Now it’s getting serious. The 2016 NFL playoffs are now in the Conference Championships – pro football’s version of the Final Four. Millions of people will be glued to their screens this Sunday. The betting market is going to be very busy, and most of that money will be on the favorites. But before you “fade the public” and bet blindly on the underdogs, consider this: The favorites have gone 53-33 SU and 43-32-1 ATS in the Conference round.

Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons (3:05 PM ET, FOX)

The Packers (12-6 SU, 11-6-1 ATS) have won the Super Bowl before. And they’ve become incredibly popular during their eight-game winning streak, cashing in seven times, so they’ll get at least some of the betting action for the NFC title game. But it’s the Falcons (12-5 SU, 11-6 ATS) pulling in most of the early money. They remain 4-point favorites at press time with an enormous total of 61.5 points, up from 61 at the open.

That total reflects the two offenses in question – as well as the two defenses. While we all know about Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers, the league’s top MVP candidates, far less has been said regarding how poorly these teams have played at the other end of the field. When they met at the Georgia Dome in Week 8, it was the Falcons prevailing 33-32 (OVER 52.5) as 3-point home favorites. At least Atlanta improved their defense as the season has progressed. That could be the difference-maker in the rematch.

Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots (6:40 PM ET, CBS)

The AFC title game features another pair of popular teams, but again, the home favorites have been drawing the big money. New England (15-2 SU, 14-3 ATS) is a powerhouse franchise with arguably the league’s most famous player in Tom Brady. The Patriots are holding steady as 6-point favorites on the NFL odds board, with a total of 51.

The Steelers (13-5 SU, 11-6-1 ATS) are on an incredible roll with nine straight wins at 7-1-1 ATS, and they’re the only team in the Conference round with a well-rounded defense. New England allowed the fewest points per game during the NFL regular season at 15.6, compared to 20.4 for Pittsburgh, but the Pats are good at one thing only: stuffing the run. That might be enough on a chilly and overcast evening at Foxborough. However, the conditions should only make it harder for the prohibitive Super Bowl 51 favorites to cover that 6-point spread on Sunday.


*Odds as of January 20, 2017