One Las Vegas shop expects the 49ers-Cowboys game Sunday to attract the most attention this Wild Card Weekend, while another has its sights set on the Cardinals-Rams dominating the spotlight. Oddsmakers do agree that this will indeed be a “Super Wild Card Weekend” as the NFL has labeled it.
That Cardinals-Rams game takes place Monday night, the first postseason game to occupy the ballyhooed Monday Night Football timeslot.
The league added the extra wild card game last season. This season’s playoffs follow the first 17-game schedule in NFL history. So, the league knows it’s a behemoth of which the public can’t get enough.
“It’s so popular,” says Jeff Stoneback, director of trading at BetMGM. “The owners have always wanted an extra playoff game, more teams in the playoffs. All the other sports have done it. It would be so much more money for the NFL.
“It’s kind of cool for us, too, with the Monday night game. A nice treat on the holiday.”
Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so a three-day holiday weekend coinciding with the opening of the NFL postseason definitely deserves Super status.
Sharp action has weighed in, as is usually the case, and the public will respond Friday and into Saturday. Circa Sportsbook Manager Chris Bennett told Gaming Today’s Marcus DiNitto that sharp money on the Raiders -6.5 moved the line to -5.5. A similar scenario played out with the Patriots -4.5 moving to -4. For totals, Bennett cited a weather-related move on Eagles-Bucs, which dropped the total from 49.5 to 47. Sharps are on both sides of the 49ers-Cowboys game and bet the total up from 48.5 to 51.
And all might be curious to learn of information I received late Tuesday night out of New York.
Over the past few years, the underdogs on Wild Card Weekend are 15-3 against the spread.
“I crushed it last year, but I like dogs anyway,” says my source, a professional bettor. “But I don’t love any” this weekend.
Another of my savviest sources knew all about that tendency. The dogs are probably the way to go, he says, but he hadn’t made a side wager as of Wednesday evening and didn’t expect that menu to appeal to him.
At the South Point, sportsbook director Chris Andrews confirmed that this often is “an underdog weekend.” So, release the hounds. Onto the action.
NFL · Sat (1/15) @ 4:34pm ET
|Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio|
(Each team’s records, overall and ATS, are in parenthesis.)
Las Vegas Raiders (10-7, 8-9) at Cincinnati Bengals (10-7, 10-7)
NFL – Sat (1/15) @ 4:30 p.m. ET
Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
BetMGM Line: Bengals -5.5, Total 49
As expected, the Raiders’ triumph Sunday night over the Chargers made the Mandalay Bay sportsbook, the headquarters for BetMGM, a rambunctious arena.
Even before the game, Stoneback relatives from Spokane noted the high spirits in the place at 2 p.m. He says, “They were shocked at the atmosphere.”
Cashiers who normally call it a day at 11 p.m. on Sunday remained open for another 90 minutes to serve the many patrons with winning tickets.
“They had quite a crowd down there,” he says. “Past midnight, people were still filtering around. It was an unbelievable game, and that field goal obviously cost us a lot. It was quite the party down there.”
The Raiders ended it with a field goal in overtime. Does that good fortune carry over to this weekend, in Cincinnati, where it’s expected to be 29 degrees at kickoff, 21 with the wind chill?
Las Vegas enters on a three-game ATS winning streak, and the Bengals have covered their past four.
In his past two games, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow has thrown for 971 yards. In his previous four, he has 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. In half of his 16 starts this season, he’s recorded an élite yards-per-attempt average of 9-plus.
On the road this season, the Raiders have allowed a middle-of-the-road 6.6 yards-per-attempt to opposing quarterbacks.
Against those Chargers, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr registered season-low passing figures with 186 yards, a 55.6 completion percentage and 5.17 yards per attempt. But it also was his fifth game without an interception.
Raiders tailback Josh Jacobs ran 26 times for 132 yards, his second triple-figure effort in three games, and one touchdown.
Sharp action Tuesday on the Raiders moved BetMGM’s number a full point, to 5.5. The total has flirted a half-point above and below 49.
“We have a pretty good ticket count on that one, with a few more on the Raiders,” says Stoneback. “The public will be betting on the ‘over’ on Saturday, as usual, as they do for most of these games.”
NFL · Sat (1/15) @ 8:15pm ET
|Bills Stadium, Orchard Park, New York|
New England Patriots (10-7, 10-7) at Buffalo Bills (11-6, 9-6-2)
NFL – Sat (1/15) @ 8:15 p.m. ET
Highmark Stadium, Orchard Park, NY
FanDuel Line: Bills -4, Total 44
Stoneback reports a 2-to-1 ticket count in favor of the Bills, an early barometer of what he’s expecting this weekend. It might stay at four until kickoff, but he won’t be surprised if it hits 4.5.
In his past four games, Pats QB Mac Jones has six TDs and five picks. In six of his previous seven, Bills QB Josh Allen has 15 TDs and four interceptions; he had three picked off, with no TDs, in a home game against Atlanta that Buffalo still won.
The temperature at kickoff is expected to be 7 degrees, -5 with wind chill. Like in Cincinnati, though, snow isn’t in the forecast.
NFL · Sun (1/16) @ 1:04pm ET
|Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida|
Philadelphia Eagles (9-8, 8-8-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4, 9-8)
NFL – Sun (1/16) @ 1 p.m. ET
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
DraftKings Line: Bucs -8.5, Total 46
This total has received the most action since opening at 49.5 at most Vegas properties.
“All one-sided sharp money,” says Stoneback. “They’ll bet it ‘over’ when the public comes in this weekend. It probably will move up, so if you’re looking to bet the ‘over’ just kind of hang tight and let the sharp money drive it down.
“If you like the ‘under,’ just wait until the public comes in and bets the ‘over.’ They’ll drive it up a bit. The public just loves to bet the favorite and ‘over.’”
The side has been driven down a bit from 9, but I again addressed that total.
“The Tampa Bay offense is banged up a bit,” says Stoneback. “The Bucs still have a decent defense, just not as good as they had last season. That total is more a combination of the Tampa Bay defense and no faith in the Eagles’ offense.”
NFL · Sun (1/16) @ 4:40pm ET
|AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas|
San Francisco 49ers (10-7, 9-8) at Dallas Cowboys (12-5, 13-4)
NFL – Sun (1/16) @ 4:30 p.m. ET
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
Caesars Sportsbook Line: Cowboys -3, Total 51
Stoneback expects this one to draw the most action at BetMGM. Through the middle of the week, he reported a 3-2 ticket count favoring Dallas. The money favored the Cowboys, too, but by less than a grand.
The side has slipped from 3.5, and Stoneback foresees it maybe going off at -3 with a -120 price.
“Late in the season, I heard a lot of ‘The 49ers are a team you don’t want to meet in the playoffs’ on the radio and TV,” says Stoneback. “The public does have faith in the Niners. Right now, there’s good two-way action.”
NFL · Sun (1/16) @ 8:15pm ET
|Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri|
Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1, 8-9) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-5, 8-9)
NFL – Sun (1/16) @ 8:15 p.m. ET
Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO
Line: Chiefs -12.5, Total 46.5
Professional money took the points early, bumping this spread down a full point to 12.5. Is there some sentiment about this possibly being Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger’s final game?
“A few more tickets have been written on Pittsburgh than there are on the Chiefs,” says Stoneback, “and maybe some [bettors] are sentimental, too.”
Savvy pro punters aren’t sentimental, are they?
“No, not at all,” says Stoneback, laughing. “But anytime the Chiefs play, people bet them and the ‘over.’ Come kickoff, we’ll need the Steelers.”
It’s expected to be a few ticks below freezing at kickoff. Again, though, the partly-cloudy forecast includes no snow.
NFL · Mon (1/17) @ 8:17pm ET
|SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, California|
Arizona Cardinals (11-6, 10-7) at Los Angeles Rams (12-5, 8-9)
NFL – Mon (1/17) @ 8:15 p.m. ET
SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, CA
Line: Rams -4.5, Total 49.5
This will be the marquee game at the South Point, predicts sportsbook director Chris Andrews. At BetMGM, the ticket count was 3-2 in favor of the Rams, who had the 2-1 edge in money.
“I imagine we’ll need the Cardinals,” says Stoneback. “The Cards came limping down the stretch and had a chance to win the division, but they couldn’t beat Seattle, couldn’t get the job done. I don’t know how to figure them out.
“I imagine the public will be on the Rams on Monday night.”
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is 0-3 in the playoffs, losing by an average score of 32-18. He’s thrown four TD passes and had three picked off in those games, averaging 303 passing yards.
Arizona went 8-1 (and 8-1 ATS) on the road this season, 3-5 (2-6 ATS) at home.
Gaming Today Senior News Editor Marcus DiNitto contributed to this report.