LAS VEGAS -- The Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks have been on a collision course all season and will now meet in Super Bowl XLVIII. The Broncos are a slight favorite, a consensus minus-1.5, but they didn't start out that way. Let's recap how we got here before discussing where the line could go.
In the AFC title game, the Broncos closed as a consensus 5-point home favorite over the New England Patriots and the total got bet up to 57.5 with unseasonably nice weather (63 degrees at kickoff) in Denver. However, the shootout never materialized as the Broncos dominated early to build a 13-3 halftime lead (covering the 3-point first-half spread) and extended it to 23-3 early in the fourth quarter. The Patriots cut the final margin to 26-16 to make it interesting, but they failed on a two-point conversion after their TD with 3:07 remaining that could have cut the lead down to 8 and made it a one-score game. The Broncos then recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock.
In the NFC title game, the Seahawks closed as a consensus 3.5-point home favorite, but it was the San Francisco 49ers who looked like they were primed to win their third straight road game of these playoffs as Aldon Smith stripped Russell Wilson and recovered the fumble on the first play from scrimmage to set the early tone. However, the 49ers were limited to a field goal and despite their early dominance only led 10-3 at halftime. The Seahawks rallied in the second half to tie the game 10-10 on Marshawn Lynch's 40-yard TD run. After the 49ers answered to go back up 17-10 on Colin Kaepernick's laser-like 26-yard TD pass to Anquan Boldin, the Seahawks cut it to 17-13 on a Steven Hauschka 47-yard field goal and then took a 20-17 lead when coach Pete Carroll called back the FG unit on a fourth-and-7 and Wilson connected with Jermaine Kearse on a 35-yard TD pass. Hauschka added a 40-yard field goal (after a wild sequence in which the 49ers had a goal-line stand -- and had to overcome a blown fumble call by the refs -- to keep the Seahawks from going up by 10) to make the final score 23-17 and give Seattle and its backers the point-spread cover.
But that game had more drama as the 49ers mounted a last drive that could have flipped everything (the ATS result, the outright money line result and the over/under as it closed a consensus 41). Kaepernick drove the 49ers from their own 22-yard line to the Seahawks' 18 before trying to hit Michael Crabtree in the back of the end zone, but Seattle CB Richard Sherman deflected the pass and it was intercepted by LB Malcolm Smith to send the Seahawks to the Super Bowl.
So after underdogs had dominated these playoffs with a 5-2-1 ATS record through the first two rounds, both home favorites covered Sunday in the conference championship games to cut the dogs' lead to 5-4-1 ATS heading to the Super Bowl. In totals wagering, the under hit in both games Sunday (though some bettors who got over 39 or 39.5 for the 49ers-Seahawks game earlier in the week would disagree) and improved to 8-2 in the playoffs.
Here is what I learned this weekend, along with an analysis of the early Super Bowl XLVIII line: