Very busy week at sportsbooks, with four great betting attractions in the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs.
You may find this hard to believe, but the “marquee” game of the week - Buffalo at Kansas City - is actually the LEAST bet game so far at the South Point! A lot of very strong opinions out there in Bengals-Titans, 49ers-Packers and Rams-Buccaneers. You regulars know that many of those teams already have big betting contingents here in Las Vegas. Derrick Henry’s return for Tennessee is also driving action, as is the red-hot recent play of Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow.
Before we run through each game, let’s update futures prices to win each conference and the Super Bowl. Green Bay is currently our overall favorite to win the Lombardi Trophy. So, I’ll start with the NFC odds. For each of the prices below, you’d bet $100 to win the amount listed (or anything in that ratio).
NFC Conference Futures
Green Bay: + 140 to win NFC, + 325 to win SB
Tampa Bay: + 250 to win NFC, + 525 to win SB
LA Rams: + 400 to win NFC, + 600 to win SB
San Francisco: + 400 to win NFC, + 900 to win SB
Our prices are strongly influenced by action at the counter. We’ve taken a ton of San Francisco bets. The Niners are by far our worst result for the conference or Super Bowl. We do okay (or better) with all others. The Rams are drawing more interest to win the Super Bowl than the NFC, which is why their prices are relatively close together.
If you’re a Niners fan, your best value approach now would be a “rolling” moneyline parlay through the brackets. You can currently get + 200 to upset Green Bay. If that happens, SF will be a road dog at either Tampa Bay or Los Angeles. A parlay of + 200 with something like + 140 would pay over + 600 to win the NFC. Even with two wins, SF would probably still be an underdog in the Super Bowl. Futures can be a lot of fun. They’re often not the best way to support your favorite team.
Now, let's look at the AFC odds.
AFC Conference Futures
Kansas City: + 175 to win AFC, + 425 to win SB
Buffalo: + 220 to win AFC, + 475 to win SB
Tennessee: + 275 to win AFC, + 900 to win SB
Cincinnati: + 600 to win AFC, + 2000 to win SB
Kansas City winning its conference and the big game would be a great result for us. As we discussed last week, the public hasn’t been interested in betting “repeats” for Tampa Bay or the Chiefs. You probably noticed the wide spread there for Tennessee. Bettors have been more interested in taking the Titans with home-field advantage in the AFC then asking them to run the full table.
(Note: Click for the latest NFL playoff scores and odds.)
Let’s get to the games, which are presented in kickoff order.
Saturday, Jan. 22
Bengals vs. Titans (-3.5, 47.5)
CBS, 4:30 p.m. ET
Game time temperatures are expected to be in the 30’s and wind won’t be an issue. I opened Tennessee -3 and it didn’t take long for sharps to bet that up to -3.5. There’s been a lot of buyback on Cincinnati + 3.5. But, not enough to come back to the key number. This is one of those games where percentages will probably edge toward Tennessee -3 and Cincinnati + 3.5. Sharps with a preference will bet their preferred price. The public usually bets favorites in playoff games. Sportsbooks must determine how to manage risk.
I did take a big moneyline bet from a sharp this week on Cincinnati + 170. I’m currently at Titans -180/Bengals + 160. My Over/Under opened at 47 and it was bet up to 47.5 with no buyback yet. I expect this one will rise to 48 because the public likes rooting for points. And, there probably won’t be any weather concerns. Sharps might nibble at Under 48 because that’s a relatively key number for totals.
49ers vs. Packers (-5.5, 47.5)
FOX, 8:15 p.m. ET
Weather could definitely be a factor. Bitter cold (temps in the low teens or single digits) with wind topping 15 mph (brutal wind chill). Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay are more familiar with those conditions than the Niners. San Francisco will be hoping Jimmy Garappolo, Nick Bosa and a few other guys will have fully recovered from recent injuries.
I opened the game Green Bay -5.5 and sharps laid that, so I went to -6. Other sharps took the Niners, so the line hopped again between 5.5 and 6 before taking a few BIG bets on San Francisco + 6. I’m currently at Green Bay -5.5. The public likes the favorite. You already know that South Point clientele includes some strong San Francisco investors.
That impacted the moneyline too. Sharps like SF + 210 or better at my store. I’m currently at Packers -240/Niners + 200. There was some sharp money on Green Bay early in the week amidst initial reports of SF injuries. On the total, I’ve taken big bets on Over 47 and Under 48. I’m currently at 47.5 (which was also my opener).
Sunday, Jan. 23
Rams vs. Buccaneers (-2.5, 48)
FOX, 3 p.m. ET
Won’t be as windy as last week. Maybe a little breezy at times. Betting action here has been fantastic. But, if the game lands on 3, it's trouble for us.
I opened Tampa Bay -3 and took a couple of huge bets on the Rams + 3. After dropping to 2.5, I’ve taken some very large bets on the Bucs. I’m still currently at Tampa Bay -2.5. This will be a heavily bet game up until kickoff. I’ll have no trouble writing tickets for Rams + 3 or Tom Brady -2.5 at home. Balancing will be essential. I have to dodge a 3 or all Rams bets would push, all Bucs bets would win.
A lot of moneyline interest too. Big bets on the Rams at + 135, but monstrous money on Tampa Bay -145. I’m back where I opened at Bucs -150/Rams + 130. I was as high as 155/135 and as low as 145/125.
I’m also back where I started on the total. I opened 48 and the first bet was Over, which pushed me to 48.5. Another Over bet took me to 49. A sharp hit Under 49 quickly, then I took a big sharp bet on Under 48.5. The public is on the Over (like always). Sharps like Under 48.5 or higher.
Bills vs. Chiefs (-1.5, 54)
CBS, 6:30 p.m. ET
Great football weather. Temperatures should be in the high 30’s. A bit of a breeze around 10 mph. Buffalo’s dealt with much worse conditions recently.
I mentioned earlier this matchup has the lowest handle so far. Why? There’s not a key number to jump in and grab. I opened Kansas City -2.5. Sharps bet Buffalo at + 2.5 and + 2, so I’m down to Kansas City -1.5. I am getting some buyback on the Chiefs. When a game hops between 2.5 and 3, sharps really load up at preferred prices. I didn’t give anybody a chance to take the full 3 with the surging Bills. (Nor do I intend to!)
On the moneyline, I opened Chiefs -140/Bills + 120. Sharps took Buffalo at + 120, + 115 and + 110. I’m finally getting some money back on the Chiefs at my current posting of Chiefs -125/Bills + 105.
Something interesting to report on the total. I took a pretty big sharp bet on Under 27 in the first half. Informed money may be looking for a conservative start from two teams who don’t want to hand away any cheap points with turnovers. For the full game, my opener of 54.5 was bet up to 55. I took a very large bet Under 55 from the same sharp that bet Under in the first half. I’m down to 54. I expect the public’s love of points to help balance my books before kickoff.
There’s a lot to talk about six-point TEASERS this week. I decided to cover all that in one quick discussion.
*Sharp Teaser Legs: Both the Rams + 8.5 and the Bills + 7.5 are receiving a lot of sharp play because those six-point moves cross the key numbers of 3 and 7 with live dogs capable of pulling upsets. You know how much sharps would like the Rams and Bills at + 3 for straight bets. So, getting + 7.5 or + 8.5 is irresistible in what are expected to be tightly contested games.
*Mix of Sharp/Public Teaser Legs: Green Bay moving down to pick-em is very appealing to recreational bettors because all the Packers have to do is win straight up. Not a difficult ask for a bye team with a weather advantage hosting a visiting QB with a bum shoulder. Sharps usually bypass favorites in this range. But, some are tying GB with the Rams and/or Bills in two-team combos.
*Ill-Advised Public Teaser Legs: Generally speaking, it’s a bad idea to “cross the 0” by teasing short favorites into short underdogs. Any six-point teaser is essentially “buying” six points. But, playoff games can’t land on 0! They’ll play to a winner. So, customers moving Tennessee from -3.5. to + 2.5 are really only buying five points. Those moving Kansas City from -1.5 to + 4.5 are doing the same. As a bookmaker, I’ll write those tickets all day. Tennessee and Kansas City may cover those teased lines (if they cover their regular lines, the teaser legs automatically get there). But, there are mathematically sounder ways for you to bet Tennessee or KC than in teasers.
There wasn’t much truly great football during Wild-Card Weekend. Four of the six games were blowouts. I expect much more high-level, competitive play this weekend. Best of luck with your bets!
Chris Andrews is the Sportsbook Director at the South Point in Las Vegas and has been a Nevada bookmaker for 30 years.