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AFC Championship Pick And Betting Analysis

Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots -9, 46.5 

This is the highest spread we’ve seen in a conference championship game since the Pats were favored by 14 over the Chargers in 2008. The Pats won 21-12 but failed to cover in that one. Faves are now 12-1 since 1984 when favored by at least 9 in these games but just 7-6 against the spread, so make no mistake, this is a big number at this stage of the season. 

For that reason, I expect we’ll see tons of love for the Pats on teasers this weekend just like last weekend, where bettors can tease the Pats to below a field-goal favorite. We did see some Jags money come in through the week, though, perhaps after bettors watched underdogs go a best-ever 7-1 against the spread through the first eight games of the playoffs. 

The Jags money moved the line from 9 to 8.5 at some books and the total from 46.5 to 46, which came just after the news that Tom Brady injured his throwing hand in practice on Wednesday. The Pats weren’t saying much about the injury but I talked this week to NESN’s Michaela Vernava, who was at Gillette Stadium covering the Pats the day it happened. She sounded confident that he’ll be OK for the game. 

I also spoke Thursday with Yahoo’s Frank Schwab, who said he felt Brady was worth as much as 10 points to the spread – much like Aaron Rodgers earlier in the year – and that the Jags would be favored if we knew for sure Brady was out. Frank knows his stuff – he finished 33rd in the Westgate’s NFL Super Contest this year and I agree with him on Brady’s worth. 

Brady isn’t the best historically in AFC championship games at just 2-6 against the spread in his last eight of them. He’s also 5-6 against the spread in the 11 total he’s played in and he’s only thrown for more than 239 yards in four of those. The Pats are also 4-4 against the spread when favored by 9 or more this year and they lost two of those games outright, so this number is definitely feeling lofty to me.  

TB12 and New England face a Jags team that ranks second in scoring D, total D, sacks, interceptions and turnovers. They held eight opponents to fewer than 10 points but a concern here is the Jags didn’t cover against the two best passing teams they faced this season in terms of yards per play – the Chargers and Rams.  

On the other side, I feel if you can run on the Pats, you can beat them and certainly cover against them. New England lost two of its three games this season against two of the three best yards per rush attempt teams it faced: K.C. (1st) and Carolina (10th). (The third team was Tennessee at 9th.) The other loss came against the Dolphins, who rushed for 120 yards against the Pats. 

The Jags were the No. 1 rushing team in yards per game this season but the ankle injury to Leonard Fournette is definitely something to think about. I do like the UNDER, though, with the Jags’ game plan being no secret: rush as much as possible and stop the opponent with tough D. 

The Pats have allowed the fewest points in the NFL since Week 5, though, so don’t forget about their defense. I just think this is too many points to lay against such a strong defense. 

Pick: Jacksonville +9

(See who Yahoo’s Frank Schwab likes in the vid above.)