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Unlike the NFC, the two top seeds in the AFC have both been here before and gone on to represent the conference in the Super Bowl each of the past two years.
That is one of the main reasons why the top-seeded Denver Broncos (12-4) and second-seeded New England Patriots (12-4) are each solid favorites to advance to the AFC Championship Game, where they could meet for the second time in three seasons.
The defending Super Bowl champion Patriots are five-point betting favorites and have the more difficult matchup of the two, as they will host the streaking Kansas City Chiefs (12-5) on Saturday to kick off the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
The Chiefs have won their last 11 games after blanking the Houston Texans 30-0 in their AFC Wild Card game as three-point road favorites last Saturday. Kansas City is also 8-3 against the spread during its win streak.
But New England should be very motivated to defeat the Chiefs after getting embarrassed by them at Arrowhead Stadium early last season. Kansas City crushed the Patriots 41-14 as 2.5-point home underdogs in Week 4, making many question whether or not their dynasty was over.
New England quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick then used that criticism to spark the team’s Super Bowl run.
Denver is hoping the return of quarterback Peyton Manning will spark a similar run this year after he replaced Brock Osweiler in the regular-season finale. Manning has recovered from a foot injury and will be starting for the first time since Week 10 when the Broncos host the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-6) on Sunday.
Manning missed the first meeting with the Steelers in Week 15, which resulted in a 34-27 road loss for Denver as a seven-point underdog. The Broncos are seven-point home betting favorites this time around.
The Steelers will be looking to overcome a few key injuries and pull off the upset following an 18-16 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals as two-point road favorites last Saturday. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder), running back DeAngelo Williams (knee) and wide receiver Antonio Brown (concussion) were all considered questionable for Sunday’s game as of midweek.
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