James Lang, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Nick Foles
- Las Vegas bookmakers are seeing an interesting betting trend for the opening round of the postseason.
- Public bettors are backing the underdog in three of the four NFL playoff games this weekend.
LAS VEGAS — It’s Wild Card Weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada and the sportsbooks are buzzing as an unpredictable regular season is about to give way to what looks like a terrific slate of matchups over the weekend.
Often we see one game on the first weekend playoff card that seems weaker than the others but that is definitely not the case this time around and the betting market confirms that as three of the four games feature spreads of three points or less.
That has made for a very interesting betting market and we spoke with some of Las Vegas’ biggest bookmakers to help figure out what it all means.
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (-1) | Over/Under: 48.5
This first game of the playoffs has coin toss written all over it.
Plenty of bettors have suggested the Texans were a fraud after a nine-game winning streak put them in the driver’s seat in the AFC South. Even though Houston had a fairly easy schedule, they took care of business and their key players stayed on the field for the whole season.
The Colts made a fantastic recovery after a 1-5 start and are one of the hottest teams heading into the tournament. Indianapolis finished the season 9-1 including a win over Houston a few weeks back.
John Murray, director of the Westgate SuperBook, says they’ve taken bets on both sides of the line in this one.
“There’s good two-way action on this game so far,” Murray said. “We did take a $30,000 bet on the Texans and there’s been a lot of moneyline action on Houston at -125 currently.”
Jason Simbal, a sportsbook executive at CG Technology, echoed Murray’s sentiment for this weekend’s opener.
“Of the four playoff games, this is the most evenly bet. It’s a very even ticket count,” Simbal noted. “Just over 50% of the bets are on the Colts. The money is so even on this one that we are actually looking at a black number on the results for both teams which certainly works out well for us.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we have to move the spread because of the moneyline Colts bets,” Simbal explained. “I think the public will remain on the Colts simply because we’re seeing the Colts come up more on parlays and teasers than Houston. We’re currently at -2 which is one of the highest lines for the Texans around town, but I think we’ll be around -1 by Saturday.”
William Hill’s director of trading, Nick Bogdanovich, said sharp bettors have come in on the road team.
“We’re about even on the betting in the ticket count on this game with the Colts having a slight edge at the the moment. But we’re seeing some sharp action on Indy as a small underdog,” Bogdanovich commented. “But there’s also been solid action on the Texans money line at -125. I’m not sure we’ll have a preference in this spot but the action is heavy on this game. It’s currently the biggest bet game of the four by quite a bit.”
Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys (-2) | Over/Under: 43
This meeting features two teams that generally get a lot of betting support so it’s not surprising that the bookmakers are expecting huge numbers.
“This is another game with a very good two-way handle. We did take a bet for $20,000 bet on the Cowboys at -2,” Murray said. “We’ve seen some steady Seahawks money since then. This one should come down to the 4th quarter. This will be a very high-handle game between two high-profile teams in prime time. I see this as another tossup that could easily go either way.”
A big bettor at CG Technology played the Seahawks a few times at +2.5, causing their line to budge to Dallas -2. And since then, a surprising pattern has emerged.
“We’ve seen way more action on the Seahawks. Interestingly enough, the Seahawks are the public side. That’s a rare thing to say in a Dallas game in prime time,” Simbal said. “I was surprised how lopsided the betting is. We’re currently seeing two times as many bets on Seattle as Dallas here and they’re betting Seattle money line at +110.”
The total has also drawn some sharp attention at CG, according to Simbal.
“One more thing to add, the sharp money is getting bet heavy on the over of 43. We opened at 41.5 and they took it at that number and 42.5 without batting an eye. I would expect it to go up a tick or two before Saturday night.”
The public seems to be backing Seattle at William Hill too.
“Our ticket count is 6 to 4 on Seattle so far with moneyline bets heavy on the Seahawks as well,” Bogdanovich said. “We’ve gotten some sharp action on Seattle’s side since the line opened at +120. It’s currently at +110 and could go down further. As for the total, it’s definitely leaning heavy on the over and I expect that to go up as well.”
Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens (-3) | Over/Under: 41.5
The market for this game is pretty interesting as most sportsbooks around town were trying their best to stay off the key number of -3.
“We’re at Baltimore -2.5 -120. We’re trying hard not to go to -3 as are most of the books around town,” Simbal said. “But I think it’s eventually going to happen. I think once it does, that’s when you’ll see the Chargers money come in pretty heavy. I think the sharps and are waiting to pounce on it. The public doesn’t seem to be waiting though. They like the Chargers. So that makes the first three games we discussed that the public side is the underdog.”
Bogdanovich said that William Hill already moved to Ravens -3 by the time we spoke and that bettors immediately began to hop on LA.
“We have been getting some steady sharp play towards the Ravens here too. However, our moneyline action is very high on LA and has been for a while. The total is 42 and it’s been trending over since the total opened. It’s over 2-1 on over tickets. I think it could go to 43 by Sunday,” Bogdanovich added.
Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears (-6.5) | Over/Under: 41
Believe it or not, bettors are backing Nick Foles for some more magic against the Bears on Sunday evening.
“The public seems to think Nick Foles will be Philly’s savior once again,” Simbal explained. “One regular customer we have made the biggest bet we’ve seen of all four playoff games on the Eagles at +215 on the money line. He took $25,000 on the Eagles.”
The story is a little different for spread bettors, as the Bears are attracting support as 6-point favorites.
“[Chicago] is definitely the favorite [the public] likes the best,” Simbal explained. “So if you take that one big bet away we’d need the Eagles pretty bad. Over two times the money and two times the tickets are on the Bears. Interestingly, we will do really badly if the Bears go and win the Super Bowl so we’re doubly Eagles fans here.”
Bogdanovich said that William Hill is seeing a generous amount of support for the underdog.
“Over half of the tickets written are on the Eagles at +6 and when you get to the money line bets, it’s more like 75% at +210 currently,” he explained. There’s been solid support for Philly ever since our line came out. I do think it could drop to possibly as low as +5 by late Sunday but we’ll see. There’s a slight preference towards the under of 41.5 here as well.”
The Westgate took a five-figure bet on the Eagles at +6, according to Murray.
“We took a $20K bet on the Eagles at +6 and moved to 5.5 but are back up to -6 as the majority of the bets have come in on the Bears. Historically speaking, the fourth and final game of each playoff weekend is a high handle game with a big liability to the book, as all the money line parlays and teasers that are alive will be going to that game.”