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Patriots, Panthers slim NFL Conference Championship favourites

Daniel Coyle, American Sports Correspondent | January 22, 2015

New England Patriots (-3.0) @ Denver Broncos

New England Patriots continue their drive towards a second straight Super Bowl title this weekend, when they travel to Denver to battle the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game as 3-point favourites in NFL betting with Coral.

The Patriots punched their ticket to a fifth straight appearance on Conference Championship Weekend with a 27-20 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in last Saturday’s AFC Divisional Playoff matchup, ending a two-game straight up losing streak that concluded their regular-season schedule on a sour note.

New England hits the gridiron at Sports Authority Field at Mile High as betting chalk despite a shaky record on the road of late, SU losers in three of their past four including a stunning 30-24 overtime loss in Denver in late November that ended a 13-game winning streak dating back to the start of last season’s playoffs.

Patriots Football

The defending champs have also proven unreliable, covering the spread in just five of their past 13 overall, picking up just one ATS win on the road since Week 5.

One of the most talked about story line of Sunday night’s game is the much anticipated head-to-head matchup between quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

The two have faced each other in previous game action on 16 occasions, with Brady’s Patriots emerging victorious 11 times, eight while Manning was with the Indianapolis Colts, and three of four since his move to Denver.

However, it is Manning who has held the upper hand in recent postseason battles with his archrival, with the Broncos topping the Patriots 26-16 as 4.5-point chalk two years ago, in addition to a 38-34 Colts victory nine years ago.

Manning led Denver to a 23-16 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers last weekend in his first start since November, returning to action after being sidelined with a foot injury.

But the 39-year-old has struggled to connect with his receivers in the end zone this season, completing just nine total TD passes, and a mere three over his past seven appearances.

While struggling at times offensively, the Broncos were dominant without the ball this season, leading the NFL in team defense, surrendering an average of less than 200 passing yards and just 18.5 points per game.

Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers (-3.0)

In Sunday night’s NFC Championship Game, the Carolina Panthers welcome the Arizona Cardinals to town as 3-point chalk in American football betting at Coral.

Winners of an NFL-best 15 games during the regular season, the Panthers claimed a 31-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks last weekend, coming perilously close to blowing a 31-0 first-half lead before hanging on for the win as 2.5-point favourites.

That marked their 12th straight victory on their home field at Bank of America Stadium, including wins by a margin of seven or more points in six of their past seven.

The Cardinals earned just their second-ever appearance in an NFC title game by eking out a slim 26-20 victory over Green Bay last weekend, overcoming late-game heroics by Packers pivot Aaron Rodgers with an early score in the extra frame.

Panthers Saints Football

Arizona will be looking to avenge a 27-16 loss to the Panthers on Wild Card Weekend a year ago, their fourth SU loss in their past five trips to Charlotte, with their sole victory coming in the 2009 NFC Divisional Playoffs, handing the Panthers a 33-13 rout as 10-point underdogs.

NFC West champions claimed 13 victories during the regular season, and are 10-1 SU in their past 11, including five straight wins on the road by an average margin of 15.4 points.

The Cards have failed to consistently reward loyal sports punters, however, failing to cover in each of their past two, while going a middling 6-6 ATS over their past 12, and 0-3 ATS in their last three postseason contests.

With a major winter storm currently pounding the Eastern United States, weather has emerged as a concern for Sunday night’s contest in Charlotte, but the forecast at game time calls for clear skies with the temperature hovering around the freezing mark.

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