When you have an NFL conference with a perpetual playoff contender (New England) hell-bent on using is conference-best quarterback and NFL-best coach to repeat as Super Bowl champs; a surprise-package team (Kansas City) flying on the moon with an 11-game winning streak; a legendary quarterback (Peyton Manning) looking to end his NFL tenure with a Super Bowl Trophy; and an explosive offense-first team (Pittsburgh) that can shred you into pieces through its red-hot QB-WR tandem; then you can easily make a case in the NFL odds that the Super Bowl title belongs to that conference. That’s exactly what all the supporters of the American Football Conference (AFC) are hoping, praying and betting on, ahead of the AFC Divisional Round matchups.
Can the AFC claim the Super Bowl Title for the second year running? And if that is to happen, which of the remaining four AFC contenders—Denver (12-4), New England (12-4), Kansas City (12-5) and Pittsburgh (10-6)—will carry the conference mantle all the way the National Championship game? Let’s check out what the NFL odds have to say, as we take a brief look at the Championship Future odds preview below.
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) January 15, 2016
Betting the New England Patriots (+400)
While the Patriots are looking healthier with the return of players like Danny Amendola, Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung, along with the likes of Julian Edelman, Sebastian Vollmer and Dont’a Hightower who are also expected back in the lineup; there are still concerns about how New England blew the tires on its fast start to the season, finishing on a 2-4 run after rattling off 10 straight wins in their first 10 games. As a saving grace, though, the above-mentioned returning players and the full fitness of Tom Brady—the best quarterback in the AFC—gives the Pats sufficient depth to stop the streaking Chiefs and whichever teams New England will meet in the future.
Betting the Denver Broncos (+525)
Though Denver’s quarterbacks—Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler—don’t hold as much weight as Brady (or any other top quarterbacks in the playoffs such as Carson Palmer, Cam Newton Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers), the Broncos have other things working in their favor. For starters, the Broncos have a favorable matchup against a banged up Pittsburgh team, which should allow them to steamroll their way into the conference game. In addition, the Broncos have the best defensive unit in the playoffs, which can reduce even the best of offensive teams into near-nothingness. Added to the experience of coach Gary Kubiak and his supporting staff, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Manning’s wish of claiming a final Super Bowl title ends up turning into reality.
Betting the Kansas City Chiefs (+700)
Though the Chiefs are the only team in the AFC whose starting quarterback (Alex Smith) has not tasted the success of winning a Super Bowl ring, they come into this game on the back of a scintillating 11-game winning streak, which includes the 30-0 dismantling of the Houston Texans on Saturday. In addition to their rightfully hyped-momentum of winning 11 on the trot, the Chiefs have been running the ball quite well (averaging over 140 yards per game rushing in their last 11 outings). Moreover, they have a very solid secondary that has done well in protecting Smith and limiting turnovers. And above everything else, K-City’s pass rushers are the best in the playoffs. With all these elements at their disposal, maybe the Chiefs will finally end their Super Bowl drought.
Betting the Pittsburgh Steelers (+1,000)
Denver’s Manning is a legend and it would be sacrilegious to start listing the old man’s forgettable numbers from the regular season. What’s certain, however, is that the 39-year-old quarterback is far from the clutch passer he’s been for pretty much his whole career. The fact that he can’t take hits will also work in favor of Pittsburgh’s hard-hitting defenders. Keeping all that in mind, Pittsburgh’s underrated defense (which totaled 48 sacks – third-most in the NFL this season) will thus fancy its chances of getting to Manning as frequent as possible and capitalizing on his increasing tendency to turn over the ball cheaply. Meanwhile, the Ben Roethlisberger-led Pittsburgh offense should give fits to Denver. Yes, the Broncos defense is really good, but the Steelers already won over the Broncos this season, a 34-27 home victory that saw Pittsburgh rally from a 14-point deficit in the second half. Pittsburgh’s receivers matched-up well with Denver’s stingy secondary in that game, something they’ll be looking to exploit once again, whether or not Antonio Brown in available. And if the Broncos suffer an upset this week, then Pittsburgh should surely be able to find its footing in the NFC Championship game and beyond.