Public not sold on Chiefs
Welcome to the NFL’s Divisional Playoff Round where favorites have gone 3-1 against the spread (7-1 SU) each of the last two seasons (2019 - 2018), and that pattern kind of follows the public betting flow for this weekend’s games.
But the one game they’re torn between involves the defending Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs who had last week off while their opponent, the Cleveland Browns, dumped the Pittsburgh Steelers 48-37 in the Wild Card finale on Sunday night.
BetMGM took a $200,000 bet on the Browns at +10.5 and is down to -9.5 along with books like the South Point, but the majority of betting shops have the Chiefs at -10 and it’s producing great two-way action.
Westgate SuperBook VP Jay Kornegay says the public is preferring the Chiefs on the money-line at -500/+400 rather than laying the big number.
William Hill books say that 50% of their tickets written on the game is on the Chiefs and 55% of the cash taken is also on the Chiefs.
It’s an odd turnabout because the Chiefs have been one of the most popular teams over the last three seasons with quarterback Patrick Mahomes running the show.
The Chiefs have the top-ranked offense with 415 yards per game, which is always attractive for the bettors. Last season the Chiefs closed out with nine straight covers, which usually creates a forever indebted fan, but this season has been more about ‘what have you done for me lately.’
Lately, it’s been the Chiefs still winning going 14-2, but not covering the number which had become inflated.
Just 1-7 ATS in their last eight games, it appears that the brand loyalty wore off with their regular bettors.
In this week’s betting action, the large number has scared some off, but the Browns support is aided by Cleveland playing last week and bettors usually bet with what they saw last.
The Browns beat the Steelers the last two weeks, one with Big Ben, one without. The Steelers were once 11-0 and proceeded to go 1-6 in their last seven games.
Before those back-to-back wins over Pittsburgh, the Browns previous accomplishment or better said failure was a 23-16 road loss to the New York Jets. To be fair, Cleveland was short-handed due to starters ruled 'out' per COVID guidelines.
Kornegay said the one area of the game that was weighted was the total moving up. Sharp money bet the over with the SuperBook at 55.5 and 56 and they’re currently at 57 like most other books. Sunday morning’s Kansas City weather is forecasted to be 35 degrees with 11 mph winds.
The two teams last met in 2018 with Chiefs rookie running back Kareem Hunt having a big day in the Chiefs 37-21 win getting the cover (-6.5) and over (51.5). Hunt is now with the Browns and paired up with Nick Chubb, forming a two-headed monster in the backfield that has led the Browns to the third-best rushing attack (148 YPG).
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Pros vs. Joes in Green Bay
The most one-sided bet game has been the Green Bay Packers at home against the Los Angeles Rams, although sharp money jumped on the Rams at +7 at the South Point, SuperBook, and Station Casinos.
Jason McCormick of Stations said sharp money even found +6.5 EVEN attractive.
So if sharps are on the Rams, why is the money still so weighted on the Packers?
William Hill books have 83% of the tickets written on the Packers and 80% of the cash wagered. The public’s strong opinion on the Packers at Lambeau Field has overcome all the sharp money action. Parlays, teasers, money-line parlays, parlay cards -- it’s all Packers.
The books chose to move the number down on the sharp Rams wagers while taking more action on the Packers. This is a normal practice for bookmakers during the regular season too, but the huge playoff volume should have altered that theory. Respect the money more than respecting the sharp action.
Why give the whole world -6.5 when they'll lay -7?
At some point between Friday night and Saturday morning, expect the Packers risk to get so high that they have to move back to -7 which will likely attract more Rams money. Unless it was an old wise guy trick to seed the initial pool with Rams money to then come later on the Packers -6.5 with more volume spread across more books nationally.
Whatever the case is, the books will be rooting for the Rams right along with the sharp money.
Toss-Up in Buffalo
The Saturday night game has bettors torn between the Ravens and Bills who both come in red hot. The Bills have the home field edge with a few fans allowed inside and they're riding a seven-game winning streak, plus they covered eight of their last nine for bettors.
Just as good, the Ravens have won their last six games and covered their last seven.
Sharp money jumped on the Ravens +3 at the South Point sportsbook where director Chris Andrews said “the sharp plays we took was completely dependent on the number,” and that included the best he took on the Rams at +7.
No sharp money is jumping on the Ravens at +2.5, however, the SuperBook dropped down to Bills -1.5 on Tuesday before getting back up to -2.5 on Wednesday. The South Point and Station Casinos were both back to -3 on Friday.
The total dropped from 50 down to 49.5 with the weather expected to offer 34 degrees with 11 mph winds. The Ravens lead the NFL in rushing at 191 YPG and the offense has exceeded that total in five of their last six games as QB Lamar Jackson has taken the run game up a notch.
William Hill books have 62% of the tickets on the Bills and 63% of the cash on the Bills as well.
Round Three in "The Big Easy"
Sunday night’s game between the Buccaneers and Saints will end up being the most bet game of the weekend because it has the longest shelf life and also because all the risk from live parlays and teasers made throughout the week will be waiting to cash.
Station Casinos said they had sharp money taking the Bucs +3, but large whale money at BetMGM has some serious action on the Saints laying $250,000 on them at -3 and also a $250,000 two-team parlay with the Saints (-3) to the Bills (-2).
William Hill books have only 51% of the tickets taking the Saints, but also have 73% of the cash wagered on them.
This will be the third meeting between the pair this season with the Saints winning the previous two matchups.
The last encounter at Tampa Bay on Nov. 8 was a brutal display by the Bucs in a 38-3 loss with their field goal coming with five minutes to go in the game to disguise the complete ass-whipping.
Fast forward to this week and the Bucs bring a five-game winning streak into New Orleans. Tampa Bay wide receiver Antonio Brown appears to be back in shape and becoming more important each week while making big plays.
On the other side of the field, the Saints have won three straight coming in and it’s the same boring formula weekly: they play great defense, they run the ball, they dink and dunk in the passing game, and the result is they win games.
We've got some tough choices to make this week and I wish you all the best of luck. Through my experience on both sides of the counter, I would encourage teaser plays in the playoffs for both the side and total.
If you're looking to fade a teaser and go against that advice then stay away from the healthy favorites. The Packers-Chiefs teaser getting off key numbers is going to be the biggest teaser risk of the week for the books.
Roberts is a former Las Vegas sports book director that has been covering the sports betting industry for the last 16 years.
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