We get a brand new look for betting NFL Wild Card games this weekend with six games instead of the usual four as each conference was awarded an extra spot prior to the season.
That’s six games of gripping do-or-die games packed into one weekend.
I absolutely love it!
As of Friday, we have a good idea of who is betting what side and it seems to be unified across Nevada sportsbooks.
The Colts, Rams, and Titans have been jumped all over by the wise guys while the Bills, Buccaneers, and Saints have been the sides Joe Public is betting, a trio that could do some serious damage to the books coming in as the masses have their minds made up already.
Let’s run through the six games and see what has happened since Monday.
Saturday's Wild Card Action Report
Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills (-6, 51.5)
Do you wonder why the Bills have the most lopsided ratio in ticket counts?
It’s because they’ve been cashing for Joe Public every week for the last eight weeks. They helped pay for nice Christmas presents. The last five weeks have seen the spreads never come into play, covering in excess from as little as nine points to as high as 33.5, which happened in last week's 52-26 blowout win over the Miami Dolphins as 3.5 home underdogs.
Bettors love not having to sweat a bet and the Bills have been the best at this season. The closest sweat they’ve had the last eight weeks is when they covered by one-point when losing 32-30 at Arizona on a Hail Mary.
This spread opened Bills -6.5 and sharp money likes the underdog, taking the points and dropping the number down to -6.
The Colts have won four of their last five, but none of those wins were playoff teams. Four of their five losses this season came against playoff teams, and of course, there’s the loss at Jacksonville (20-27) in Week 1 that is on record. For those wo forgot, the Jaguars didn’t win another game all season.
It does appear that the Colts have found their running back of the future with Jonathan Taylor, a rookie standout out of Wisconsin. Plus, Indianapolis has one of the best offensive lines and a sound defense with playmakers. They also have quarterback Philip Rivers, both the good and bad version.
“The line has dropped from -7 earlier in the week to -6, and I’m not surprised there’s been some Colts love in the market,” said William Hill’s Nick Bogdanovich. “The Colts were bet on all year long. Obviously, the professionals like the Colts and the Colts would have to be considered a live 'dog for sure.”
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks (-3, 42)
Sharps are loving the Rams this week taking +5 down to +3 at the Westgate SuperBook, William Hill, and Atlantis-Reno.
Dead numbers are considered to be -5 and -5.5 and books are quick on the move to get off, but moving to the most key number of “3” at any time is a big deal.
The sharps don’t even care who will be the starting QB for Los Angeles. Will it be injured Jared Goff who missed last week and was limited in practice this week with a thumb that just had surgery, or will it be John Wolford who won in his first start last week against the Cardinals?
“It appears Goff is going to play, but you never know,” Bogdanovich said. “I don’t think that’s the only reason behind the move though. Remember Goff didn’t play last game and Arizona was at -3, and the Rams closed at -1. They just think the overall Rams team is strong and they’ll be able to play toe-to-toe with the Seahawks. Seattle is also more affected than most with no fans, and that atmosphere was a big advantage for them in the playoffs.”
They love the Rams No. 1 ranked defense, which has helped keep 12 of the Rams 16 games under the total, including the last four games.
Both meetings with Seahawks were splits and both contests stayed under.
The total in the first game in Los Angeles was 55 and saw the Rams capture a 23-1 victory. The second game in Seattle was 47.5 and ended wtih a 20-9 decision for the Seahawks 20-9.
This total has dropped from 43 to 42 and hard to argue against the move knowing the tendencies for L.A. plus the Seahawks have stayed under in seven of their last eight.
A fun one-on-one matchup to watch in this playoff game will be the Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey covering Seahawks wide receiver D.K. Metcalf.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-8, 45) at Washington Football Team
After the Bills, the Buccaneers is the most lopsided public play and no sharp money is nibbling at Washington.
“The Bucs and more Bucs on the spread,” said BetMGM’s Jason Scott. “We haven’t had to write Washington’s name.”
The spread and total haven’t moved all week, but the small bets are piling up based on what they saw last.
The Washington QB situation doesn’t inspire a bet and Tampa Bay QB Tom Brady is in a groove pounding opponents the last two weeks while riding a four-game win streak.
WR Antonio Brown appears to be back in game shape as well. A bet on the Washington’s is suggesting their awesome defensive line will hit Brady hard and Brady hates being hit and then hurries passes incomplete.
By the way, this is Brady’s first Wild Card game on the road.
Sunday's Wild Card Action Report
Baltimore Ravens (-3 -120, 55) at Tennessee Titans
This game has several different storylines and most of it stems from the Ravens (-10) losing 28-12 at home to the Titans in last season's Divisional Playoff round.
The Titans went into Baltimore (-6) on Nov. 22 and won 30-24 in overtime. The Titans outrushed the Ravens in both games, and this is what is attractive to the sharps who took +3.5 -120.
The Ravens have the No. 1 rushing game (191 YPG) and have gotten progressively better during their active five-game win streak with QB Lamar Jackson taking off on the run more.
They had 404 yards on the ground at Cincinnati last week and Jackson has been one and out in both of his two career playoff starts. He wants it bad, he has no pressure like last season as MVP and the No. 1 seed, but the Titans seem to have a recipe for success.
This is also the highest total for the weekend, listed at 55 with most betting shops. The Titans have only had had three of their games go under this season so you're going against the grain here if you plan to lean low in the Sunday matinee.
Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints (-10, 47)
The Saints started out -9.5 and it’s slowly inched up to -10 but it hasn’t been driven by sharp money.
The public certainly likes the Saints and its’ not because of the offense, but rather the defense that has been putting the squeeze on opponents such as that memorable Nov. 8 blowout at Tampa Bay, a 38-3 massacre in Week 9 on Sunday Night Football.
The week prior to that game they beat the Bears, 26-23, in overtime at Soldier Field. The Bears scoring difficulties look to have been answered by QB Mitch Trubisky who took his old starting role back and put 30-plus points on the board for four consecutive games until losing 35-16 at Green Bay last week.
For what it's worth, it was a competitive game until the Packers outscored them 14-0 in the fourth quarter.
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (-6, 47.5)
Neither side stands out with significant sharp or public play, but because it will be the final game posted on Wild Card weekend, it becomes the most important game for the bookmakers.
Everything looking to cash for the weekend will funnel into this game on both sides. Atlantis-Reno sportsbook director Marc Nelson is preparing his book for the risk and is worried about the Steelers.
“The Browns barely beat the Steelers last week at full strength against an awful QB (Mason Rudolph),” he said, noting that Ben Roethlisberger is starting after a week of rest and that the Browns have lost 17 straight at Pittsburgh.
The Browns also have a COVID-19 issue with their head coach Kevin Stefanski and All-Pro guard Joel Bitonio being 'out' this week. The line jumped from -4.5 to -6 after the news broake and it's stayed there.
The Browns almost messed up their playoff chances by going 2-2 in their last four which included a loss to the Jets. They’re 1-3 against the spread in their last four games, but only listed as underdogs once and they competed in a 47-42 shootout loss to Baltimore.
We know what we’re getting with the Browns: great running game, hope for best with QB Baker Mayfield, and a defense that bends.
But who are the Steelers?
What version shows up?
Is it the team that looked sharp starting 11-0, or is it the team that lost four of their last five games? William Hill sportsbooks have 77% of the cash taken on the game taking the Steelers.
Wild Card Weekend - Public vs. Sharp Leans
Here’s a recap of the sharp-public divide:
Roberts is a former Las Vegas sports book director that has been covering the sports betting industry for the last 16 years.