flowers, Patriots: 12/1
Rob Ninkovich, Patriots: 12/1
Clay Matthews, Packers: 14/1
Lawrence Timmons, Steelers: 18/1
Bud Dupree, Steelers: 20/1
Aaron Rodgers may be playing at a level we have never seen before, but all the running around he’s doing has led to eight sacks in two playoff games. The sack king of 2016, Vic Beasley, will be able to work his way to Rodgers at least once on Sunday.
Matt Ryan was sacked three times against the Seahawks last week, but it’s not the two household names (Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews) he needs to worry about Sunday. It’s linebacker Nick Perry, who led the Packers in sacks this season and recorded one last week against Dallas.
James Harrison leads the playoffs in sacks with 2.5 and the Pats had trouble with the Texans’ edge rushers last week, as Brady was sacked twice. – Matt McEwan
Odds to have the most rushing yards in the Conference Championships
Le’Veon Bell & Deangelo Williams, Steelers: 7/4
The entire Packers Team: 5/2
Devonta Freeman & Tevin Coleman, Falcons: 4/1
LeGarrette Blount & Dion Lewis, Patriots: 5/1
Le’Veon Bell has set an NFL record for most rushing yards in a player’s first two playoff games with 337. He’ll now have to deal with the league’s third-ranked defense against the run. Belichick will scheme to take Bell away, which will slow him from his gaudy pace, but won’t bring him to a halt.
The Falcons defense is going to spend the entire week trying to figure out how to get Aaron Rodgers out of his groove. Green Bay’s response will be to attack Atlanta on the ground, where they allow 4.5 yards per carry (26th). – Matt McEwan
Odds to throw the most TD passes in the Conference Championships
Matt Ryan, Falcons: 2/1
Aaron Rodgers, Packers: 7/3
Tom Brady, Patriots: 7/2
Ben Roethlisberger: 11/2
The Packers secondary is banged-up and not very good to start with. Their best healthy corner is Ladarius Gunter, who has spent the majority of the season being picked on. Last week, Gunter gave up two touchdowns to Dez Bryant, and his task won’t be any easier this week when matched up with Julio Jones. This game is destined for a shootout, so both quarterbacks have a good chance to add a few touchdown passes to their already impressive numbers.
Ben Roethlisberger has only thrown two touchdown passes in the two playoff games he’s played this season; and with Le’Veon Bell’s effectiveness, there’s no reason to go away from him in the redzone. Someone should have told Todd Haley that last week, too. – Matt McEwan
Odds to finish with the most receptions in the Conference Championships
Julio Jones, Falcons: 7/3
Julian Edelman, Patriots: 3/1
Antonio Brown, Steelers: 10/3
Davante Adams, Packers: 7/2
Even though you’d expect all eyes to be on Julio come Sunday, the Packers don’t have any way of stopping him. Atlanta will find ways to get their best player the ball and I’m expecting it to result in double-digit receptions for Jones. On the other side of the field, Rodgers has too many options to pick from and each could lead the team in receptions, especially if Jordy Nelson is able to suit-up. This is why Davante Adams finds himself with the longest odds in spite of having the most receptions among guys who are still playing.
Brady’s favorite target comes in a close second here, as there aren’t many other viable options for New England in the passing game. Edelman hauled in eight passes against the Texans in the Divisional Round and should see a plethora of targets against the Steelers.
Belichick always finds a way to take away the opposing team’s best players. While Bell will be the main focus, forcing Roethlisberger to throw to the likes of Eli Rogers instead of Antonio Brown will also be a priority. – Matt McEwan
Over/Under time on the game clock when Phil Simms first says, “we talked about”: 2:21 left in the first quarter
Over/Under time on the game clock when Troy Aikman first refers to a player, “doing his job”: 4:30 left in the second quarter
Does it feel like you see and hear the same thing week after week when you’re watching football, especially playoff football? It does to me. That’s probably because we no longer have 16 games to flip back and forth between. That makes all the repetition in phrasing all the more noticeable, dontcha think?
Odds the Patriots/Steelers game surpasses last year’s Patriots/Broncos game in viewership (31.8 overnight/53.3 million viewers): 5/6
Odds the Falcons/Packers game surpasses last year’s Panthers/Cardinals game in 26.8 overnight/45.7 million viewers): 3/5
Photo credit: Mike Morbeck [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.