Market Insights: Will divisional dogs have their day again?

January 11, 2020 01:39 AM

Welcome to the second round of the NFL Playoffs. We've whittled down the field from 12 to 8 since last week. By the end of the day Sunday, we'll be down to the Final Four.

Bettors should keep several trends in the back of their minds this weekend. First off, we tend to see Divisional Round favorites win but not cover. Since 2003, Divisional Round favorites have gone 40-23 straight up (63.5%), but they've only gone 24-38 ATS (39%). 

In other words, this is the best round of the playoffs to bet on dogs. According to data from Bet Labs Sports, playoff dogs are 98-77 ATS (56%) since 2003, but they improve to 38-24 ATS (61%) in the Divisional Round. Big playoff dogs plus 7 or more are 36-24 ATS (60%) in all rounds of the playoffs, including 1-0 ATS last week with the Vikings upsetting the Saints as 7.5-point dogs.

Also, it's a common belief that bye weeks provide a big edge to playoff teams due to the added rest and extra time to game-plan. This may be true for winning the game, but not for covering the spread. Teams coming off a bye are just 43-52 ATS (45%) since 2003. 

We saw unders go a perfect 4-0 during Wild Card Weekend. Outdoor playoff unders are 2-0 so far this playoffs and 75-56 (57%) since 2003. Playoff unders that fall at least 1-point are 1-0 this playoffs and 41-27 (60%) since 2003. When the wind blows 10 MPH or more, playoff unders are 23-13 (64%). 

For gameday analysis and betting updates, be sure to join Michael Lombardi, Patrick Meagher and myself this morning from 9 a.m.-noon on The Lombardi Line. We'll be breaking down all the late sharp action leading up to kickoff.

Until then, let's examine where the sharp money is flowing for today's big games.

4:35 p.m. ET: Minnesota Vikings (11-6, 6th seed) at San Francisco 49ers (13-3, 1st seed)

The Vikings are playing with house money after securing the biggest upset victory of Wild-Card Weekend, taking down the Saints 26-20 as 7.5-point underdogs. Kirk Cousins finally got the "can't win a big game" monkey off his back. Minnesota is 10-7 ATS and 5-4 ATS away, averaging 25.47 PPG on offense and giving up just 19 PPG on defense. The 49ers finished tied with the Packers and Saints for the best regular season record. San Francisco is coming off a bye after finishing the regular season with two straight wins, including a 26-21 win over the Seahawks as 3.5-point favorites in the season finale to clinch the No. 1 seed. San Francisco is 9-6-1 ATS but just 3-4-1 ATS at home, averaging 29.94 PPG on offense and giving up 19.38 PPG on defense. 

This line opened with San Francisco listed as a 6.5-point or 7-point home favorite, depending on the sportsbook. The public doesn't know which way to go as spread bets are split right down the middle. After dipping to 6.5 earlier in the week the line has leveled out at 7. The Vikings have value as a divisional round dog, big dog plus 7 or more and fading teams coming off a bye. The 49ers are expected to get Dee Ford, Jaquiski Tartt and Kwon Alexander back from injury. Adam Thielen is questionable for Minnesota 

Sharp money has come in on the under. The total opened at 45.5 and has been bet down to 44.5 despite two-thirds of bets taking the over. The forecast calls for mid 50s, partly cloudy with 8-10 MPH winds. Both teams have been slightly profitable to the over, though, with Minnesota 9-8 and San Francisco 8-7-1. Walt Anderson, the lead ref, slightly favors home teams (52.6% ATS) and unders (51.4%).

8:15 p.m. ET: Tennessee Titans (10-7, 6th seed) at Baltimore Ravens (14-2, 1st seed)

The Titans are coming off a big 20-13 upset win over the Patriots in the Wild Card round, covering as 4.5-point road dogs and winning straight up plus 190 on the moneyline. Tennessee is 10-7 ATS on the season including 6-3 ATS away, averaging 24.82 PPG on offense and giving up 20.24 PPG on defense. The Ravens finished with the best record in the NFL and a league best plus 249 point differential (the Titans were plus 71 in the regular season). Baltimore went 10-5-1 ATS (but just 4-4 ATS at home), averaging 33.19 PPG on offense and giving up 17.62 PPG on defense. 

This line opened with Baltimore listed as a 10-point home favorite. Despite a slight majority of bets laying the points with the Ravens, this line has dipped to 9.5. Some shops have even touched 9. This line never reached 10.5. This sharp reverse line movement signals smart money on the Titans plus the points. Tennessee has value as a divisional dog, big dog plus 7 or more and fading a team off a bye. Also when a line stays the same or moves toward a dog those teams are 2-1 ATS this playoffs and 58-42 ATS (58%) since 2003. 

We've also seen some smart money target the under. The total opened at 48 and has dipped slightly down to 47. When a playoff total falls at least 1-point the under is 41-27 (60.3%) since 2003. Weather could be a factor as the early forecast calls for 12-15 MPH winds. The under is 23-13 (64%) when the wind blows 10 MPH or more in a playoff game. Bill Vinovich, the lead ref, favors road teams (55.7% ATS) and unders (57.6%). The over is 10-7 in Tennessee games and 9-7 in Baltimore games this season. 

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