Panthers, Cardinals home betting favorites for NFC Divisional Round

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The Carolina Panthers will be looking to end a three-game straight-up losing streak in NFC Divisional Playoff action when they play host to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday as 2.5-point betting favorites at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The 15-1 Panthers capped their regular season schedule with a convincing 38-10 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as 10-point home chalk.

However, they have failed to progress past the Divisional Playoff round since 2006, taking a 1-4 SU overall record in their past five playoff games into Sunday afternoon’s Seahawks vs. Panthers betting matchup at Bank of America Stadium.

Carolina has dominated in the standings, but struggled at the sportsbooks down the stretch, going 2-3 against the spread in their final five regular-season contests. However, they remain a solid bet at home, covering in five of their past six games according to the OddsShark NFL Database.

The Seahawks continued their strong defensive play in last weekend’s 10-9 Wild Card victory over Minnesota. Seattle has won seven of eight SU, allowing more than 13 points on just two occasions while holding opponents to just two total major scores over their past five wins.

The Seahawks have also been one of the NFL’s most successful playoff performers over the past two years, going 6-1 SU in their past seven postseason games, including a 43-8 victory over Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII.

In Saturday’s NFC Divisional Playoff matchup, the Arizona Cardinals hope to avoid losing back-to-back contests for the first time in over a year when they host the Green Bay Packers as 7.5-point betting favorites. The Cardinals suffered a 36-6 loss to the Seahawks in their final regular-season outing as 6-point chalk.

That loss further diminished the attraction of Arizona as a heavy favorite, dropping them to 2-5 ATS in their past seven when favored by six or more points. However, the club has held opponents to just 12.2 points per game over their past five wins, forcing the point total UNDER in five of their past six, including three home contests.

The Packers travel to the desert riding high following a 35-18 win over the NFC East champion Washington Redskins in last weekend’s Wild Card matchup, picking up the outright win as 2-point underdogs.

The win ended a two-game SU and ATS slide and marked their highest offensive output on the road since a 38-17 win in Chicago early in the 2014 campaign.

The Packers are a mediocre 4-3 SU and ATS in their last seven road games, 2-2 SU and ATS in their last four games as underdogs, and winless in their past two visits to University of Phoenix Stadium.

Bennett doesn’t fear backlash for skipping White House trip

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HOUSTON (AP) Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett says he is not worried about upsetting team owner Robert Kraft by not attending New England’s trip to the White House as Super Bowl champions.

Bennett said after the Patriots’ 34-28 win over the Falcons on Sunday night that he’s “not going to go” to the traditional meet-and-greet with the president. It will be the first visit of a Super Bowl champion to Washington since Donald Trump was sworn into office.

Trump’s positions have alienated some athletes, which has raised questions about whether some might choose to skip the trip while the new president is in office.

But Bennett said he isn’t concerned about it and thinks the team believes “in whatever I want to do.”

Kraft is a supporter of Trump and attended a celebration dinner in Washington for him the night before his inauguration.

Patriots’ Tom Brady earns 4th Super Bowl MVP trophy with epic comeback

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HOUSTON (AP) The greatest quarterback in NFL history led the biggest Super Bowl comeback to be the MVP on Sunday night.

Tom Brady rallied New England from a 25-point third-quarter deficit for a 34-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the first overtime game in Super Bowl history to earn his fifth Super Bowl title and fourth MVP trophy.

“They’re all sweet,” he said. “They’re all different and this was just an incredible team and I’m just happy to be a part of it,” he said.

Brady threw touchdown passes of 5 and 6 yards in the second half and tied things at 28-28 when he connected withDanny Amendola on a 2-point conversion with 57 seconds left.

He then directed the drive in overtime which ended with a 2-yard run by James White to make the Patriots the first team to win a Super Bowl after trailing by more than 10 points.

“We all brought each other back,” he said. “We never felt out of it. It was a tough battle.”

His performance certainly wasn’t without its struggles. His incredible second half and overtime came after a first half where the Patriots managed just three points and he threw an interception which Robert Alford returned 82 yards for a touchdown. He was hurried and harassed for much of the games. The Falcons sacked him five times and hit him on another eight occasions.

He noted the beating he took when he was trying to recount the details of the comeback and couldn’t remember what the score was at one point in the rally.

“There was a lot of (stuff) that happened tonight,” he said. “I got hit pretty hard.”

His 466 yards passing are a Super Bowl record, surpassing the 414 yards Kurt Warner had 17 years ago. He also set a record for most passes completed in a Super Bowl with 43 and most attempts with 62.

He is the first to play in seven Super Bowls and the victory ties him with Charles Haley for most Super Bowl rings.

After all Brady has done in his career, was this his finest moment?

“Tom’s had a lot of great ones,” coach Bill Belichick said. “But, yeah tonight was one of them.”

It’s a triumphant end to a difficult season for Brady, who missed the first four games because of his “Deflategate” suspension and dealt with his mother Galynn Brady suffering through an undisclosed illness. The Super Bowl was the first game she’s attended all season.

“They’re all happy,” he said fighting back tears. “It’s nice to have everybody here and it’s going to be a great celebration tonight.”

He shared a quick moment with her right after the game, but was looking forward to more time with her in the upcoming days.

“It’s kind of madness after the game so I didn’t get much quality time with her but we’ll get it this week,” he said.

But he certainly wasn’t asking for sympathy for his rough road to this title though, chuckling when someone asked about the adversity the Patriots have gone through in the past couple of years.

“We’ve done pretty good over the last few years … so I don’t think anyone’s feeling bad for the Patriots,” he said. “I don’t think anyone feels bad for the Patriots.”

Brady also collected the MVP trophy in 2001, 2003 and 2014.

“It was just a lot of mental toughness by our team and we’re going to remember this one for the rest of our lives,” Brady said.

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