The NFL playoffs start this weekend and it is looking more and more like the biggest mystery is just which team will win the NFC and face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI.
Earlier this week we took a look at which teams have the best chance to win the Super Bowl and the New England Patriots were an overwhelming favourite with a 35% chance to win it all. The biggest reason that the Pats have such a higher chance than the No. 1 seed in the NFC, the Dallas Cowboys at 14%, is because the Patriots seemingly have a much easier path to the Super Bowl.
In the NFC, the Cowboys must survive a tournament that includes several teams with Super Bowl-calibre résumés and Super Bowl-calibre talent. That group includes the Falcons (the NFL’s No. 1 offence and likely MVP Matt Ryan), Seahawks (two Super Bowls in last three seasons), Packers (have won six in a row behind two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers), and Giants (with two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning).
Things are much different in the AFC. How different? Take a look at how lopsided the Patriots’ first playoff game will be.
The Pats have a bye in the first round and will face one of three teams at home in the divisional round. The Las Vegas Westgate Casino has already released point spreads for all three potential matchups (via ESPN).
- If the Dolphins beat the Steelers in Round 1, the Patriots would play the Dolphins in Round 2.
- The Pats would be favoured by 13.5 points over the Dolphins.
- If the Steelers beat the Dolphins, the Patriots would play the winner of the Texans-Raiders game.
- The Pats would be favoured by 14.5 points over the Texans.
- The Pats would be favoured by 16.5 points over the Raiders.
In other words, the Patriots will be approximately a two-touchdown favourite (or more) in their first playoff game, suggesting it should be an easy win. If so, that means the Patriots only need to win one real game to reach the Super Bowl, the AFC title game. Even then, the Patriots will likely be heavily favoured.
The toughest opponent the Pats could face in the AFC Championship game is the Chiefs. However, the Patriots will have the heavy advantage of playing that game at home, in Foxborough, in late-January.
Is anybody going to bet against the Patriots reaching their seventh Super Bowl in 16 years? I wouldn’t.
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