Inarguably this has been an interesting season, records have been broken, history is being made, and this weekend will not be an exception. A lot of different things could happen in the N.F.L. conference championship games. But those whose job is to predict what will happen seem to be pretty sure what is likely to happen.
Oddsmakers are predicting that the New England Patriots will beat the Pittsburgh Steelers by about 6, and the Atlanta Falcons will defeat the Green Bay Packers by 4 or 5 in a high-scoring affair.
One of the truisms of gambling is that it is difficult for a team to be a great bet week in and week out. That’s because the more a team wins and covers the spread, the higher its spread will be the next week and the week after that. Eventually, most teams congregate close to .500 against the spread for the season.
That makes this season for the Patriots all the more remarkable. Despite being favored in 15 of 16 games by as many as 17 points, the Patriots finished 13-3 against the spread, earning a tidy profit for those who bet them blindly. That was the best record in the league.
It seems like far behind now, but in Week 1, the Patriots were 8½-point underdogs to an Arizona Cardinals team that had impressed last season. Part of that gap was no doubt attributable to the status of quarterback Tom Brady, who was sitting out the first game of his four-game suspension for his role in the scandal involving the deflation of footballs.
The unheralded backup Jimmy Garoppolo was up to the task, though, and the Patriots won in an “upset” that later events proved wasn’t so much of one. The Cardinals finished 7-8-1.
Favored in every game for the rest of the season, the Patriots won 14 of 16 regular-season games and covered the spread in 13 of them. The only time they did not was in Week 12, at the Jets, when the spread was 9½ and they won by 5.
The Patriots more than made up for that four weeks later when they faced the Jets at home and were stuck with their biggest spread of the season, 17 points. Bettors reluctant to lay so many points were burned when the Patriots romped to a 41-3 win.
By the time of the playoffs, the bookmakers were well aware of the Patriots’ tremendous record and posted a huge number, 16 ½, for their game against the Houston Texans. The line seemed somewhat insulting to Houston, which, after all, had won its division and beat the Oakland Raiders in the wild-card round. But the Patriots covered again, winning by 18.
Exact Super Bowl matchup odds are on the board, with a Patriots vs. Falcons showdown leading the way at +125. If the two favorites do indeed match up in the Super Bowl, it would be the Patriots that have the historical edge as they’ve won and covered the spread in four straight games vs. Atlanta. Get the best spreads on the Patriots at Heritagesports.eu.