NFL playoffs keep high level of entertainment

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There are three games left in the NFL playoffs and between the two conference championship games on Sunday and then the Super Bowl, I can’t imagine being entertained at the same high level I was over the just-completed Divisional playoff round. 

The weekend had a little something for everyone with the 49ers dominant offensive and defensive lines, an improbable upset with the Titans paying out at 4-1 odds on the money line, the greatest playoff swing ever in Kansas City, and the Seahawks attempting a cover-turning 2-point conversion that only mattered to those who bet or booked the game. 

While the majority of bettors chose correctly with favorites like the 49ers, Chiefs, and Packers, they chose wrong with the Ravens, the other favorite, which turned out to be the one game Nevada sportsbooks had to beat out to win the weekend. Saturday’s 28-12 Titans win at Baltimore gave the books a huge win, enough to offset anything that would happen in Sunday’s games.

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“It was our biggest NFL win so far this season,” said Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook VP Jay Kornegay.

Their biggest win on a game in 19 weeks of NFL action? That says it all, but what fascinates me, even more, is how a game can have such volatility to create a huge opportunity for the house to scoop most of the chips. It was the No. 1 seeded Ravens at home who just set the NFL record for rushing yards in a season, coming off a bye, while riding a 12-game winning streak. The spread moved from Ravens -9 to -10 by kickoff.

Where the game got out of hand for the books was the public not respecting the Titans win at New England in the Wild Card round. Nor did they think the rust of Ravens starters sitting out Week 17 and having a bye would affect the team favored to win the Super Bowl. It was a one-sided bet game with some books reporting an 8-1 ratio on Ravens cash taken in on straight bets. 

But the heaviest risk of all was the parlays and teasers. The Ravens were the most popular parlay and teaser side of the weekend. They were the root side to most exotic wagers and had they won and covered coupled with Sunday’s results of both favorites and both overs cashing, we’d be talking about how Las Vegas books lost millions.

So when the Ravens went down, the books banked all that outstanding risk tied to all the other games. The big money-line favorites parlays went down, the teasers went down, the pointspread parlays went down, and of course, all the straight bets went down. It was a finely crafted game of risk that we’ll be talking about for years. Maybe not, but it will at least have bettors respecting the Titans a little more this weekend.

“Saturday was awesome, but Sunday was break-even,” said MGM Resorts sportsbook director Jeff Stoneback. “If the Seahawks make that late two-point conversion, Sunday would have been another big day.”

MGM books closed The Packers as 4.5-point home favorites against the Seahawks in Sunday night’s game while the Superbook closed -5. Yeah, 5 is a dead number, right? The Seahawks cut the Vikings lead to 28-23 late in the game and had to go for the 2-point conversion, but failed. And just like that, the Packers got the cover. And they deserved it because they outplayed the Seahawks despite Russell Wilson doing some dazzling things. But for a moment, bettors on either side were on pins and needles of nausea waiting to see if it would be successful or not. And obviously, the books were in the same boat as well.

“The Packers winning by five was brutal,” said Atlantis Reno sportsbook director Marc Nelson. “The Titans saved the weekend, an overall winner, but nothing to write home about.”    

The Packers’ 28-23 score also kept it in line for all sides of the teaser to cash, a four-way winner, the only all-way winner of the weekend.  

William Hill’s Nick Bogdanovich said the two days of NFL results couldn’t be more different from each other.

“It’s night and day,” he said. “It was a lock four-teamer today (Sunday).”

The Chiefs (-10) to the over (51) stacked up with Packers (-4.5) and over (45.5) were the most popular public plays on Sunday. That’s a 10-1 payout off the pay chart at most books, and it was very popular which further explains how big the Ravens loss was. The books still won the weekend despite Sunday.

Perhaps even more thrilling than the Titans win or the Seahawks 2-point conversion attempt was the Chiefs starting their home game against the Texans in a 24-0 hole. It happened fast, almost too fast for the Texans. The only thing that could go against the Texans with such a big lead would be questionable play-calling by the coach and that’s kind of what happened with Bill O’Brien kicking a field goal on 4th-and-1 when they were up 21-0 and then a fake punt deep on their side of the field. 

Patrick Mahomes only needs a short window of opportunity to get his groove going and O’Brien gave the Chiefs some momentum. Final score: Chiefs 51-31. It’s the first team in postseason history to win a game by 20-points or more after trailing by 20-points or more. 

The SuperBook posted this week’s AFC Championship Game number with the Chiefs as 7.5-point home favorites over the Titans with a total set at 52. The Chiefs have won and covered their last seven games with their last loss coming at Tennessee on Nov. 10. The cool thing about the Titans run in their last three games with Derrick Henry being unstoppable is that they came against AFC division winners. Beating KC would make it four straight wins against AFC division winners.

The game that didn’t have as much sizzle to it like the others was the 49ers’ 27-10 home win against the Vikings which covered the 7-point spread and stayed under the total of 44.5. The 49ers dominated both sides of the line and had me believing they would beat the Ravens in a tough game if they met in the Super Bowl.

The SuperBook opened the 49ers as 7-point home favorites over the Packers in the NFC Championship Game. The 49ers look like the team to beat, but if the Chiefs’ defense can’t stop Henry and the Titans make the Super Bowl, the 49ers front seven against the Henry would be fun to watch.

“Three of the four favorites covered, but overall it was a good weekend,” Kornegay said. “We were very fortunate that we got that big upset (Titans). I sent out a thank you to Tennessee this morning. On Sunday, two favorites and two overs never ends well for the bookmakers.”

The SuperBook updated its Super Bowl futures immediately after the Packers’ win making the Chiefs the 7-5 favorite followed by the 49ers (3-2), Packers (7-1), and Titans (8-1). Several books have severe futures risk on the Titans.

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