NFL Conference Championship DFS: What the Oddsmakers Think
“Winning excuses everything.” Cam Newton
With just three total games remaining in the NFL season, it should be taken into account that anything could happen. After all, we witnessed Jeff Janis catch the ball for 145 yards and two touchdowns against the Cardinals in the divisional round last week. Prior to that game, Janis had 95 receiving yards and four catches to his name for his entire career. James Jones was irrelevant, Marshawn Lynch was irrelevant and Randall Cobb got hurt early in the game, which undoubtedly affected many DFS players. Teams are desperate to win at this stage of the season, which is why we’re seeing sleepers make a big impact on games during the postseason. The oddsmakers are always sharp and give us some indication as to what they believe will happen in these games. Here is what they’re saying with regards to the conference championship games. Enjoy!
Highest scoring game: Panthers vs Cardinals
This comes as no surprise: the Panthers vs Cardinals matchup is expected to be the highest scoring of the two games. The Cardinals averaged 289 passing yards per game during the regular season, which was the second best average in the league, and the Panthers were the second best rushing team in the league, averaging 142.6 rushing yards per game. Right off the bat, Vegas is pointing to the Cardinals’ passing game and the Panthers’ rushing game. Expect Carolina to run the ball like they did against the Seahawks when they ran for 144 yards during the divisional round. The Cardinals had 328 passing yards against the Packers during the divisional round and will look to put this one in the air.
Most Rushing Yards: David Johnson
Vegas believes that David Johnson will have the most rushing yards during the conference championship games but I strongly disagree. Last week, the Cardinals were matched up against a weak rushing defense in the Green Bay Packers yet they only managed 40 total rushing yards. Johnson has been contained over the last two games, averaging 2.3 yards per carry during that span and the Panthers have a solid rushing defense, allowing 88.4 rushing yards per game. The Cardinals will put this one in the air, which will certainly hurt Johnson’s production, and I cannot see him leading the field this week in rushing yards. After what Jonathan Stewart did last week against the Seattle Seahawks, the team with the best rushing defense in the league, I expect him to lead the field in rushing yards during these conference championship games.
Most Receiving Yards: Julian Edelman
Edelman is expected to lead the field this week with the most receiving yards and it’s hard to argue with the oddsmakers, considering he had 100 receiving yards in the divisional round against a tough Kansas City Chiefs defense. Dropped passes were an issue for Edelman during last week’s win, however coming off a broken leg, rust was certainly expected. Other players who have a shot at leading this week’s field in receiving yards include Emmanuel Sanders and Rob Gronkowski. Sanders torched the Patriots earlier this season, accumulating 113 receiving yards from six receptions and Gronkowski is always a threat to generate plenty of yards because he’s targeted many times throughout the game and is very hard to tackle.
Most Carries: Jonathan Stewart
No surprise here, of the four starting running backs, Jonathan Stewart is expected to lead the field in rushing attempts. The Panthers ran the ball a total of 526 times during the regular season, which was the most in the league, and they continued to rely on their running game last week during the divisional round when they had 144 rushing yards against a tough Seahawks defense. The oddsmakers list David Johnson as the back who is expected to get the second most carries during the conference championship games, but I’m be inclined to go with C.J. Anderson. Peyton struggled passing the ball against a weaker Steelers defensive unit and Anderson had great success against the Patriots in a matchup earlier this season.
Most Passing Yards: Tom Brady
Brady had 302 passing yards against the Chiefs and the Patriots did not focus on running the ball at all, which I believe will be the same story against the Broncos. If the Patriots want to beat the Broncos on the road, they will have to rely heavily on their passing game, which makes Brady the most valuable quarterback heading into the conference championship games. The Cardinals could rely on Johnson, the Broncos could rely on Anderson and the Panthers could rely on Stewart. The Patriots cannot rely on Steven Jackson or James White, which is why Vegas believes that Brady will have the most receiving yards of all quarterbacks during the conference championship games.
Fewest Passing Yards: Cam Newton
During the regular season, the Carolina Panthers had a total of 501 passing attempts, the sixth lowest total and 300 completions, the fourth lowest total in the league. They do not rely on Cam Newton’s arm as much as they do his legs, which is why the oddsmakers believe he will only have 238.5 passing yards against the Cardinals, the lowest total of the four quarterbacks. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if Peyton Manning had the fewest passing yards in the conference championship after it was all said and done. He finished with just 222 passing yards against the Steelers and did not find the end zone even once. It’s clear that the Panthers and Broncos will put the game on the ground while the Patriots and Cardinals will try to win by throwing the ball.