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.

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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