Death, taxes and the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game: Those have been three truisms in life, at least dating to 2011 as the Patriots are in a record seventh straight conference title game. They host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday with New England as a 7.5-point favorite. That number has dropped in part due to a reported hand injury Tom Brady suffered in practice this week.
The Patriots were favored in five of the previous six AFC title games and failed to cover in three of them: Losing at -3 following the 2015 season in Denver (the score was 20-18), losing after the 2012 season at -8 at home vs. Baltimore (the Ravens won 28-13), and winning at -7 at home vs. Baltimore the year before (23-20).
The opening 9-point spread had been the game’s largest since the unbeaten 2007 Patriots were -14 against the San Diego Chargers and won 21-12.
Those Patriots would be stunned in the Super Bowl by the New York Giants. In fact, Brady’s only two Super Bowl losses were as a big favorite against the Giants, who were coached both times by Tom Coughlin. He is in his first season as executive vice president of football operations with the Jaguars.
It’s the third trip to the AFC Championship Game for Jacksonville, which lost 33-14 as a home touchdown favorite following the 1999 season to Tennessee, and lost 20-6 as a touchdown underdog in New England following the 1996 season. Jacksonville is 0-7 all-time at New England and has lost the past six by an average of 21 points.
The Jaguars franchise had lost its past seven games, all in the regular season, as at least a 9-point underdog and covered just once (the line could rise again depending on Brady). But it hasn’t happened since early in the 2015 season, and this year’s team is leaps-and-bounds better.
The favored margin of victory on the AFC Championship Game betting props is Patriots by 1-6 points and 7-12 points, with both at +350. New England routed another AFC South team in Tennessee last week, 35-14. Only three of the Patriots’ 13 regular-season wins were by fewer than seven points.
Jacksonville’s favored margin of victory is 1-6 points at +600. The Jags have played two close games in these playoffs, winning in the Wild Card Round 10-3 over visiting Buffalo and then 45-42 last Sunday in Pittsburgh. Jacksonville had three double-digit losses during the regular season.
That there’s a special teams or defensive touchdown scored is +200 with none scored at -260. It’s harder these days for special teams to score simply because most kickoffs aren’t returnable. Jacksonville led the NFL with seven defensive touchdowns during the season, five of those on fumbles. The Patriots didn’t have a defensive score, one of just a handful of teams without one.
For more odds info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.