-- LAS VEGAS -- The matchups for the AFC and NFC Championship Games are set, and if the oddsmakers are spot-on again, we could have just as much drama as we saw in the divisional playoff games this past weekend.
We have the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds from each conference facing off with both games lined right around a field goal. The New England Patriots are a three-point road favorite (with added juice of -120) at the Denver Broncos, and the Carolina Panthers are also a three-point home favorite (also at -120) over the Arizona Cardinals. This comes after a weekend in which all four won as home favorites, but the games all came down to the wire. The victors were only 2-1-1 ATS, and all four were one-score games and within a six-point teaser for both sides.
Conference championship lines
New England -3 (-120)
Denver O/U 44
Arizona O/U 47.5
Carolina -3 (-120)
Courtesy: Westgate SuperBook (as of late Sunday night).
Here's how the lines got bet into shape over the course of Sunday afternoon and night here in Vegas:
Cardinals at Panthers
Even though this will be the nightcap next Sunday, it was the first line set after the Panthers held off the Seahawks 31-24 as 2.5-point favorites in Sunday's early game after having a 31-0 halftime lead. It's interesting to note that the BetOnline offshore book, which likes to be the first to post lines albeit with low limits, made Carolina -4 at halftime of the Seahawks-Panthers game (with a disclaimer that "Game must take place for action"), and it was bet to -5 before it started to come back down during Seattle's rally. By the time the game ended, it was back down to 3.5, and that's where bigger offshore books like Pinnacle and Olympic opened the line.
The Westgate Las Vegas went with Carolina -3 while the Wynn Las Vegas opted to go even lower at Carolina -2.5. By the time the Steelers-Broncos game started a half-hour later, the consensus line had met in the middle with 12 of the 14 Nevada books on the Don Best Sports odds screen having Carolina -3 (with an average vig of -120). The only exceptions were the Wynn at Carolina -2.5 (-120) and the Station Casinos at Carolina -3.5 (EVEN). The over/under settled in at 44.5 at nine of 14 Nevada books with William Hill, Jerry's Nugget and Caesars joining the Westgate at 44 and the Golden Nugget having the highest total at 45.
Patriots at Broncos
After the Broncos rallied to beat the Steelers 23-16 to push on the consensus closing line of Denver -7, oddsmakers here in Vegas and offshore made the Patriots the favorite even though Denver is the AFC's No. 1 seed and has home-field advantage. The Westgate Las Vegas opened New England -2.5 and the Wynn again went lower at -2. Most offshore books opened at 3 and the early money came in on the Patriots as the line went to 3.5 at most books by 4:55 p.m. PT, but then the buyback came back on the Broncos and the line dropped back to 3. By 10 p.m. ET, the consensus line in Vegas was New England -3 (-120), while the South Point was the only book at -3 (-110). Station Casinos was again on the high end at New England -3.5 (EVEN) and was joined by the Boyd Gaming books. The over/under settled at 47.5 at 13 of the 14 Nevada books with William Hill at 48.
We'll see how these lines get bet during the course of the week. Follow our coverage here at Chalk for updates.