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NFC Championship Preview: Back the Pack to the Super Bowl

Never bet against Tom Brady. It’s a rule to live by, one that wins us lots of money. It’s a rule that dies this weekend. We’re riding the Green Bay Packers to the Super Bowl.

The Packers aren’t just my favorite to win the Super Bowl because I like Aaron Rodgers, Lambeau Field or cheese hats. Green Bay has proven they’re the best team weekly, staying healthy and showing dominance on both sides of the football. I’m not ditching them now just because the GOAT, Tom Brady, is coming into town.

I understand the reservations. Whether you love Brady or hate him, you deservedly respect him. I can’t argue with it. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers commandingly beat the Packers in their lone meeting this season, 38-10. But that happened in Week 6. In other words, we may as well be in a different season this weekend.

I’ve crunched the data, looked at the injury reports and studied the narratives. Here’s the result: The Packers are winning on Sunday, covering the spread, and representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.

Ahead is my gambling guide for the NFC Championship game.

The odds in this article come from our excellent partners at the FanDuel Sportsbook, who are offering an incredible promo for new users. Bet $5 on any of the playoff teams to win this weekend, and if they succeed, you win $125. That represents an unbelievable 25-to-1 odds boost. You can lock the offer in by clicking this link.

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Odds via the FanDuel Sportsbook; subject to change.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Green Bay Packers (-3)

(3:05 p.m. ET on FOX)

  • Against the Spread: TB: +3 (+106), GB: -3 (-130)
  • Moneyline: TB (+150), GB (-178)
  • Total: Over 51.5 (-114), Under 51.5 (-106)

BACKGROUND

Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady. First ballot hall of famer vs. first ballot hall of famer in a freezing Lambeau Field. It doesn’t get better than this.

As mentioned above, the Packers and Bucs will meet for the second time this season, this time in the NFC Championship game. Both Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks are familiar with the stakes. Brady will be walking into his fourteenth conference championship game, while Rodgers will be playing his fifth.

The Packers are 8-1 at home this season and coming off a Rams rout last week, 32-18. Green Bay finished with the best record in the NFC, earning them a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Green Bay has the No. 1 scoring offense, No. 1 third down offense (50.52% conversion), and the No. 1 red zone offense (78.46% of red zone opportunities are touchdowns). They complement their extremely potent offense with the No. 8 defense in the league, who are above average in every significant defensive metric and have arguably the best cornerback in football, Jaire Alexander.

They’re taking on a formidable Buccaneers team that finished as the No. 2 scoring offense and No. 7 ranked defense. Tampa Bay is coming off a massive 30-20 beatdown of the Saints last week, a game I fully anticipated the Bucs to lose. They certainly could’ve, had it not been for costly Saints turnovers, but the only stat that matters is the scoreboard. They’ve lit it up all season, averaging 30.7 points per game, thanks to “Tom Terrific,” who continues to beat “Father Time.”

AGAINST THE SPREAD

The Bucs absolutely deserve to be in the conference championship game. Sharp bettors have recognized this, bringing the spread down from +4.5 at some places to its current +3. That value is long gone, but it doesn’t matter to me. The Bucs may have won both their first two road games, but to win three in a row is an extremely tall order at Lambeau, where the Packers thrive.

Many point to the Bucs’ dominance in their Week 6 showdown to make a case for the underdogs. That was ages ago. Rodgers had his worst game of the season, finishing with 160 passing yards, two interceptions and no touchdowns. While it has merit, the poor performance was an anomaly. Rodgers finished the season the betting favorite to win the MVP.

Green Bay has won by double digits in five of their last seven games and has only allowed an average of 17.3 points per game in their previous six games. The Buccaneers offense is the best they’ll face in that span, but if this comes down to whoever makes the final stop, I’m taking Green Bay’s defense. Back the public and the superior Packers to cover the spread at home where they thrive the most.

THE PICK: Packers -3

FIRST HALF

The single most significant constant to Green Bay’s success is their ability to put the pressure on early. The Packers have the best first half offense in the NFL, averaging 18.7 first half points per game. Their first half defense is also elite, only allowing an average of 10.8 first half points per game.

The Packers have made it a habit to score on opening drives this season, and while the Bucs aren’t far behind in first half production, one stop can be the difference. Advantage: Green Bay.

At just 2.5 points, ride the favorites to go into halftime with a lead.

The Pick: Packers 1H (-2.5)

TOTAL

When betting totals for a Green Bay game in January, it’s imperative to look at the weather forecast. While it looked like there was a chance for snow and wind on Sunday, Wisconsin’s best meteorologists predict a relatively clear day, with winds under 10 miles per hour throughout the day.

When you factor that in with the fact that these are the two highest-scoring teams in football, each averaging over 30 points per game, 51.5 points looks like a soft line. As they should be, the public is all over it, so don’t get discouraged by the money.

Rodgers picked apart the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL last week, the Rams, to the tune of 296 yards and two touchdowns. Brady did the same last week to the Saints’ No. 5 pass defense. Cold weather alone isn’t a recipe for lower scores, especially with these guys slinging the rock, so you need more elements for it to matter.

The Pick: Over 51.5

Will this be Brady’s last dance? Will Rodgers be competing for another Super Bowl title in February? We have an incredible matchup on tap for Sunday!

For betting analysis and picks for the AFC Championship game, check out BeatinTheBookie’s column here.

As always, best of luck if tailing. Enjoy the game!

New users, don’t forget to take advantage of the excellent 25-to-1 odds boost the FanDuel Sportsbook offers. Bet $5 on one team to win outright, win $125! Lock in the promo by clicking this link.

For more betting tips, follow @ErickValenciano on Twitter. Make sure you’re following our sports betting account, too: @OutKickBets.

Written by Erick Valenciano

Erick Valenciano is a So Cal native who moved to Las Vegas to pursue a career in broadcasting and sports betting. A graduate of Cal State Fullerton, Erick paid his way through betting on sports and selling event tickets. He's also a mid-90s golfer and insists nobody will ever break his heart worse than the Chargers have.

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