Submitted by Richie B. Oddsmakers Consensus on Friday, January 18, 2019 at 4:00 PM
This Sunday’s conference championship games in the NFL plays are going to be very heavily bet. They might as well be Super Bowls based on what we’re already seeing. All four teams have strong betting constituencies. Casual fans love betting huge TV games, and sharps have reasons to step in too.
Let’s see what’s been happening so far in kickoff order.
LOS ANGELES RAMS AT NEW ORLEANS: We’ve been hopping between Saints -3 and -3.5 all week. Generally speaking squares (the general public) wants to take favorites in big TV games. Give them Drew Brees in the Superdome, and they’re going to love a favorite at -3! In this case though, the Rams have been VERY heavily bet in Las Vegas this season. Locals (counting California money as “local” in this case) are pounding the Rams like it has all season, particularly at 3.5.
So, if sharps didn’t exist, this would be a heavily bet tug-of-war between Rams fans at +3.5 and the rest of the country on the Saints at -3.
Sharps DO exist of course. To them, this game is more about line value. The Rams get a lot of sharp interest with the hook, because this game would land exactly on three often if it was played 100 times. Some quants get gradings on the Saints at -3 because of their explosive potential at home or on fast tracks.
The Over/Under is up a tick from an opener of 56.5 to 57. The public loves betting Overs, and will probably come in more heavily over the weekend. It doesn’t hurt that the final four played such high scoring games against each other this season (Saints/Rams, Chiefs/Rams, and Chiefs/Patriots all flew over by a mile). Weather couldn’t be a factor here…so I expect the public to bet Over, and sharps to fade any move that goes above 57. Quants trust their models, and don’t worry much about outliers in prior meetings.
NEW ENGLAND AT KANSAS CITY: This has been painted Chiefs -3 all week. That at least tells you that sharps DON’T love Kansas City at the field goal. We would have moved quickly to -3.5 if that were the case. Again, squares generally love betting affordable home teams in big playoff games.
What’s funny about this one is that you’re hearing a lot of media guys (and some pro bettors) talking about how much they love the Chiefs here. They’re focusing on New England’s bad road games, and how great Kansas City looks when in synch. And, that “could” be how the game plays out. But, the market isn’t moving that way. This tells us a lot of important money trusts Tom Brady getting a field goal from a less-experienced quarterback.
I think the public will be split here, though not 50/50. Some squares love betting on Brady. He’s made them a lot of money through the years. Sharps are split too (with a lot of passes right on the three). Wise Guy money would fade any move off the three this late in proceedings. I don’t expect us to get off the key number. If that happens, somebody important made a very big bet
You probably know that very cold weather is in the forecast. An opening total of 58.5 dropped down to 55 before rising back up to 56 in improving forecasts. Too many in the media are telling people that cold weather doesn’t matter for totals. Look, sharps wouldn’t pound the Under on bad forecasts…or oddsmakers wouldn’t lower their numbers on forecasts even before actual betting (“moving on air”) if bad weather didn’t hurt scoring! But, Tom Brady has proven he can get the job done in conditions like this. That’s why the drop was a few points at first rather than more, and why the number started coming back up. I don’t think we’ll make it back to 58.5.
I should also mention that the forecast is part of why some sharps like the Pats at +3, and would love them at +3.5. Brady is a lot more experienced than Patrick Mahomes in this kind of weather, playoff game or not.
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Early lines are already up in Las Vegas (and offshore) for the Super Bowl because there are only four possible matchups. These are relatively even teams if you think about neutral field action. Home field is worth three points normally…and Sunday’s point spreads are on three or 3.5. Early lines look like this:
*New Orleans -1 over either Kansas City or New England
*LA Rams pick-em with either Kansas City or New England
Some offshore places have the Saints higher. That doesn’t make sense based on the conference championship spreads. But, some believe New Orleans will get “partial” home field nods because playing in a dome in Atlanta (from their own division) will be much like playing in the Superdome. Or, those offshore sites are convinced the public will love Drew Brees over either Brady or Mahomes because Brady lost to Nick Foles last season, and Mahomes is “too young” to win a championship.
Thanks for reading. Good luck on your bets. My next football report will be the Friday before the Super Bowl.