The 2013 NFL playoffs enter the "final four" on Sunday, as the New England Patriots host the Baltimore Ravens and the Atlanta Falcons host the San Francisco 49ers. The Patriots enter Sunday's game as a 9 1/2-point favorite, while the visiting 49ers are currently favored by 4 1/2 points.
The conference championship games will feature three of the top four seeds, as well as the last "team of destiny" in the playoffs. The Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks both tried to claim that label, but they have both come up short. The Ravens might have the best claim to the title, not only because they actually remain alive, but also because they have a Ray Lewis retirement storyline that is a good rallying point.
This weekend provides us with four potential Super Bowl matchups. The Patriots and 49ers are the overwhelming favorite, and given their heavy Super Bowl title odds, this far from surprising. Here are the odds for each remaining team to win the Super Bowl, courtesy of Bovada Sports:
New England Patriots - 11/10
San Francisco 49ers - 9/5
Atlanta Falcons - 6/1
Baltimore Ravens - 15/2
Given how low the odds are on anything related to 49ers and Patriots, it makes sense to look elsewhere for a little value. As Joe Fortenbaugh pointed out, you might as well take your chances with the Falcons and/or Ravens given the sizably worse odds. The Falcons are the biggest home underdog since 1978 of any No. 1 seed in any round of the playoffs, and also the biggest home underdog of any team in the Conference Championship round since 1978. Why not roll the dice on them?
As for the odds for each potential Super Bowl matchup:
New England Patriots vs. San Francisco 49ers - Odds: 5/6
New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons - Odds: 5/2
Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers - Odds: 5/1
Baltimore Ravens vs. Atlanta Falcons - Odds: 10/1
Among these four matchups, the 49ers and Patriots will likely dictate odds. If the 49ers and Patriots square off, the 49ers are likely to enter as favorites given their previous win, but it would be a very close line. Of course, maybe oddsmakers think the public would give Bill Belichick the edge on a rematch.
After that, the Patriots and 49ers would each likely be sizable favorites over the Falcons or Ravens. The Ravens would be an interesting case given their "magical" run. Oddsmakers would be looking at how the betting public will throw down their money, and one has to wonder how the Ray Lewis story would impact the line. It is an intangible benefit to the Ravens, but plenty of people likely think that is reason enough to bet on them. If they get to the Super Bowl, they will have knocked off the No. 1 seeded Denver Broncos and the No. 2 seeded New England Patriots. I have to think that would influence the line to a certain extent, even if it is not something oddsmakers can measure.
Whatever the case, we are left with four potentially interesting matchups for Super Bowl XLVII. Even the longshot Ravens-Falcons matchup provides a few good storylines on and off the field with the Ray Lewis story, as well as Joe Flacco vs. Matt Ryan. The Super Bowl is often a bust compared to the rest of the playoffs, but all four matchups involve teams that could provide a fun game.