NFL playoff dogs provide great start for sportsbooks
January 09, 2018 3:12 AM
by Micah Roberts
The underdogs were barking loud over Wild Card weekend. All four dogs covered the spread to give the Nevada sportsbooks a great start to the New Year, which was a complete turnaround from last season when the books got buried on the same weekend with favorites going 4-0 ATS.
“It seems like we’ve had more losing Wild Card weekends than wins over the past five or six seasons,” Westgate SuperBook VP Jay Kornegay said following the Saints’ 31-26 win over the Panthers (+7) Sunday night.
Last season the parlay risk piled up after each favorite covered the number, culminating with several three and four-team parlays cashing on the final game posted. This season, momentum was halted before it even began when the Titans (+8.5) upset the Chiefs, 22-21, Saturday night at Kansas City. For a while, it looked like a wild card re-run from 2017 when the Chiefs jumped out to a 21-3 halftime lead. But then they were outscored 19-0 in the second-half. William Hill and CG Technology books paid out a Las Vegas-best +380 on the money-line.
The Chiefs are now 1-9 ATS in their last 10 playoff games and they’ve lost six straight home games in the playoffs. The Titans have now covered six of their last seven games and their reward for winning is playing next week at No. 1 seeded New England where the Patriots have been installed as a 13.5-point favorite.
Saturday’s late game saw the Falcons (+6.5) win 26-13 against the Rams in Los Angeles, which also paid +240 on the money-line. It secured a monster day for the sportsbooks, virtually killed all the parlay and teaser risk and busted up the popular favorite money-line parlay plays. The big money favorite money-line parlay bettors didn’t cash one NFL ticket over the weekend.
Sunday’s games had the dogs barely cover, which aided teaser bettors. It was hard to lose a teaser on Sunday with the Jaguars’ 10-3 home win over the Bills (+8.5) and the Panthers’ +7 covering in defeat. All four sides covered on the teaser.
“Saturday was great, but Sunday was just okay,” said Kornegay. “We had a couple of house players that did well with the Jaguars and Panthers. We still needed the dogs in both games, but the day ended up being only a small winner.”
Kornegay also said action was a little lighter on Sunday compared to Saturday. “Bettors didn’t reload like usual after a tough Saturday for them,” he said.
What’s really amazing about January comparisons is more underdogs have covered already, four in four games, than the entire playoffs last season when the favorites went 9-2 straight-up and ATS. The majority of the betting public loves their favorites. Last January ended up being a blood bath in the NFL for the books.
To keep the comparison going, last season’s Divisional Playoff round saw two underdogs win outright, the only two of the entire playoffs, and two favorites win and cover.
If you’re looking at the Falcons favored by -2.5 at Philadelphia this weekend and think something looks off, you’re correct. It all rests with back-up Nick Foles having his value dropped by oddsmakers, which in turn makes the Eagles rating drop. The defending NFC champs are gaining momentum and the Eagles look nothing like the team Carson Wentz led to an 11-2 start before he suffered a torn ACL and was lost for the season.
“At the time of the injury, we we’re thinking Wentz was worth about 4.5-points because Foles has had success in the NFL before,” Kornegay said. “But after each of his starts, we started increasing Wertz’s value, and downgrading Foles and the Eagles. We’re thinking he’s closer to 8 or even 9 points, which is what your seeing with this spread.”
That means Wentz is in the Aaron Rodgers neighborhood of value. Rodgers is the most valuable QB to the number just because of the drop-off to the back-up. So the question you might ask yourself this week is whether Foles is better than Packers back-up Brett Hundley. If thinking he is, and Foles is, then you have to take the points with Philadelphia at home in what should probably be a pick ‘em game. When Falcons -3 showed briefly at a few books, sharp action took the Eagles +3 wherever available.
Another reason for the Falcons inflation is they have the trust of the bettors and will be a popular play this weekend. They see the momentum and many had the Falcons on the money-line against the Rams who led the league in scoring (29.9 ppg). The public always gravitates to supporting the high scoring teams, so it’s a major statement they came in on the Falcons on the road.
Foles came in late to relieve Wentz Week 13 at the Rams and led them to a 43-35 win. In his first start the next week at the Giants he threw for 237 yards, four TD passes and didn’t have an interception in the Eagles’ 34-29 win. In Week 15 at home against the Raiders, Foles looked lost at times in a 19-10 win where he passed for 163 yards, one TD and one1 pick.
“Even in the four-TD game he missed a lot of open targets and it got even worse the following week against the Raiders,” said Kornegay.
In Week 17 against the Cowboys, the Eagles rested some of their starters, but Foles made 11 passes and had an interception in a 6-0 loss. The most revealing evidence Foles has been overrated initially is the Eagles failed to cover the spread in all three of his starts.