Bookmaker Roundup: Sportsbooks Are Actually Cheering on the Patriots in the Playoffs
Winslow Townson, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Tom Brady
- After seeing underdogs go 3-1 in the wild-card games, bettors are throwing their support behind them again this weekend.
- One underdog, the Chargers, are seeing so much support that bookmakers are actually rooting for the Patriots on Sunday.
LAS VEGAS — The sportsbooks in Las Vegas are hoping for a little bit of a bounce-back weekend in the Divisional Round.
The general consensus around town was that, while the books generated a huge handle for the wild-card games, none of the oddsmakers I spoke to indicated that last weekend was a particularly good one for the guys on the other side of the window.
The house took a hit thanks to the Colts cashing on the moneyline against Houston, though it won on that game staying under, and generated a small profit when the Cowboys killed all the Seahawks moneyline bets.
Sunday was even worse for most sportsbooks as the Chargers’ upset over Baltimore killed any profits from Saturday and the house took a significant hit when the Eagles defeated the Bears as 6-point underdogs.
Had Bears’ kicker Cody Parkey made the field goal on the final play of the game, most sportsbooks would have seen a significant profit with the Bears winning but not covering the spread.
This weekend presents another challenge for both bettors and the book as we have games that feature four live underdogs once again. After watching three of the four underdogs win last weekend, most sportsbook managers I spoke to expect bets to fly in on the pooches again this weekend.
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Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs (-5) | Over/Under: 57
The Colts are riding the hot-hand of quarterback Andrew Luck, who absolutely decimated Houston’s well-renowned defense last Saturday. If Indianapolis wants to continue its fairy-tale ride, it will need to upset Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs on the road on Saturday afternoon.
The betting market for this game is certainly interesting as the Chiefs have been a public team all season, but recreational bettors are fickle and seem to believe in the Colts after watching their magnificent performance last weekend.
“Kansas City has been the public team all year. Almost every week we needed whoever the Chiefs were playing,” Jason Simbal, vice president of risk at CG Technology, said. “So now the Chiefs are hosting a playoff game and what happens? The public is suddenly against them.”
Public bettors may be easily swayed by last weekend’s games, but professionals are seeing the value created by recency bias.
“The Colts are getting a majority of the bets in terms of ticket count. About twice as many bets right now are on Indy taking the points, and even way more bets on the moneyline as you would expect at +205,” Simbal continued. “But the move has actually come on the Chiefs. We took some decent-sized bets on Kansas City so far. This game was at KC -5 and the sharps laid the 5. Then it sat at -5.5 for a while and they laid the 5.5 so we went to -6 a little while ago (on Thursday) so some of the sharper bets are still laying the points on the favorite. However, nobody seems interested in taking the 6 so we might drop the number back to -5.5 if we can get a little more Colts money throughout the day.”
Everybody seems to be betting the underdog at the Westgate SuperBook, as well.
“Most of our action so far has came in on the Colts. The public normally likes what they saw last week and the Colts didn’t disappoint,” Cameron Coombs, a supervisor at the SuperBook, explained. “We put up this week’s line while they had a large lead vs the Texans and instantly the public was hammering the +5.5.”
“We have a significant five-figure liability on the Colts plus the points,” the Westgate’s Derek Wilkinson noted. “It’s all public money so it hasn’t affected the line too much. The public loves the way the Colts have been playing.”
Tony Miller, the executive director of the Golden Nugget Sportsbook in Downtown Las Vegas, thinks this is a simple case of bandwagoning.
“People here are all over Luck. They can’t get enough of him,” Miller said. “I know Kansas City can put a lot of points on the board but, man, their defense is bad. I’ve been seeing Colts money downtown here for the last three or four weeks. With the way the underdogs have been hitting left and right, I think this is what’s driving the interest on the Colts here. While I think all four dogs are live this weekend, I give the Colts the best chance at an upset.”
Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams (-7) | Over/Under: 50
Dallas looked good in a win over the Seahawks on Saturday night but its performance didn’t resonate with bettors the way that Indianapolis’ victory did.
Still, the Cowboys are getting some play here but it hasn’t been enough to move the line off of -7, which is, of course, a very key number in NFL betting.
This is another peculiar matchup in terms of betting support because the Cowboys are traditionally a public team while the Rams were one of the NFL’s best teams all season despite a mediocre 7-7-2 record against the spread.
One other thing to note for this one is that home-field advantage, which is usually worth roughly 3 points in the NFL, isn’t going to be a huge factor.
“I can see the crowd being maybe 60-40 for the Rams, that’s hardly much of a home-field advantage,” Simbal said. “You usually get an extra 3 points for home-field advantage, especially in the playoffs, but I don’t think that will be the case here.”
Sharp bettors don’t seem to be too worried about it and this game has a very Pros vs. Joe’s feel to it.
“Our number is -7 which is about the same all over town but I thought it could have been -8. Most of our sharper bets have actually been on the Rams,” Simbal explained. “The public is again on the dog here. They like the Cowboys. The ticket count is about even but we’re seeing some public money on the Cowboys moneyline at +270. Moneyline parlays on the Colts and Cowboys are very popular for the public. If they both come in, it will definitely be a bad weekend for us. But the sharp money has come in on the Rams. They laid the -7 so our only adjustment was to -7 -115. I don’t see it changing much before Saturday.”
The Westgate will also be hoping that the Rams can come out on top in this one.
“This is the most evenly-split game of for us this week. We were initially at LA -6.5 and the public jumped all over it. We’ve since bumped it up to -7 and the action has evened out, for the most part,” Wilkinson said. “We do still have a significant liability on the Cowboys moneyline though. I think I like the Rams this week, but being favored by a full touchdown has me a little hesitant to put any money on it. If I was a gambling man, I’d still take Rams and the over.”
Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots (-4) | Over/Under: 47.5
The Chargers absolutely dominated the Baltimore Ravens for most of the game last Sunday. Although Baltimore did make things interesting at the very end, it was a wonderful performance from the underdogs and has bettors buying in.
There also could be some “Patriots fatigue” at play here. Many bettors I spoke with are simply tired of seeing New England compete for another Super Bowl and seem to be betting with their hearts as this line hasn’t moved a lot this week.
“This is not the Patriots team we’ve gotten used to for so long. They’ve struggled this season and the bettors know it,” Wilkinson said. “We have a five-figure liability on the Chargers with the points and on the moneyline. I think I agree too. I think the Chargers either win outright or lose by a field goal or less.”
After opening anywhere between -4.5 and -5.5, this line has hung at Patriots -4 for a few days now but Simbal said he wouldn’t be surprised to see it adjust before Sunday afternoon.
“The line opened a tad too high here I think. On Monday, our line was New England -5.5 which was nearly a full point higher than many other houses around town. We ended up taking two five-figure bets on the Chargers at +5.5. We took significant money on Los Angeles and that pushed the line down to -4 where it is now,” Simbal explained. “But still, nobody seems that excited to lay -4 with the Patriots. So unlike the Saturday games, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this line go down even further to -3.5. The public is also taking the Chargers on the moneyline too. It’s currently at +175.”
Miller thinks that sharp bettors may be waiting this one out until the very last minute, hoping that some late money comes in on the home side.
“I still suspect if we do get sharp money, it’s going to come in on the Chargers as well,” Miller said. “I think they probably have missed their chance to get any value early on so they may be hoping for some late Patriots money to come in and they might jump in late if they can get some value back. We’re sitting at Pats -4 right now and I think the line will likely go down further.”
Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints (-8) | Over/Under: 51
The betting patterns for the other three games seem to be relatively straight-forward, but this one is a bit murkier as professional bettors haven’t really made their move, yet.
“Interestingly we haven’t seen the sharps weigh in at all on this game. The public is laying the points with the Saints but they’re also taking the Eagles money line at +310,” Simbal noted. “Based on that we have a nice middle working for us where if the Saints can win this game by 1-7 points we’ll beat the spread and moneyline bets. Unless the sharps come in late on this game it looks like -8 is a spot on number.”
The Eagles certainly seem to have magic on their side, the Saints are clearly the better team but eight points is a lot to lay in a playoff game. So instead of playing the spread, bettors are flocking to the total.
“The one thing about this game is, not surprisingly, people are loving the over 51,” Simbal said.
It’s a different story at the Westgate where public bettors are throwing their money behind Nick Foles and the Eagles.
“The public can’t get enough of this Eagles team. We have a large, five-figure liability on Philly right now,” Wilkinson said. “One house bettor took Philly at +8.5 for $20,000. This line has dropped from N.O -9 to -8 because of all the money on the Eagles, but I think the Saints will win by 10 or more.”