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Last Updated Jan 15, 2022, 6:49 PM

Money Moves - Wild Card Round

It’s the Super Wild Card Weekend in the NFL, a massive step forward from what used to be the simple Wild Card Weekend played a week earlier. The Super version gives us two Wild Card games on Saturday, three on Sunday, and then a Monday night feature with the Cardinals and Rams meeting for the third time in a rubber match.

Six division winners with home games against six Wild Card teams looking to advance to next week’s Divisional Playoffs where the No. 1 seeded Packers and Titans await with the luxury of a bye this week.

“The Wild Card weekend was always big for us, but it’s a week later than usual after the holidays, so we’ll see,” said BetMGM’s Jeff Stoneback. “Right now (Friday) we only have about 5% of the overall action we’ll see over the weekend.”

The first game features the hometown Raiders at Cincinnati where it’s expected to be a comfortable 30 degrees with 11 mph winds. The Bengals opened -6.5 at Circa Sports and have been bet down to -5.5 at most prominent Las Vegas sportsbooks.

Chris Andrews reported that his South Point sportsbook took sharp action on the Raiders while Jason McCormick at Station Casinos said they took sharp action on the Bengals while their most public bet team has been the Raiders. The Raiders are also Station’s biggest risk. BetMGM books are seeing the same activity on the game.

“We’ve got good two-way action on the Las Vegas game in both ticket counts and cash,” Stoneback said. “It’s so close that we show a profit on both sides of the game.”

That means the juice laying -110 is doing what in theory the bookmaker’s goal is that hardly ever happens. The Raiders are usually one of BetMGM’s biggest weekly risks, but not in the Wild Card game.

“That’s because the Raiders aren’t at home,” Stoneback said. “The flow of walking traffic to the Raiders games goes through all our sportsbooks down there. There must be about 20,000 people that pass through the Mandalay Bay sportsbook on game days, and then they just walk over the bridge (across Interstate-15) to the stadium. It’s about a 10-minute walk.”

The Bengals beat the Raiders, 32-13, in Las Vegas on Nov. 21 as 2.5-point road favorites and have covered the last five meetings with them. The Bengals have covered their last four games. The Raiders have won their last four to make the playoffs. The total has dropped from 49.5 to 49.

The Saturday night game is at Buffalo where the Patriots and Bills will play a rubber match in 7 degrees temperatures with 11 mph winds. The Bills have been bet up from a 4-point favorite to -5 at Circa Sports while being -4.5 at the SuperBook and South Point.

The total has been steady at 44 with not much concern because the winds are expected to die as the game goes. Sharp action at the South Point and Station casinos has sided with the Bills.

“We’ve got twice as many tickets written on the Bills but more money bet on the Patriots,” Stoneback said. “Both our decisions on Saturday are small so far.

The Bills have the No. 1 defense and come in hot, winning and covering their last four games while the Patriots seemingly took a step back after beating the Bills and then going to a bye. The Patriots had won and covered seven straight up to that point. After the bye, the Patriots went 1-3 with its only win against the Jaguars. The Patriots are 15-3 ATS in the last 18 meetings in Buffalo.

Sunday’s trio of games starts in Tampa Bay where the Eagles are 8-point underdogs after the Bucs opened -8.5. The game will have some unusual side circumstances that should be weighed out before simply betting the Buccaneers as everyone at Stations and the South Point is already doing as one of the most popular bet sides.

“With the winds and expected rains, we’ve dropped the total in Tampa Bay from 49.5 to 45.5,” Stoneback said. “We have a 3-to-1 ticket count on the Buccaneers.”

Rain is expected in Tampa, especially early in the day, but the winds from 23 to 30 mph will be a definite factor. Anything over 20 mph is difficult for QBs to make accurate throws. It favors teams that can run and the Eagles are the NFL’s No. 1 rushing team (159 ypg).

The Sunday afternoon game is going to be a doozy with so many angles to dissect between the 49ers at Cowboys (-3, 50.5).

“Our biggest decision of the week is the 49ers. We need the Cowboys,” Stoneback said. “We have a 3-to-2 ticket count on the Cowboys but the sharp money has come on the 49ers making it 3-to-2 in cash on the 49ers. This game has the most tickets written and the most cash bet of the six-weekend games.”

The 49ers have won and covered seven of their last nine and come off a huge win at Los Angeles to make the playoffs after being down 17-0. The 49ers have now covered their last seven January games.

The Cowboys are 1-7 ATS in their last eight January games. The Cowboys have the NFL's No. 1 offense (407 ypg) while the 49ers have the No. 3 defense (310 ypg). It should be another epic saga between the two NFL giants. It’s been a steady -3 all week.

The second-most public side at the South Point is the Chiefs -12.5 at home against the Steelers. The Chiefs have gone over in their last five games and will be looking at 46.5 which has been there all week.

The Chiefs have won and covered their last four home games. The big number is scaring a few off the game as of Friday by 30 minutes until game time, they’ll all be in line to bet it.

No Monday night game last week, but we get the super-duper Monday game this week. The Cardinals, who are 8-1 on the road, get the Rams in Los Angeles where the Cards won 37-20 earlier this season to end an eight-game win streak Sean McVay and the Rams had over the Cardinals. The Rams won 30-23 at Arizona on Dec. 13.

The Cardinals have gone 1-4 in their last four and lost to Seattle last week when the NFC West was up for grabs and they lost. The Rams loss last week to the 49ers ended a five-game win streak. The Rams have been a steady -4 with a total of 49.5 all week.

“Ticket counts are equal in the Monday night game but in actual cash, it’s 2-to-1 in favor of the Cardinals,” Stoneback said. “This is a great idea by the NFL to have a Monday night playoff game.”

The NFL had the highest TV ratings in 2021 against any program and the rating increase over 2020 is up 10%. What changed over that time besides the Presidency? Sports gambling becoming legal in more states.

Which begs the question, who needs who? Who is watching the Jaguars-Lions game unless they have a bet on it?

I say the sportsbooks should be getting a fee from the NFL for making their game so popular, instead of the other way around as it has turned out.

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