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NFL picks for AFC, NFC championship games: Why Broncos are undervalued

NFL picks for AFC, NFC championship games: Why Broncos are undervalued

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

Three more games of professional football left in the entire season. It's terrifying. It also means just three more games to pick and try and shore up a pretty good season picking games. Pretty good. Let's go great.

Anyway, another home underdog has popped up this week, with the Broncos getting 3.5 points from the Patriots. This is not something that happens often. Seven times to be exact, with the last home dog in a conference championship game being the Falcons against the 49ers in 2013.

Atlanta would cover -- losing by 4 as a 4.5-point underdog -- but ultimately lose the game when Matt Ryan's drive came up just short.

In those seven games, the home underdog went 3-4 against the spread and just 2-5 straight up. For comparison's sake, there are 25 home underdogs of three points or more in any playoff round since 1979 per Pro-Football-Reference. Those teams are 14-10-1 against the spread as a whole.

Denver's not a bad team either and is being totally counted out as a potential winner in this game. New England is better -- and substantially better in the Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning matchup -- but counting out the Broncos with that defense is silly.

Manning will keep it close with New England. (USATSI)

Broncos +3.5 vs. Patriots -- Give me Peyton in one last stand at home keeping things close. This line could/should creep any higher, making it an enticing pick if it gets up into the 4-point range as 80 percent of the public is hammering the Patriots. I think New England wins but the Broncos can cover and possibly pull off the upset.

Panthers -3.5 vs. Cardinals -- Surprising to see so much of the action (71 percent) against the spread on Carolina. Thought there would be a sleeper opportunity here to get them and maybe see this line creep down the way it did against the Seahawks. (The Panthers opened up -3 and fell to -1.5 at one point.) Just think Carolina is clicking, remains motivated and is capable of putting up big numbers early on.

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