- Dave Tuley, ESPN Insider
LAS VEGAS -- The NFL's version of the Final Four on Sunday will feature Denver hosting New England and Seattle hosting San Francisco.
The LVH SuperBook posted its updated Super Bowl futures after Sunday's divisional playoff games with the Seahawks the favorite at 7-4, Broncos at 9-5, 49ers at 3-1 and Patriots at 6-1. It's interesting to note that, if we take the Wayback Machine back to the week before the season started, these were the lowest-priced teams at the LVH: Broncos at 5-1, Seahawks 6-1, 49ers 6-1, Packers 9-1 and Patriots 10-1. After San Francisco beat Green Bay in Week 1, the Packers were bumped out of the top four, and the 49ers and Seahawks have been on a collision course ever since.
All four were favored this past weekend, although they were only 2-2 ATS against the ViewFromVegas Consensus Closing Line. As I wrote in my "Tuley's Take" column Thursday, the point spread was more likely to come into play in the divisional playoffs with the spreads being higher (in the wild-card round, when the lines tend to be lower, the 49ers-Packers game was the first time in seven years a SU winner in that round didn't also cover the spread; however, the divisional playoffs had seen the SU winner fail to cover -- which happens when the favorite wins but the 'dog covers -- 20.2 percent of the time since 1990).
That happened with the very first game of the weekend as the Seahawks closed as a 9-point favorite over the Saints and got out to a 16-0 halftime lead but held on for a 23-15 victory. Plenty of people pushed as 8 was the most common point spread in the middle of the week, but we grade against the consensus closing line (as that's after everyone from the oddsmakers, the bookmakers, the wiseguys and the public have all weighed in with their opinions).
The Patriots got out to a 14-0 lead, but the Colts kept battling back, and the game was sitting on the closing spread of 7 with the Pats leading 29-22 early in the fourth quarter until LeGarrette Blount's 73-yard TD run (his fourth of the game) put them over the number. They won and covered 43-22.
On Sunday, the 49ers, a 1.5-point road favorite in Vegas (although it was closer to pick 'em offshore), also covered as they beat the Panthers 23-10 to set up the first conference final matchup.
The last game of the weekend saw the Broncos, who closed as a 9-point favorite over the Chargers, get out to a 14-0 lead even though they squandered a couple of scoring opportunities. The Chargers rallied in the second half and got the back-door cover as the Broncos escaped 24-17.
With favorites/underdogs splitting 2-2 ATS, that makes underdogs still ahead 5-2-1 ATS through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Unders, which were 3-1 in wild-card weekend, went 3-1 again and thus are 6-2 overall.
Let's take a look at what I learned over the weekend from a gambling perspective and at the early championship game line moves.
Dave Tuley gives his take on early line moves for the championship games and takeaways from the divisional round.