LAS VEGAS -- Sunday's AFC and NFC championship games are what everyone has been waiting for, from TV network executives to advertising agencies to bookmakers to pro football fans in general.
With the Denver Broncos hosting the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks hosting the San Francisco 49ers, the top two teams in each conference (forget the seedings as the 49ers were only the NFC's fifth seed due to being in the same division as the Seahawks) facing off for the right to go to the Super Bowl guarantees not only high TV ratings but also a high betting handle.
Bookmakers, who already report increased betting numbers through the first two rounds of the playoffs, are chomping at the bit for these two games this weekend and are just as eagerly anticipating a popular Super Bowl matchup that the legal bookies here in Vegas are expecting will break last year's record handle of $98 million.
After favorites and underdogs split 2-2 against the spread last weekend, 'dogs are still leading at 5-2-1 ATS. I took a step back last weekend as I went 1-2 ATS (unfortunately, I couldn't pull the trigger on the Saints against the Seahawks, though I would have been on the wrong side most of that game). Still, I can't complain about being 3-2-1 ATS so far in the playoffs.
Let's take a look at Sunday's late game in terms of how the public and wiseguys view the matchups, along with my take on the game from an ATS perspective.
Last week: 1-2 ATS | Playoffs to date: 3-2-1 ATS | Regular season: 55-62-3 (47 percent) ATS
Note: Public Consensus Pick percentages from ESPN Insider's PickCenter as of Thursday morning.
Matchup: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
Spread: Seahawks minus-3.5
Public consensus pick: 70 percent picked 49ers
Public perception: Here's another example of the public coming in strong on the underdog. Obviously there's a lot of sentiment that the 49ers are the best team in the NFC and they're peaking just as they did during last year's run to the Super Bowl. San Francisco has won both of its playoff games on the road and Colin Kaepernick also has looked better down the stretch than Russell Wilson. Even though Wilson is an impressive 12-5 ATS at home, Kaepernick is 10-3-1 ATS on the road in his career.