Cardinals return to NFC Championship Game as betting underdogs

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The Arizona Cardinals will be gunning for just their second Super Bowl berth in franchise history when they clash with the Carolina Panthers in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game as 3.5-point betting underdogs at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Arizona last competed on Super Sunday in 2009 after claiming a 32-25 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in their only previous appearance in an NFC title game, but takes a respectable 5-3 straight-up record in their past eight postseason contests into Sunday evening’s Cardinals vs. Panthers betting matchup at Bank of America Stadium.

The Cardinals held off a feisty Green Bay Packers squad in a 26-20 overtime win in last weekend’s Divisional Playoff matchup, but have come up short against the spread in their last two outings, and are a disappointing 3-5 ATS over their past eight.

While Arizona has been less than a solid bet for much of the year, they amassed an impressive 13-3 straight-up record this season, second only to the Panthers’ 15 regular-season victories, and are 7-1 SU on the road this season, surrendering an average of just 11 points per game over their past three away from University of Phoenix Stadium.

The Panthers hit the gridiron as the home team for the fifth time in their last six playoff contests, and are facing Arizona for a third time during that stretch, claiming a 27-16 win as 5.5-point chalk on Wild Card Weekend last season after falling 33-13 to the Cardinals in their 2009 NFC Divisional Playoff matchup, taking the outright loss as 10-point underdogs according to the OddsShark NFL Database.

Carolina has been unbeatable at home, SU winners in their past 12 and covering the spread in their past five, including last weekend’s victory over Seattle in which they exploded to an early 31-0 lead before fending off a furious second-half comeback attempt by the Seahawks, hanging on for a 31-24 victory as 2.5-point betting favorites.

That marked the highest number of points the Panthers have allowed in a home game since their 37-29 win over the Packers in Week 9, surrendering fewer than nine points per game over their final three home dates of the regular season.

The Panthers also led the NFL in points scored during the regular season, tallying 31.3 points per game, just ahead of the Cardinals, who closely trailed with 30.6 points per game, and have seen the point total play OVER in six of their past nine home dates, while the UNDER has paid out in two of the Cardinals’ last three road games.

Broncos double-digit favorites on Sunday night vs. winless, depleted Giants

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The Denver Broncos head into Sunday night with the largest spread they have had at home after a bye week in at least 25 years. The Broncos are 11.5-point favorites against the winless New York Giants with a 38.5-point total for the Week 6 Sunday Night Football matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Denver is 6-1 straight-up and against the spread in post-bye week games dating back to 2010. There’s a similar long-running trend of Denver being 7-2 SU and ATS in home games following a bye week since 2003. However, this is the first time since 1996 that Denver has been a double-digit favorite in that scenario.

The Giants, which are 0-5 SU and 2-3 ATS, had three wide receivers, including Odell Beckham Jr., sustain season-ending injuries last week. That has left QB Eli Manning with WR Roger Lewis (15 career catches) and WR Tavarres King as his main outside targets. Slot WR Sterling Shephard (sprained ankle) could be inactive.

While team performances tend to gravitate toward the mean with time, the Giants will need to show something new – with replacement-level personnel – in order to move the ball against a Denver pass defense which allows only 6.2 yards per pass, fifth-best in the NFL.

The Broncos’ top-ranked defense, led by OLB Von Miller, is also first in run defense and has every starter healthy. While NFC teams are a combined 1-10 SU on the road against Denver since 2012, the Giants are a solid 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games against the AFC.

Denver, 3-1 SU and 2-1-1 ATS, has been quietly efficient on offense. The Broncos, with QB Trevor Siemian, are in the middle of the NFL pack in yards per pass, but they are facing a Giants secondary that is minus CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (suspension) and has also had inconsistent play from CB Eli Apple.

Denver, 7-2 ATS over its last nine home games in October, has been good at opening holes for the tandem of C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles, who are each capable of making things happen in the open field if the tackling gets sloppy. New York also won’t have DT Olivier Vernon drawing double teams up front and keeping blockers off MLB Damon Harrison.

Unless the Broncos stop themselves, they should be able to grind out a workmanlike win.

The total has gone over in three of the Giants’ last four games against the Broncos, according to the OddsShark NFL Database. The total has gone over in six of the Broncos’ last seven games as a favorite of 11.0 points or more.

For more info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the new OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Watch Indianapolis Colts vs. Seattle Seahawks live on NBC

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The Seattle Seahawks host the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night Football as both teams look to get back to .500.

Russell Wilson will be the focal point of the Seahawks offense after throwing for a career-high 373 yards and four touchdowns in a losing effort vs. the Titans in Week 3. Wilson’s ability to avoid the rush and use his legs will be on full display as Seattle’s offensive line continues to struggle.

On the defensive side, the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” will look to get back on track at home in a raucous environment against Colts QB Jacoby Brissett who is filling in for an injured Andrew Luck.

If the Colts have any chance to pull off the upset on the road, Brissett will have to use his legs and connect on some deep throws to T.Y. Hilton.

Football Night in America

Start time: 7:00 p.m. ET

TV channel: NBC

Live stream: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app

Colts vs. Seahawks

Start time: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV channel: NBC

Live stream: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app