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Against the Spread

Conference Championship Picks

by Ed Williams III
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:09 pm ET

After both starting out 2-1-1 in the Wild Card round, Ed and Jeff stayed neck-and-neck with each other, going 3-1 in the Divisional round. Ed hung on for a win with the Seahawks, nailed the 49ers pick and covered with the Chargers after a fourth-quarter flurry of offense. The Patriots put the Colts away in the fourth quarter, though, stopping him from having a perfect week. While Jeff lost his Saints pick, he nailed the Patriots pick, and both he and Ed gained 150 units for the week. Thanks to a slight points lead after the Wild Card round, Ed sits at 5-2-1 with 1,125 units. Jeff is right behind him, though, with 1,100 units.

In the Conference Championship round, they'll be picking both games as well as the over/unders. And this weekend, they can wager up to 300 units total. Will someone take a clear-cut lead heading into the Super Bowl?

Check out the Wild Card column for the format they'll be following throughout the playoffs, and check out last week's Divisional round picks.

Editor's note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $300,000 Fantasy Football league for the Championship playoff weekend. It's $25 to join, and first prize is $25,000. Starts Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. Here's the FanDuel link.

New England Patriots at Denver Broncos (-5)

Ed: There are two amazing matchups this weekend, and they couldn’t be much more different from each other. While the NFC Conference Championship will be full of big hits and amazing defense, the AFC Championship will likely develop into a shootout. With two of the best quarterbacks of all time, how could it now? Peyton Manning was a machine all season long, and Tom Brady did a masterful job dealing with injuries and suspensions around him. Brady lost his favorite target in Wes Welker to the opposing Broncos, lost Aaron Hernandez due to legal issues (to put it mildly), was without Rob Gronkowski twice due to injurues, was without Danny Amandola for a period of time for injuries as well, and he also didn’t get his passing back Shane Vereen back until late in the season as well. And that doesn’t even factor in the injuries on the defense. Meanwhile, Manning has arguably the most weapons in the league with Demaryius Thomas, Welker, Eric Decker, Julius Thomas and running back Knowshon Moreno. While the offenses are going to get most of the attention, I think the biggest story of this game will Denver’s loss of CB Chris Harris. Harris graded out as a top-nine corner in Pro Football Focus' ratings this season, and the Broncos will likely go with Quentin Jammer on the outside now with Champ Bailey in the slot. The Pats have been a run-heavy team over their last few games, but it’s definitely time for Brady to let it fly. The Chargers were shutout for three quarters last week against the Broncos, but they went off for 17 points in the fourth, giving Denver a scare. A big reason the Chargers were able to come back was the loss of Harris. Peyton Manning gets a lot of criticism for not showing up in a big spot, in the cold, in the postseason, but I think he’ll be fine in this one. But I think Brady will be better, and more importantly, I think New England’s defense will be better. Look for the Pats to win this one outright.
Pick: Patriots +5, 75 untis

Jeff: The Patriots travel to Denver after defeating the Colts in a game that featured their running game as they accounted for all six touchdowns. The Broncos were able to hold off a late rally by the Chargers as a couple late conversions by the offense sealed the victory. In what will be a rematch from their Week 12 matchup where the Patriots came storming back from a 24-0 halftime deficit and won in overtime, the Broncos will be looking for some payback, as a Super Bowl appearance is at stake. This line opened at 6.5 and was quickly bet down to as low as 4, as many people jumped on the Patriots, especially with word that CB Chris Harris tore his ACL and will be out for the remainder of the playoffs. This game is projected to be a very high-scoring game as both offenses should move the ball well. I think Peyton Manning and the Broncos have too many weapons for this Patriots defense to handle. If Manning has time to sit back in the pocket with little pressure, he will carve this secondary up. The Colts were able to hit some big plays in the passing game with receivers that are no way as talented as the Broncos. Trying to account for Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker and Julius Thomas in the passing game will be a tall order for the Patriots' defense.  When they met back in Week 12, the very high winds significantly impacted the Broncos' passing game. The forecast in Denver at kickoff will be sunny in the upper 50's with minimal winds, which is ideal conditions for this offense. Knowshon Moreno had a career day in their first matchup as he rushed for 224 yards. I'm obviously not expecting another performance like that, but I expect Moreno and Montee Ball to run the ball well and help move the chains. Defensively, the Broncos will have their hands full with Tom Brady and their running game as LeGarrette Blount as been playing incredibly the last few weeks. The Patriots' offense will be without Rob Gronkowski this go around as he played a big factor in Week 12 and finished with seven catches for 90 yards and a touchdown. I think the Broncos' defense will come up with some big stops, forcing the Patriots to kick field goals instead of getting touchdowns, which will be critical.  In the end, I think Manning will be too much for the Patriots' defense as he'll lead the Broncos to a Super Bowl berth on Sunday.
Pick: Broncos -5, 50 units

New England Patriots at Denver Broncos (Total points: 56.5)

Ed: There will be points-a-plenty in this one. This matchup features two of the most prolific passers of all time, and also features two of the worst defenses in the league. If that’s not a recipe for a high-scoring affair, I don’t know what is. With so many weapons in his arsenal, it’s hard to imagine Peyton Manning not getting to at least the 30-point plateau. And especially with the loss of Chris Harris mentioned above, it’s equally hard to imagine Brady not getting his Pats past the 30-point mark as well. Both defenses are incredibly banged up, so Manning and Brady will exploit them to the fullest. Both teams also feature great running games, so the already questionable defenses won’t even be able to key in on the pass. LeGarrette Blount has been running like a man possessed, scoring four touchdowns last week against the Colts, and even Steven Ridley reached the end zone twice last week. And Knowshon Moreno has a monster season for the Broncos, and rookie Montee Ball has looked great the last couple weeks as well. Both running games are multi-faceted and will open things up for the passing games. The posted total is very high, but I think these teams will soar past it. Take the over with confidence.
Pick: Over 56.5 points, 100 units

Jeff: This total has gone up a few points since it opened as the public is anticipating a very high-scoring game similar to the last time they met when they accounted for 65 points in very windy conditions. This time around, the weather conditions will be much better. I think the only play here is the over. Both defenses are vulnerable to the big play in the passing game. As outlined above, I think Peyton Manning has a big day throwing the football, which will force Tom Brady and the Patriots to keep up with a Broncos offense that averaged close to 38 points per game during the regular season. Even if this game starts out a little slow from a scoring perspective, these teams can erupt with points at any time.
Pick: Over 56.5 points, 50 units

San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (-3.5)

Ed: This one is destined to be a good ol’ fashioned slobberknocker. It’s a good thing there’s a week off before the Super Bowl because whoever comes out of this one with a win is going to need the extra time to recover from this physical matchup. This matchup reminds me a lot of the Ravens-Steelers matchups we’ve become accustomed to. Extremely physical. Extremely hard-hitting. Two teams that know each other well. And usually low-scoring. I think those are all things to expect out of this one, which is a big reason I’m going to go with the points in this one. I know the 49ers have struggled in their trips to Seattle recently, but San Francisco is the hottest team left in the playoffs. They’ve now won eight games in a row and have already won twice on the road at Green Bay and Carolina. They made it all the way to the Super Bowl last year, so they’re extremely battle-tested. But the biggest reason I’m going with them is that they have more weapons on offense. Russell Wilson has proven he’s a great quarterback for the Seahawks, but the weapons around him are limited. Percy Harvin’s status is up in the air due to a concussion, and after that Wilson has Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse. I like Colin Kaepernick’s chances much more with Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. Seattle has arguably the most physical secondary in the league, but the 49ers’ receiving corps is also one of the toughest and best-equipped to deal with that physicality. Seattle probably has the better running back with Marshawn Lynch over Frank Gore, but I think both teams will be limited on the ground because of their stout defenses. Both quarterbacks will be able to scramble around and keep plays alive, but I trust San Francisco’s wide receivers to be able to come through in those situations more than Seattle’s. Look for the 49ers to win this one outright and return to the Super Bowl.
Pick: 49ers +3.5, 75 units

Jeff: Both the Seahawks and the 49ers took care of business in the Divisional round as the Seahawks held on to beat the Saints, and the 49ers pulled away from the Panthers in the second half to get the victory. Now the stage is set as the Seahawks and the 49ers will meet each other for the third time this year. Each team has won on their home field as they split during the regular season. I have been on the 49ers since the playoffs started thinking they can go on a serious run. I haven't seen anything up to this point that has made me think differently. They have been playing great football in all facets of the game. They are currently riding an eight-game winning streak with five of those wins on the road. This team is peaking at the right time. There is no doubt the 49ers have a huge task at hand travelling to Seattle where it is very difficult to win. However, I think this team is up for the challenge and ready to put together a great all-around effort. Colin Kaepernick will need to continue to pick his spots taking off and running with the football. His running ability makes this offense that much harder to defend when you have receiving options like Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. The 49ers will also need to get the running game going with Frank Gore against a Seahawks defense that can be run on as the Saints proved last week. In Week 14, Gore rushed for 110 yards against this defense, which was key in their 19-17 win. Another critical aspect in this game is going up against a great defense in the Seahawks. Kaepernick has to continue to be smart with the football as he can't turn the ball over and give the Seahawks a short field. Defensively, the 49ers have to contain Marshawn Lynch and not let him run wild. In the Seahawks' Week 2 win over the 49ers, Lynch scored three touchdowns. The Seahawks' passing game has been out of synch, which will make them want to lean even more on Lynch. The bottom line is I think the 49ers are playing better all-around football at this point in the season. Look for the 49ers to find a way to get the outright win (+155 on the money line) in what will be a tight, low-scoring game on Sunday. 
Pick: 49ers +3.5, 150 units

San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (Total points: 39.5)

Ed: I really wanted to take the over in this one, but I just don’t think I can. The defenses are just too good. Even the Packers with Aaron Rodgers, widely considered one of the best offenses in the league, was only able to muster 20 points against the 49ers. And last week the Seahawks were able to contain Drew Brees and company to just 15. Field position is going to be an extremely important factor in this matchup, and it could very well come down to a duel between kickers Steven Hauschka and Phil Dawson. Russell Wilson has only cracked 200 yards passing once in the past five games, and even that was for just 206 yards. He’s also only thrown four TD in those games, and failed to throw multiple TDs in a game during that span. Things certainly won’t get any easier against San Francisco. Seattle is first in the league in total defense, and San Francisco is fifth. Scoring will be at a premium in this one, and I have a hard time picturing either team getting to 20 points in this one. If you’re a fan of punts and field goals, this game will be for you!
Pick: Under 39.5 points, 50 units

Jeff: In a game that features two of the best defenses in the league, it is tough not to think this game isn't low-scoring with points hard to come by. During their two meetings in the regular season, the point totals were 32 and 36. I can see this game falling somewhere near those numbers again. Also, throw in the fact the importance of this game, and I can see both offenses coming out conservatively as they'll both look to establish the run game. The last thing either of these teams wants is to turn the ball over early giving the other team great field position. In what will be a very physical, hard-hitting game, look for this game to go under the posted total.
Pick: Under 39.5 points, 50 units

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