LAS VEGAS – What a difference a year makes.
Last year, NFL favorites went 4-0 SU & ATS on wild-card weekend. In this past weekend’s wild-card games, underdogs went 4-0 ATS with the Tennessee Titans and Atlanta Falcons pulling outright upsets on Saturday and the Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers covering in straight-up losses on Sunday. In totals wagering, unders went 3-1 with the first three games staying under before the Panthers-Saints game went over in the final game Sunday.
In Sunday’s first game, the Jacksonville Jaguars outlasted the Buffalo Bills 10-3, but didn’t cover after closing as 8.5-point home favorites. It was a defensive battle throughout (though many are calling it offensive ineptitude) as it was tied 3-3 at halftime with the Bills covering as 6-point, first-half underdogs and staying under the first-half betting total of 19.5 (the lowest first-half over/under of the weekend but the oddsmakers couldn’t set it low enough for this game).
The only points of the second half were on the Jaguars’ go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard pass from Blake Bortles to Ben Koyack with :42 left in the third quarter. The play came on fourth-and-goal, so if the pass had fallen incomplete, they might still be playing. Jacksonville covered the second half 7-0 as 4.5-point favorites as it again stayed under another depressed total of 18.5.
In the last game of wild-card weekend, the New Orleans Saints beat the Carolina Panthers 31-26, but the Panthers got the back-door cover as 7-point road underdogs. After a slow start for both teams, the Saints drew first blood on an 80-yard TD pass from Drew Brees to former Panther Ted Ginn Jr. and then led 21-9 at halftime to cover as 4-point, first-half favorites as it went over the first-half total of 24 points.
The Panthers rallied in the second half to get within the number (actually twice, though the Saints responded with a TD drive to get back over the number the first time) and had a chance to win at the end. As it was, the Panthers won the second half 17-10 at pick ‘em while it went over the second-half total of 24.5.
For the weekend, first-half faves/dogs ended 2-2 ATS while first-half over/unders were also 2-2. Second-half dogs were 2-1 ATS with the Panthers-Saints game not included at pick ‘em (the Panthers weren’t a dog, in fact, some books had them -0.5 in the second half) while second-half unders went 3-1 with the Panthers-Saints game being the only over.
This part recapping Saturday’s wild-card betting results is re-published from Saturday night:
Before the NFL wild-card games started Saturday, Westgate Las Vegas’ Jay Kornegay said his book needed at least one of the underdogs to cover. Golden Nuggets race & sports book director Tony Miller posted a similar sentiment on Twitter.
They both got their wish – as well as probably every other bookmaker in town – as the Tennessee Titans rallied to upset the Kansas City Chiefs 22-21 as 9-point road underdogs in Saturday afternoon’s first game and then they received a bonus with the Atlanta Falcons knocking off the Los Angeles Rams 26-13 as 6-point road dogs in the nightcap.
On Friday’s “My Guys in the Desert” show on VSiN, the South Point’s Jimmy Vaccaro talked about how it was setting up as a potentially scary weekend for the books with all the home favorites being teasable under a field goal. If the favorites were to sweep like they did last year, it would be ugly for the books.
The Chiefs jumped out to a 14-0 lead over the Titans in the first quarter and looked even more in control as they took a 21-3 lead into halftime. They easily covered as 5.5-point first-half faves and I was in the Westgate Theater when it went nuts as Alex Smith hit Demarcus Robinson with a 14-yard TD pass with 3 seconds left before intermission to put it over the first-half over/under of 22 points (a field goal would have left it under).
However, the Titans dominated the second half, winning it 19-0 as 0.5-point underdogs (though it stayed under the second-half total of 21), to pull out the 22-21 upset at plus-360 on the money line. But the books didn’t mind paying out the money line in order to kill a lot of KC parlays and teasers as well as the point-spread wagers (the Chiefs were bet up from -7.5 to -9 at a lot of books).
So, the house was, well, playing with house money when the Falcons and the Rams took the field. The underdogs Falcons were the right side the whole game as they went out to a 13-0 lead before the Rams cut it to 13-10 by halftime (with the Falcons still covering the first half as 3.5-point underdogs. In the second half, Matt Bryant added two more field goals (he had four in the game) to open up a 19-10 lead and then, after the Rams cut it to 19-13 with a FG of their own, Matt Ryan hit Julio Jones with an 8-yard TD pass to pretty much put it out of reach at 26-13 (though since it’s the Falcons, they almost let the Rams get back in the game but the Rams' key drive had a touchdown overturned by replay). The Falcons closed as an average of plus-210 on the money line around Vegas after I saw them as high as plus-260 at the South Point on Thursday.
The Falcons also won the second half 13-3 to cover as 6-point, second-half dogs as it stayed under the second-half total of 24.