Three of the playoff field's top four seeds remain in the chase for the Vince Lombardi Trophy, with the Indianapolis Colts the lone road underdog to earn a victory in the NFL’s divisional round last weekend.
The third-seeded Colts upset the second-seeded Denver Broncos 24-13 as 9.5-point underdogs on Sunday, setting up a matchup with the top-seeded New England Patriots, who open as seven-point home favorites in the AFC Championship Game. In the NFC Championship Game, the defending Super Bowl champion and top-seeded Seattle Seahawks will host the Green Bay Packers in a rematch of their regular-season opener, which was also played at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks won that first meeting 36-16 as 4.5-point favorites and opened as 7.5-point favorites in their efforts to become the first repeat NFC champs since Green Bay accomplished the feat in 1998.
The Patriots, the last repeat Super Bowl champs, hope to advance to the big game for the sixth time in 14 years. They last won back-to-back NFL titles in 2004-05.
New England is coming off a 35-31 victory over the Baltimore Ravens last Saturday in which the Patriots fell short of covering as seven-point chalk, twice overcoming a 14-point deficit before scoring the game-winning touchdown on a pass from quarterback Tom Brady to wide receiver Brandon LaFell with 5:13 remaining. The Patriots have won their past five meetings with the Colts, going 3-2 against the spread.
However, Seattle still has the best odds to win the Super Bowl after beating the Carolina Panthers 31-17 on Saturday, with the closing line showing the Seahawks as a 14-point favorite. The Seahawks are riding a seven-game winning streak and had covered the spread in six straight before their latest victory resulted in a push. Their defense has been the story again down the stretch, limiting opponents to 17 points or less in every game during the winning streak.
The Packers earned a trip to Seattle with a 26-21 win against the Dallas Cowboys behind the heroics of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns despite playing on an injured calf. Rodgers led Green Bay back from a 21-13 deficit with two late touchdown passes at Lambeau Field, but that was not enough to cover the closing number of -5.5 in the betting lines.
The situational betting trends for Sunday’s matchups give a significant edge to each home team as well. The Packers are just 1-8 straight up and against the spread in their past nine games as road underdogs according to the OddsShark NFL Database and 1-5 straight up and against the spread in their previous six against NFC West opponents away from home. Meanwhile, the Seahawks have won five straight at home against NFC North foes straight up and against the spread.
Indy has dropped six in a row on the road against AFC East teams, going 2-4 against the spread, and New England has won its past 10 games when hosting AFC South squads with a 7-3 mark against the spread.