Opening Line Report - WC
January 2, 2018
By Marcus DiNitto
The NFL playoffs are upon us, the home side opening as the solid favorite in all four Wild-Card games.
Here are the early betting lines for the quartet of contests, with booking insight from Ed Salmons, oddsmaker at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. Point spreads and totals listed are the Vegas consensus as of Tuesday morning, about 24 hours after the Westgate posted the first numbers in town, and early moves and differences among books are noted, too.
Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018
Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs (-8, 44.5) - (ABC, 4:30 p.m. ET)
The Westgate SuperBook opened Kansas City -7.5 on Monday morning and went to -8 a few hours later, a move mirrored by several other sports books. As of Tuesday morning, there are still -7.5s available on some boards.
Westgate oddsmaker Ed Salmons said his shop opened a tick higher than the line posted offshore and that it wants to stay on the high end of the market for the season’s first wild-card game, a notion that holds through the remaining three games on the card.
Catching more than a touchdown will entice some bettors, but playing the Titans means backing a team that’s coming into the postseason devoid of momentum. They lost three straight games before a Week 17 win over a Jacksonville team that, despite playing its starters, didn’t seem too interested in winning with the No. 3 seed locked up.
Tennessee, did however, cover the spread as an underdog in two of those three recent losses (at San Francisco, vs. Rams).
The Chiefs, meanwhile, after a mid-season stretch of losing six of seven, have won and covered four straight.
Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams (-6, 49.5) - (NBC, 8:15 p.m. ET)
The Rams opened -6 at the Westgate but for as cheap as -5 elsewhere in town. While the Westgate has bounced between -6 and -6.5 during early wagering, sitting at the larger number as of Tuesday morning, -5s and -5.5s have been bet up to -6s at places like the Wynn and William Hill U.S.
“It’s another one where we wanted to be on the higher end,” Salmons said. “The public loves the Rams, so we think the public money’s going to be all over the Rams...They cover spreads and they score a lot of points. Those are the ingredients of a public team.”
There’s been some movement the ‘under’ as well, with 49.5s adjusted to 49s at multiple Vegas shops.
Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018
Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars (7.5, 40) - (CBS, 1:00 p.m. ET)
Again, the Westgate is at the high end of the market, opening Jacksonville -7.5 and moving to -8, with other books opening -7 and going to -7.5.
“We thought it’s more than 7, less than 10, somewhere in that range,” Salmons said. “We wanted to be on the higher end, so when someone we respected went higher, we kind of went along with it.”
Should LeSean McCoy not be healthy enough to go, expect the line to run.
“If he doesn’t play, I would think this line would go to 9.5,” Salmons said.
“If Buffalo has any chance to win, they’re going to need him. Without him, it’s hard to imagine they can do much,” he added.
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (-6.5, 48.5) - (FOX, 4:30 p.m. ET)
These NFC South rivals have played twice already this season, the Saints winning both meetings handily. That reality is reflected in the line, as the Saints were just five-point favorites when they beat Carolina 31-21 in Week 13.
Sharp money showed up early on Saints -6 at CG Technology, pushing the line to -6.5, according to Jason Simbal, vice president of risk.
With public money sure to be on the favorite in the last wild-card game of the weekend, bookmakers will likely move the point spread even higher.
“From a booking perspective, the last game is always the game that if you don’t win, you lose a ton, so you always want to stay high on the favorite here," Salmons said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if this game got to seven."
“By the last game, you’re really set up to where if New Orleans were to win and cover, you could really lose a ton, so you try to guard against that the best you can,” Salmons added. “The liability always builds with teasers, money-line parlays, point-spread parlays .”
Marcus DiNitto is a writer in Charlotte, N.C., who covers sports betting and all kinds of other stuff. Follow him on Twitter @MarcusDiNitto
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