Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Friday, January 8, 2016 at 12:00 PM
The NFL Playoffs begin this weekend with four matchups in the Wildcard round. Bye teams Carolina, Arizona, Denver, and New England will take the week off waiting for Saturday’s and Sunday’s survivors. As we discussed back on Tuesday in my Super Bowl Futures report, the race is wide open this season because the bye teams have exploitable weaknesses, while even the #6 seeds are capable of sustaining late season surges that could take them all the way.
Let’s see how sharps (professional wagerers) have been betting this weekend’s quartet. As always, games are presented in Nevada rotation order so you can make notes in your schedules.
KANSAS CITY AT HOUSTON: SATURDAY at 4:35 PM ET on ESPN and ABC
We’ve been having a tug-of-war so far around the key number of three. Kanas City -3 gets bet by some sharps, but then Houston +3.5 is popular with other syndicates. So many games land right on the three percentage-wise that both of those can be considered sharp plays even though they’re backing the competing sides. The public is much more likely to take the Chiefs on game day because they’ve been beating mediocre teams by a lot more than three points lately. Quants focusing on boxscore stats with an emphasis on late season defense are seeing value on the Texans with the hook.
Not much happening on the Over/Under yet. An opener of 40.5 is down to 40. Weather won’t be an issue because the stadium has a retractable roof. Quants generally made the game 40 themselves, and took the hook for value. I don’t expect anything dramatic in terms of total betting here…though sometimes a bandwagon effect is created if a respected group makes a move and others follow.
PITTSBURGH AT CINCINNATI: SATURDAY at 8:15 PM ET on CBS
Another tug-of-war near the key number of three. Though, this time it’s centering just below. Pittsburgh -2.5 is a popular bet for those who think Ben Roethlisberger will have a big edge at quarterback over either inexperienced A.J. McCarron or rusty and injured Andy Dalton. But, Cincinnati +3 is appealing because the Bengals are awfully good at so many other positions for a playoff home dog. This should be a heavily bet game because it’s in prime time, and it’s possible for both sharps and squares to really like something here at a preferred price.
This total is also down a half point, though from a much higher starting point than in Chiefs/Texans. The opener of 46 is down to 45.5. I should mention that rain is very likely for at least parts of this game. That suggests sharps were looking to bet Over before that forecast became so likely. Rain in a playoff atmosphere usually leads to stronger Under betting than we’ve seen here.
SEATTLE AT MINNESOTA: SUNDAY at 1:05 PM ET on NBC
You’ve probably heard by now that the weather could really be brutal here. There won’t be any precipitation…but temperatures will be right near zero and wind chill could knock things down to as bad as 20-below. That’s caused a big move on the Over/Under, which has dropped from 42.5 to 39.5 already. We could see more movement by kickoff if scoring conditions do turn out to be pretty bad. These teams played on this field a few weeks ago and only 38 total points were scored by the offenses in better conditions. Sharps really like this Under at 40 or more…with no signs of buy back yet. There would have to be virtually no wind or wind chill on game day for that buy back to occur in my view.
It’s interesting that the team side really hasn’t moved that much. You’d think that the franchise based in Minnesota might be favored by these conditions. But, sharps know that Seattle’s defense has been great in recent weeks, and completely shut down this Vikings offense in that other game. How will Minnesota score here? Seattle opened at -5 and is still there in most spots. Some old school guys who always want the points in “weather” games are causing some stores to test +4.5. We may see a tug-of-war in that area on game day. The public wants to bet the better, hotter team, and will probably take the Seahawks at anything below five. Let’s see what happens Sunday morning.
GREEN BAY AT WASHINGTON: SUNDAY AT 4:40 PM on FOX
This one has hopped around through the week. We’ve settled around pick-em as I write this. I’ve seen both teams laying at least -1 at different times. We may be trending more toward Washington -1 at the moment. That could change through the weekend. I should say that sharps are generally down on BOTH of these teams. Green Bay’s offense has looked awful in recent weeks, particularly against good opposition. Washington is seen as a mediocre (or worse) team that happened to win a bad division. The winner will be a clear underdog next week when visiting a bye team. Remember that a line of pick-em on this field would be Green Bay -3 on a neutral site, and about -6 on the frozen tundra. Green Bay’s slumping…but is still seen as the superior neutral field side.
The Over/Under has come down from 46 to 45.5. You might see some 45’s out there when you read this. Looks like wind is in the forecast, which might make it even tougher for Aaron Rodgers to get that Packers offense in gear. Sharps really pay a lot of attention to weather in playoff games because the “numbers” are so locked in this deep into a season that oddsmakers rarely miss the math part of a total by much.
You can purchase my WILDCARD BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card on game days. If you have any questions, call the VSM office at 1-888-777-4155 before the early first kick off Saturday or Sunday. I hope you’ll ask about basketball when you call. College hoops is my favorite sport to handicap. Be sure you call before those early tips each day if you want to include the baskets in any package.
I’ll be back again Sunday to talk about sharp betting action in Monday Night’s National Championship college football game matching Alabama and Clemson. Las Vegas sportsbooks have taken some big bets on both sides. It’s always great to see some avid fans with deep pockets make the trip to Vegas to support their team. And, some of the biggest “local” high rollers tend to get involved very aggressively as well in the last game of the college season.
Here’s what’s coming up through the next week…
Sunday: sharp betting in Alabama/Clemson
Tuesday: my weekly look at the Super Bowl Futures prices, as the NFL’s “great eight” comes into focus.
Wednesday: an introductory article on College Basketball Futures as we start to transition from football to basketball coverage here in the month of January. Wednesday is always a busy night in this sport…so this is the ideal day to look at championship pricing.
Friday: sharp betting in the NFL Divisional Round, where this weekend’s winners travel to face rested bye teams. If both favored #6 seeds advance over the #3’s this week…that would mean Seattle at Carolina and Pittsburgh at Denver would be highlighting the week. Those are four of the top six teams in current Futures pricing.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the great NFL action this weekend…knowing that the best is still to come!
Be sure to follow:
Richie B. on twitter @vsm_baccellieri
Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters