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Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Friday, January 15, 2016 at 12:00 PM

We move on to the Divisional Round this week, as the four survivors from Wildcard Weekend (all the road teams!) advance to face the four league powers who earned byes and home field by snaring either a #1 or #2 seed in their conferences. There’s a lot to talk about in each game, in terms of how sharps (professional wagerers) have been betting (or NOT betting!). Let’s jump right in. Games are presented in schedule order.

 

KANSAS CITY AT NEW ENGLAND: SATURDAY at 4:35 PM ET on CBS

Even though this game isn’t near a key number with the opener of New England -4.5, we have a very clear tug-of-war shaping up. The public tends to bet Tom Brady and the Patriots whenever they seem affordable. This is a low price in that sense…so squares want New England. Sharps are very happy to take red-hot Kansas City at +5. The Chiefs have played very well on defense during this 11-game winning streak…and that lines up nicely against what’s been a struggling New England offense in recent weeks. So…the market gets overloaded by the public on New England at -4.5, but sharps come in pretty hard at +5 for value.

The biggest Over/Under move of the weekend is in this game. The opening total of 45.5 has crashed all the way down to 42. That’s a reflection of what we just talked about with the KC defense. And, it might be an early warning sign that the Patriots aren’t going to be as healthy as they’ve been telling the media. Quants obviously made it 42 themselves because that’s where the total stopped. Looks like a bad miss from oddsmakers…or at least a bad guess about how this game would be perceived. (Note that weather doesn’t look like it will be an issue in any of this weekend’s four games…so any action you see on totals will be math/lineup related).

 

GREEN BAY AT ARIZONA: SATURDAY at 8:15 PM ET on NBC

Barely anything happening at all in this game. Arizona opened at -7 and 49.5. We’re now seeing -7 and 50. Seven is a key number. So, stability could actually mean that both teams are getting bet heavily and it’s cancelling out. I’m not hearing that’s the case though. Sharps generally think seven is the right number. They’re not excited about betting the Packers at that price because of the matchup. Green Bay was legitimately dominated on this field a few weeks ago. But, seven is too much to lay with the favorite in their view because of the Cards’ relative playoff inexperience and the fact that Aaron Rodgers could come in through the back door (like Clemson did this past Monday at a similar price). Sharps would fade any public move off the seven. That could happen since it’s a prime time game….one that squares will want to bet for entertainment value.

The total was just up a tick from some minor quant interest. The first game did stay Under…but you have two quarterbacks who will be trying to carry their teams on their shoulders. Maybe something will happen between now and kickoff that will trigger investment.

 

SEATTLE AT CAROLINA: SUNDAY at 1:05 PM ET on FOX

Big news breaking as I write this Friday morning Las Vegas time…Seattle is getting pounded by sharps (as expected). The opening line of Carolina -2 or -2.5 is down to just -1 at the moment. That may change by the time you read this. Maybe sharps will take the game all the way to pick-em. Maybe there will be some buy back on Carolina. I can tell you that a lot of Wise Guys like Seattle to win this game and at least make a strong showing next week in the NFC Finals. The market is pricing Seattle as the best team in the NFC as Carolina would be about -3 because of home field advantage if the teams were seen as even. (Should probably mention that many old-school sharps are still skeptical of Cam Newton in big games too, and that you regular readers know what it means when a game moves away from the key number of three.)

The Over/Under hasn’t budged off the 44. It’s interesting that we’re not seeing Under interest given the reputation of these teams. Carolina has a great defense, though it started to fade from fatigue in recent weeks. Seattle’s marketed as a great defensive team. Yet, the market has settled on 44 rather than something in the high 30’s or low 40’s. This tells us that the smartest influences in the market think Russell Wilson will have a good day vs. the Carolina defense.

 

PITTSBURGH AT DENVER: SUNDAY at 4:40 PM ET CBS

This is also a developing story at press time. It was just reported moments ago (as I write this) that Antonio Brown will not be able to play. The status of Ben Roethlisberger won’t be known for awhile longer. Pittsburgh may keep that under wraps until just before kickoff unless things are so obvious that there’s no reason to dodge questions.

Most sportsbooks don’t want to put a number up yet because there’s such a big difference between Roethlisberger and his backup Landry Jones. Some offshore places are putting up testers around Denver -9, which clearly suggests Roethlisberger isn’t expected to play. Denver would be closer to -4 if Big Ben were healthy. Nevada stores don’t want exposure on Pittsburgh +9 if Roethlisberger can play, or Denver minus something much lower if Landry Jones gets the call.

As always in cases like this…monitor the market and assume that early moves are sharp. The Wise Guys have a number in mind for both the side and total for whoever gets the call at quarterback for Pittsburgh. You should be doing that yourself so you can act on the openers when they go up.

What’s most likely to happen if Landry Jones gets the call? The public will want to bet Denver and won’t be thinking much about the price. I could see sharps taking the dog at +10. They might even step in at +9.5 or +9 if that’s the best they’re going to see because of respect for the Steelers as a whole, and some skepticism about Peyton Manning’s ability to put up big numbers at this stage in his career.

You can purchase my NFL Playoff selections (plus bonus basketball each day) right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the VSM office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours Friday or before the first games get started over the weekend. I hope you’re thinking about getting onboard the basketball program. I swept the board Thursday night with Iowa (+9) in that rout of Michigan State, and Tennessee State (-3.5) over Austin Peay. It’s my favorite sport to handicap because I follow the smaller schools just as much as the big boys.

I hope you enjoy all the great sports action this weekend. My market coverage resumes next week with this schedule…

Tuesday: a look at NFL Championship prices for the Final Four as we head into the conference title tilts. A few days ago we saw that the market was having trouble deciding if any of the main powers was ready to step up as a frontrunner. Maybe this weekend’s action will provide some clarity.

Wednesday: College basketball talk as we continue to monitor Futures prices and focus on the the road to March Madness on the busiest night of the week.

Thursday: My weekly look at the NBA, which will mostly focus on developments involving pointspread records because “the big three” are so locked in on the Futures prices (Golden State, San Antonio, and Cleveland). You may be aware that “quants” really love pro basketball because of the 82-game schedules.

Friday: the regular NFL report outlining sharp action, this time focused on the AFC and NFC Championship games matching this week’s winners.

Thanks for reading. Let’s go make some money!

 

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Richie B. on twitter @vsm_baccellieri

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