Patriots Still Second-Favorites to Win Super Bowl Entering Divisional Round, With 49ers Seen as Likeliest Opponent


Tom Brady, Danny Woodhead, Brandon LloydThe NFL’s wild card weekend was fairly unusual in two regards: All four favorites covered the spread — Seattle being the only road favorite at Washington — and all four games went under the total with not a one reaching 40.

As we head into divisional round play this weekend, three of the four games feature rematches from the regular season: Denver versus Baltimore, New England hosting Houston and San Francisco against Green Bay. The lone outlier is Seattle, which has to fly across country yet again, playing at No. 1 NFC seed Atlanta. Look for a Bovada prop on the number of teams to win the rematch game.

Of course, the Patriots destroyed Houston 42-14 at Foxboro in Week 14 behind 296 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions from Tom Brady. It was Brady’s 18th career four-touchdown game; Brett Favre has the most all-time with 23. It was Brady’s 14th career game with at least four TDs and no picks, which is No. 1 in history.

The Texans became the first team in five seasons to be 10 games over. 500 and lose by at least 28 points in a game. For what it’s worth, no Super Bowl team has ever lost a game in December or later by at least 28 points and only four championship teams have lost a game by 28 points all regular season. The last was the 2003 Patriots, who lost their opener 31-0 at Buffalo, which was led by former New England quarterback Drew Bledsoe.

New England was a 5 1/2-point Bovada favorite for the first meeting against Houston with the total at 50 1/2 points. This time, it’s set at Patriots -10 and the total at 47 1/2, which is the highest of the weekend. The Pats remain second-favorites to win the Super Bowl at 7-2 and their favored Super Bowl matchup is against San Francisco at 13-2. New England’s longest shot is against Seattle at 9-1.

Denver remains the Super Bowl favorite at 11-4 and the AFC favorite at 11-10. The Broncos have won 11 straight games since a Week 5 loss at the Patriots. Denver visited Baltimore in Week 15 and beat the Ravens 34-17. Peyton Manning was relatively quiet, throwing for 204 yards and a touchdown. Eric Decker caught eight of those throws — including the TD — for 133 yards. The Ravens were held to 56 yards rushing. Denver was a three-point favorite then with the total at 48. Now it is -10 with a total of 46. The Broncos’ favored Super Bowl matchup — the top favorite overall — is also against San Francisco at 11-2.

The 49ers visited the Packers in Week 1 as six-point underdogs and upset Green Bay 30-22. Back then, Alex Smith was San Francisco’s starting QB and he was a very efficient 20-of-26 for 211 yards, two scores and no interceptions. Frank Gore rushed for 112 yards on 16 carries and Niners kicker David Akers tied the NFL record with a 63-yard field goal to close the first half. This week, a struggling Akers is trying to fend off Billy Cundiff to keep his job. Akers ranked 30th in the NFL this season in field-goal percentage at 69 percent and is has made just nine of his past 19 attempts from 40 yards or longer.

This time around and with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, the 49ers are three-point favorites with a total of 45, the lowest of the weekend. The 49ers are tied as the NFC’s Super Bowl favorites at 6-1 with the Packers. However, San Francisco is the NFC championship favorite at 11-5 with Green Bay at 3-1.

Finally, Seattle is the only non-division winner left standing and the Seahawks are three-point underdogs at Atlanta. The Falcons are looking for their first playoff win since coach Mike Smith and QB Matt Ryan arrived in Atlanta. The Seahawks have won six straight games, four by double-digit margins, but Atlanta was 7-1 at home during the regular season. The only team with a better home mark? Seattle. The Seahawks played two games in domes this season and lost both, at St. Louis and at Detroit (three if you count a Week 1 loss at Arizona and the retractable roof University of Phoenix Stadium).

Atlanta is 7-1 to win the Super Bowl and 12-5 to win the NFC. The Falcons’ favored Super Bowl matchup is 6-1 against Denver. Seattle is also 7-1 to win the Super Bowl but the NFC title long shot at 13-4. The Seahawks’ favored Super Bowl matchup is 15-2 against the Broncos. The two longest shots for a Super Bowl matchup at 40-1 are Seahawks-Texans and Seahawks-Ravens.

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