Chiefs, Bills, Ravens lead AFC contingent

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The NFL’s Sweet 16 is set. Now, what felt like a marathon regular season has turned into a sprint to Tampa, Fla., for Super Bowl LV Feb. 7.

The AFC appears to be loaded with Kansas City, Buffalo, an improved Baltimore, a struggling Pittsburgh and Tennessee holding five of the conference’s seven playoff spots. Even Indianapolis can’t be discounted as the Colts have a veteran quarterback in Philip Rivers and a good running game with Joseph Taylor. And could Cleveland with QB Baker Mayfield shock the football world with an extended postseason run?

At 6-5, the Chiefs, who have the AFC’s bye, are the favorites to win the conference and get to Tampa to defend their Super Bowl title. The Bills are 2-1. The Browns, the seventh AFC team who are making their first playoff appearance since 2002, are 25-1 to represent the conference in Super Bowl LV.

In the NFC, Green Bay is the top seed and the Packers get to rest this weekend as the remaining six duke it out in what the NFL has dubbed “Super Wild card weekend.” 

At Station Casinos, the Pack are 1-2 to win the NFC, with New Orleans next at 2-1, followed by Seattle at 4-1.

But there are no lack of interesting stories in the NFC. You have Tom Brady trying to lead Tampa Bay to the Super Bowl and be the first team to play at home in the 55 years of the game. There’s Washington, which took advantage of a substandard East Division to represent it and get a home game out of it as a No. 4 seed as it hosts the Buccaneers.

There’s the rematch of the Seahawks and the Rams, who will be facing each other for the third time this year and second time in three weeks. And there’s the Bears, who can be great one week and miserable the next. Chicago travels to New Orleans to face the Saints, where rumors are circulating that future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees may call it quits after this season.

For football fans and bettors, the NFL’s decision to expand the playoffs and add two more Wild Card’s while reducing the number of byes in half is a welcome sight. Three games on Saturday and three more on Sunday spread out throughout the day and into the evening will keep everyone engaged. And for those who like to bet in-game, it’s like an extended Christmas. 

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Most books will also post proposition bets for all six Wild Card games, adding to the wagering menu, which will also be welcomed by bettors.

Normally, the handicapping angles include injuries and weather. But there’s also the added coronavirus factor and players sidelined by COVID-19 to factor in. The Saints are expected to be without Alvin Kamara, their standout running back, who is in COVID protocol. Tampa Bay may have to play without receiver Mike Evans, one of Brady’s favorite targets after he hurt his knee last week. 

The outdoor games are in Buffalo, where it will be 28 degrees but no snow for the Colts-Bills contest, Landover, MD, where it will e slightly warmer at 39 degrees and clear for Bucs-Washington, 48 degrees and partly cloudy in Seattle for Rams-Seahawks, cloudy and 45 degrees in Nashville for the Ravens-Titans and in the upper 20s at kickoff Sunday in Pittsburgh for the Browns-Steelers game. 

There are some big numbers for the favorites to cover. New Orleans is -9.5 over Chicago, Tampa Bay is -8.5 over Washington and Buffalo is a touchdown favorite over Indianapolis.

The most competitive game from a point spread standpoint? Baltimore, which is -3.5 to win at Tennessee. The Ravens-Titans game also has the highest total of the six games at 55.

About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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