The soundest number of any of the sports offered by Las Vegas books is the pro football line. When the playoffs start, those numbers are even stronger because you’re dealing with two very good teams facing each other.
So when bettors have the opportunity to tease a spread up or down 6 to 7 points, their chances of collecting on a bet are very good because in many instances the book can’t win.
During wild card weekend, teaser bettors feasted on close games where seven of the eight possible sides all got there. On Saturday, bettors could have simply taken 6 points on all four sides and won as the Colts beat the Chiefs (-2½), 45-41, and the Saints won at Philadelphia (-3), 26-24.
“San Diego’s win knocked out all kinds of teaser liability,” said Station Casinos sports book director Jason McCormick. “The Bengals had the largest number (-6½) attached to them among all the weekend games, and were our most one-sided teaser wager of the weekend. The outright win also killed a lot on money line parlays as well.”
The public loved the Bengals and it was their 27-7 loss at home that gave every sports book in the city a huge boost. They opened as 6½-point favorites and got up to -7 before some respected money took +7. Most closed the game at -6½.
In addition to getting lots of Cincinnati action on the teasers and money line, the books scooped most of the chips with the parlay cards. The three other games had good two-way action, but Cincinnati was one-sided. The Bengals had gone 8-0 straight-up and against-the-spread at home this season.
“The Chargers winning turned out to be our best decision of the weekend,” said MGM Resorts VP of race and sports Jay Rood. “The last game (49ers) could have been ugly, but we basically gave back everything with it landing on 3. We did get dinged up a bit in first-half and halftimes over the weekend, but we still came out ahead overall even though Saturday ended up being a wash.”
Jim Harbaugh ran his record to 4-0 against the Packers with the 49ers 23-20 win in sub-zero temperatures at Lambeau Field, and most bettors pushed on the game that ran from the 49ers opening as a 1-point favorite last Sunday to a steady -3 everywhere by kickoff. However, the 49ers were -2½ on the Station Casinos parlay cards, and were slightly weighted with action on the favorite.
On Saturday, the Chiefs had a 31-10 halftime lead at Indianapolis, which looked to prove the smart money right as the Chiefs went from an opening number of +2½ to being the 2-point favorite by kickoff. Bettors also bet the total up from 46 to 48. But Andrew Luck and the Colts made a furious come back to win, 45-44, a situation that could have set the books up for being middled, but neither Rood nor McCormick got burned too badly.
“No, we didn’t get hurt too much on the movement,” said McCormick. “They liked the game OVER, but they also like the Saints game OVER, so when that one stayed UNDER, it kind minimized the risk. The thing that hurt us in the Chiefs game was the Chiefs being +2½ on the parlay cards, which a lot of people sided with just because of the value and difference from what was on the board.”
The first three Wild Card games all saw the underdogs win outright, and the eventual winner was trailing at the half in all three games. The 49ers ended that trend.
Attention quickly turned to Monday’s BCS National Championship game where Florida State had been bet up to -10 at just about every book.
“We’re going to need FSU,” said McCormick on the eve of the game. “The number has moved that way, but we have so much built up already on Auburn, especially on the money line, that a Florida State win is our best scenario.”
Station books had Auburn +270 on the money line, and those bets had been flowing in for over a month. The sports books around the state will also have all kinds of parlay cards from the last month ready to pop on either side once posted.
For most, they have about three weeks of parlay cards piled up that have been waiting for this game to post, so the books will be still paying off wagers from week 16 and 17 NFL games that have either Auburn or Florida State, and that risk far outweighs the reward.
Divisional weekend: Last week we had three close games and one blowout, with seven of the eight sides covering on teasers. As we welcome in four heavyweights that earned the right to rest last week, there would figure to be more chances for blowouts, making it less likely the Wild Card teaser magic will be recreated.
Three of the games have spreads at -7½ or higher, but is it possible we have the potential for four very competitive ones? Here are a few first thoughts on the games:
New Orleans at Seattle (-8, 48): We saw this game last month and the Seahawks rolled, 34-7, as 6½-point home favorites, which is right in line with Seattle’s average score at home (29-13) all season. In nine road games this season, the Saints have gone 2-7 ATS. Yes, they did manage to break a three game road winless streak by winning at Philadelphia last week, but the Saints were the better team.
This is a major upgrade in class and I think New Orleans is in trouble here, even though the spread is over-inflated by about 2 points. The 48 seems a little high as well, just like it was in their first meeting. The Saints have stayed UNDER the number in 7 of their last 8 overall and 7 of 9 road games. The Seahawks are currently on a run of staying UNDER in their last 5. SEATTLE, 31-13.
Indy at New England (-7½, 53): The Colts have now won and covered their last four, and still are the only team that can claim to have beat Denver, Seattle and San Francisco. After flat-lining during the middle part of the season, they appear to have gained their second wind. The Patriots have won and covered their last two and appear to have righted the ship after struggling a little in life without Rob Gronkowski.
The Colts should give the Patriots all they can handle, and Andrew Luck’s mobility will give the defense some trouble. We constantly put the Patriots in an elite class because the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick combination has been so lethal, but let’s face it, in their last 11 playoff games they are only 2-9 ATS and have covered only twice in their last 10 home playoff games in Foxborough. PATRIOTS, 27-24.
SF (-2½, 42) at Carolina: Mirror images of each other. Most of the similarities rest with two of the nastiest defenses in the league. These two teams met at Candlestick in early November with the Panthers winning, 10-9, as 6-point underdogs. It was Carolina’s fifth straight cover against San Francisco. The thing I really like about the Panthers is Cam Newton has let his defense win games for him. His first two years in the league he was forcing the issue and making a lot of dumb plays trying to be the hero, but now he’s reined himself in and plays under control.
Carolina lost 3 of the first 4 but has reeled off 11 wins in their last 12. Their only home loss was 1-7 to Seattle during Week 1. The 49ers come in with a 7-game win streak and play just as well on the road (7-2) as at home (6-2). Against the number on the road, the 49ers went 7-1-1 ATS, winning by an average score of 24-17. The 49ers are the more polished team with big game experience, but I could flip a coin and be happy with either side before the game starts. I do see the two defenses being a major force and lean toward UNDER here. CAROLINA, 17-16.
San Diego at Denver (-9½, 55): The Broncos’ only home loss of the season came last month against the Chargers, 27-20. When you couple that loss with Peyton Manning losing last season in his first Denver playoff game, the sheriff has a lot of weight on his shoulders to win this game. For all of Manning’s greatness, let’s not forget Tim Tebow was 1-0 in the playoffs at home for Denver. The scary part about San Diego is their momentum. They’ve won five straight, all of which were essentially do or die playoff games. No team manhandled the Chargers during the season. They were in every game, had some tough last minute losses, but it’s part of their make-up that makes laying nearly 10-points against them tough, even though Denver’s average home score is 39-22.
The Chargers’ biggest loss of the season was by 10 at Oakland when Terrelle Pryor made them competitive early on. I just see a winning model out of first year coach Mike McCoy’s system, the assistant at Denver last season. They don’t force the issue offensively and don’t make a lot of mistakes, while waiting for the other team to do so. In the Chargers win at Denver last month, Philip Rivers threw the ball only 20 times. At Cincinnati last week he threw only 16 passes, but he came up big in both instances and allowed the ground game to chew time off the clock. Can they hold the ball for over 38 minutes like they did in Denver last month? Probably not, but they should give them a good fight. DENVER, 31-27.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com, and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7. Contact Micah at [email protected].