The road to Super Bowl XLVIII goes through Denver, who remain at the top of the charts in the updated odds to win the AFC Championship. Can any body catch them? I believe the answer is an emphatic “yes”, which is why two other teams are receiving my backing hand over fist against the other contenders in the post season.
Updated AFC Championship Odds on Favorites
Denver Broncos -145
New England Patriots +350
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are the best bets in the AFC playoffs! When both are healthy, this has usually been the case in this conference and low and behold, here they are again at the top of the mountain.
But are they worthy bets? The Broncos have been the most consistent team all year, but have seriously struggled against the contenders. They posted a staggering +13.0 point differential overall, but beat playoff teams this season by a shrunken average of just +5.9 points. That includes the 32-point blowout of the Eagles from Week 4 and the two losses against Indianapolis and New England. Losing Von Miller at the beginning and the end of the season could be the killing blow.
New England is the second favorite in the updated odds to win the AFC Championship for good reason, but nothing is more important than their ability to overcome significant losses on their roster. The Patriots struggled overall as a betting team, but a lot of big games simply come down to coaching. We’re talking about Bill Belichik here who has more rings than any of the head coaches in the AFC combined.
Oh wait…that’s because not a single head coach in the AFC has won a championship and only two (Fox and Reid) have won conference titles when they were in the NFC. The Patriots are a troubling bet to win the conference, but they have been unstoppable all year and haven’t been blown out all season. If you’re betting on this team, it’s because their quarterback and coach have been to the big game five times together and won just as many AFC championships. They are as strong of a bet as there is, especially when you consider the rest of the competition.
Updated AFC Championship Odds Up & Comers
Cincinnati Bengals +750
Indianapolis Colts +1375
Eventually, the Bengals will have to play on the road and if we’ve been able to figure anything out about this crazy 2013 season, it’s that the Bengals are a terrible road team. They went just 3-5 SU and 2-5-1 ATS when travelling this season, and while they host a home game in the wild card weekend, I’m not about to believe one bit that this team can pack their bags and play to their potential away from Paul Brown Stadium. They haven’t done so all season.
As for the Colts, they’re simply an erratic team. They blew out San Francisco, Jacksonville and Seattle earlier this season only to lose to San Diego before toppling the previously undefeated Denver Broncos. Things got worse after their bye week when they barely beat Houston and Tennessee twice each while being slaughtered by the Rams, Cardinals and Bengals. They ended their year with huge victories against Kansas and Jacksonville, but also boast the weakest roster of any playoff team on the board. That’s why the updated odds to win the AFC Championship are so long for the Colts, and why you shouldn’t bother. This will be a great team once again in the future, but they’re not there right now.
Updated AFC Championship Odds Longshots
Kansas City Chiefs +1500
San Diego Chargers +1800
The Chargers literally backed in to the playoffs by escaping a blown call by the refs in Week 17 when they illegally lined up to block a field goal attempt that eventually missed and sent the game in to overtime. I am a huge Philip Rivers booster in general, but even I can’t tell you to bet on them this weekend in Cincinnati as seven-point dogs. They’ve had a marvelous run to the end the season, but visiting Cincinnati has been hell on earth for everyone that’s tried so the Chargers present nothing more than a flier bet in the updated odds to win the AFC Championship. Even there, it feels like a money burn.
That’s not the case with Kansas City. The Chiefs can’t get any respect, but part of why their updated odds to win the AFC Championship are so high is how they ended the year. Kansas went undefeated in their first nine games, but then lost their next three after the bye week and didn’t exactly finish on a high note after giving up against Indy and San Diego in their last two games.
However, this team has a few qualities that I love. They’re a dangerously efficient team that runs the ball extremely well and plays lock down defense. They gave up a serious amount of yards (367.8 per game ranked 24th) but also allowed the sixth fewest points with just 19.1 points against per game. They also allowed just three teams to score more than 30 points on them all season. No team AFC playoff team had fewer 30-points-against games than the Chiefs.
People didn’t exactly fall in love with the way Kansas City played football, but they racked up an enormous amount of victories by playing tight to the chest and relatively mistake free. They can win those hideous games that other teams can’t because they’re built to play in them. This is a tough team that went from a laughing stock last season to a legitimate Super Bowl contender this season. They’re not done proving just how good they are while everyone simply says “you can’t win this or that with Alex Smith”. I’m not elated by Smith but I think he’s far more lethal than people general give him credit for.
So if you’re wondering who my two favorite bets are in this conference, it comes down to a gut wrenching play on the Chiefs at 15-to-1 and the Patriots at +350. The Broncos are definitely up there as well, but I’m not that enamored with Peyton Manning in windy weather. I think Tom Brady has proven that he can pull his team uphill against even the highest odds, while Alex Smith is finally ready to show everyone what he’s capable of in the post season. No team is necessarily a bad bet in the updated odds to win the AFC Championship, but if you’re asking this handicapper the Patriots and the Chiefs are the best ones overall in terms of value.