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Market Insights: Where sharp action is for wild-card weekend

Tuesday was a profitable day for contrarian Bowl Game bettors and sportsbooks as dogs went 2-1-1 ATS and unpopular plays went 3-0-1 ATS. The biggest hit of the day was Virginia. In the most heavily bet and most lopsided game of the day, the Cavs fell to Florida 36-28, but easily covered the spread (opened plus 13.5 and closed plus 16). More than two-thirds of bets laid the points with Florida, providing a massive hit for the sportsbooks. 

The second dog to cover was Louisville. The Cardinals (plus 3.5) won outright against Mississippi State 38-28, closing plus 170 on the moneyline. Slightly less than half of tickets took the points with Louisville. 

California beat Illinois 35-20, covering as a 6-point favorite. It was a big win for sharps and contrarians as only one-third of bets laid the points with Cal. The Bears were a classic "fade the trendy dog" play with a sharp line freeze and some reverse line movement (reached -6.5 or even -7 at some points). 

In the other bowl game, Western Kentucky beat Western Michigan 23-20. The Hilltoppers opened -2, reached -3.5 and closed -3, which is graded as a push based on the closing line. Early sharps who hit WKU -2.5 or less covered while savvy dog bettors who jumped on WMU with the hook also covered.

Now we turn our attention to Tuesday's slate. We have five college football bowl games, 7 NBA games, 15 college basketball games and 13 NHL game. For an updated breakdown of all of Monday's sharp action, be sure to tune in to the VSiN Market Insights Podcast with Josh Appelbaum. It will be posted at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Tuesday Bowl Game Sharp Action

Kentucky plus 3 to plus 2.5 vs Virginia Tech

Florida State plus 5.5 to plus 4.5 vs Arizona State

Florida State-Arizona State Under 56 to 54

Navy plus 1 to -3 vs Kansas State

Georgia State-Wyoming Under 49 to 47.5

Now let's discuss where early smart money is flowing for NFL wild-card weekend.

Saturday 4:35 p.m. ET: Buffalo Bills (10-6) at Houston Texans (10-6) 

The Bills were kind to bettors this season, going 9-6-1 ATS, including 6-1-1 ATS on the road. Buffalo averaged 19.16 PPG in the regular season and gave up only 16.19 PPG on defense. The Texans went 7-8-1 ATS and just 2-6 ATS at home. Houston averaged 23.62 PPG on offense and gave up 24.06 PPG on defense. Both teams are coming off Week 17 home losses in which they rested key starters, including their starting quarterbacks. The Bills fell to the Jets 13-6 as 1-point dogs and the Texans were crushed by the Titans 35-14 as 10-point dogs. 

The Texans opened as 3-point home favorites. Two-thirds of bets, both sharp and square, are grabbing Buffalo at the key number of plus 3. This lopsided support has dropped the line to 2.5. Buffalo has value as a road dog with a low total. Playoff dogs have gone 95-76 ATS (55.6%) since 2003. Playoff dogs plus 3 or less are 31-22 ATS (58.5%). Pros have also leaned on the over in this game, pushing the total up from 41.5 to 42.5. This game will be played at the NRG retractable roof stadium. The over is 29-13 (69%) in dome or closed roof stadium playoff games. However, both teams have been profitable to the under this season, with Buffalo 12-4 to the under and Houston 9-7.

Saturday 8:15 p.m. ET: Tennessee Titans (9-7) at New England Patriots (12-4)

The Titans enter this game as the 2nd wild-card seed and 7th overall seed. Tennessee had to win their Week 17 game against the Texans (35-14 as 10-point favorites) to sneak into the playoffs. The Titans went 9-7 ATS during the regular season (5-3 ATS away), averaging 25.12 PPG on offense and allowing 20.69 PPG on defense. The Patriots enter as the 3-seed after winning the AFC East for a record 11th straight year. However, New England just suffered an epic letdown in Week 17, losing to the Dolphins at home 27-24 as 17-point favorites. The loss squandered an opportunity for a 1st-round bye and forced the Pats to play on wild-card weekend. New England went 9-7 ATS during the regular season, averaging 26.25 PPG on offense and allowing only 14.06 PPG on defense.

The Patriots opened as 5.5-point favorites. The public is relatively split but is leaning toward Tennessee and the points. Sharps, however, appear to be clearly on the Titans as the line has dropped to 4.5. When the line moves in favor of a playoff dog (think plus 5.5 to plus 4.5), they've gone 36-12 ATS (75%) since 2003. Brady and Belichick are 27-10 straight up (73%) in the playoffs since 2003 but just 19-18 ATS (52.4%). The total hasn't budged off of 43.5. The forecast calls for low 40s and 8-10 MPH winds. Wild-card round unders are 40-24 (62.5%) since 2003. The under went 9-7 in Patriots games this season but the over went 10-6 in Titans games. 

Sunday 1:05 p.m. ET: Minnesota Vikings (10-6) at New Orleans Saints (13-3)

Minnesota enters the playoffs on a bit of a downturn losing their last two games, both of which were at home (23-10 to the Packers as a 4.5-point favorite and 21-19 to the Bears as a 5-point dog, although the Vikings rested their starters in Week 17). They went 9-7 ATS in the regular season (4-4 ATS away), averaging 25.44 PPG on offense and allowing 18.94 PPG on defense. The Saints (13-3) enter the playoffs riding a 3-game winning streak, crushing the Panthers 42-10 as 14-point favorites in Week 17. New Orleans was kind to bettors this season (11-5 ATS), averaging 28.62 PPG on offense and allowing 21.31 PPG on defense.

The Saints opened as 8-point home favorites, the highest spread of any wild-card weekend game. The public is all over New Orleans as more than two-thirds of bets are laying the points. However, despite this lopsided support, the line has remained frozen at 8 or even dipped to 7.5, signaling sharp liability on road dog Minnesota. The total has ticked up from 47.5 to 48.5. Both teams went 9-7 to the over this season. This is a revenge game for the Saints, who lost to the Vikings on the "Minnesota Miracle" last second Stefon Diggs touchdown in 2018.

4:05 p.m. ET: Seattle Seahawks (11-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)

Seattle stumbled down the stretch and is riding a two-game losing skid, falling to the Cardinals 27-13 as a 8-point favorite and the 49ers 26-21 as a 3.5-point dog. The Seahawks went 7-8-1 ATS during the regular season (but 5-2-1 ATS on the road), averaging 25.31 PPG on offense and allowing 24.88 PPG on defense. Philadelphia is peaking at the right time and has won four straight games, most recently crushing the Giants 34-17 in Week 17 a 3.5-point favorites to clinch a playoff berth. The Eagles went 7-9 ATS (3-5 ATS at home), averaging 24.06 PPG on offense and allowing 22.12 PPG on defense.

The Seahawks opened as short 1-point road favorites. Nearly 90% of bets are backing Seattle, making the Hawks the most popular public play of wild-card weekend. This lopsided support has pushed the line to 1.5. It even hit 2 or 2.5 at some books before sharp buyback hit Philly and dropped it back to 1.5. The Eagles have value as a contrarian home dog with an inflated line. The total hasn't budged off of 46. The forecast calls for high 30s and 11-13 MPH winds. The under is 23-13 (64%) in playoff games with winds 10 MPH or more.

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