Underdogs don’t fair well in NFL Divisional Round helping the books cash in

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It’s fair the say the epic underdog run in the NFL playoffs has come to an end as all four home teams advanced from the Divisional round one week after all four road underdogs in the wild card round covered the spread.

The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds ended up going 3-1 against-the-spread. much to the disappointment of the betting public who were all over the dogs again.  

The Chiefs’ 31-13 win against the Colts (+4.5) Saturday and the Patriots’ 41-28 win Sunday against the Chargers (+3.5) ended up being huge wins for just about every Las Vegas sports book and the key to a winning weekend. The public loved those underdogs and some sharp groups had pushed the numbers down in each, although one sharp group played the Chiefs multiple times.  

So much for Tom Brady getting old, or the Bill Belichick reign coming to end, which were some of the comments heard last week prior to the Patriots embarrassing the Chargers. Brady and the Patriots are now playing in a record eighth straight AFC Championship game.

The Patriots showed they’re nowhere close to being finished by scoring in seven of their first nine possessions, including touchdowns on their first four to take a 28-7 lead. It was such a dominating start that the Westgate SuperBook posted AFC Championship game numbers prior to halftime. This was at 11:15 a.m. PT with an entire half to go. It’s the earliest I can ever remember a playoff price posted while one of the teams were still playing.

“We couldn’t wait. AFC Championship on the board” tweeted VP Jay Kornegay, who posted the Chiefs a 3-point home favorites with a massive total set at 59. It’s supposed to be a sunny 19 degrees at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday with no chance of precipitation. And yes, the forecast said sunny. The SuperBook’s total was immediately bet down to 57.5 and Patriots money moved the juice to Chiefs -3 Even before eventually going back to 3-flat.

“The Patriots game was really good for us,” said MGM Resorts sports book hub manager Jeff Stoneback. “I don’t think I’ve ever been able to root for the Patriots at home during the playoffs. It was kind of nice, and they blew the Chargers out so we didn’t have to sweat the decision.”

During the Brady era, the Patriots have always been one of the most popular public wagers. This week, the public outsmarted themselves by jumping on the Chargers’ bandwagon and riding the underdogs, a trend that became extremely popular with a 14-1 ATS run over the past two postseasons.

“It was another solid day and end to a great weekend,” said Kornegay. “A lot of love for the Chargers all week and the second game (Eagles-Saints) staying under was a key for us.”

The Chiefs played at New England (-4) during Week 6 and were handed their first loss of the season, 43-40, but the Chiefs got the money. It seems like so long ago, but the Chiefs were public darlings early on because of covering the spread in their first seven games.

Because of the repeal of PASPA, MGM Resorts got their first taste of booking playoff games deep within the regions of the participants.

“Booking the Saints game was a little bit different for us because of our locations outside of Nevada,” said Stoneback who opened the Saints -8.5, flashed a -8 and -9 at one point before closing -8.5. “In Mississippi, we had all Saints money and in New Jersey, it was mostly Eagles action and then here in Las Vegas it was a mix tilted slightly to the Eagles.

“I had to get a calculator out to add up all the total risk and surprisingly the difference wasn’t that much.”

It was one late wager that turned the MGM books into rooting for the Saints.

“We had been booked almost even on each side had it not been for casino player betting $50,000 on the Eagles money-line at +320 just before kickoff,” Stoneback said.

MGM got the bookmakers’ dream in the Saints 20-14 win: the favorite wins in a big game but doesn’t cover the spread. In big games, the masses love taking shots with large underdogs to win outright.

It was a weird game with the Eagles going up 14-0 in the first-quarter while Drew Brees and the Saints’ defense were sleepwalking or rusty from the bye and taking Week 17 off. But the Saints woke up and almost covered the spread. A missed 52-yard field goal attempt by Will Lutz with 2:58 remaining would have put the Saints up by nine points.

“We had another house player betting the Eagles-Saints over 52.5 for double limits ($10,000) and each time he’d bet it we’d move to 53 and then sharp money would come and play the under,” Stoneback said. “This happened about a dozen times so the total was a significant decision for us.”

The house player was playing bad numbers for large money and didn’t care. Despite his play and under being the riskiest, MGM books still closed below what he played at 52. CG Technology books closed a city-low of 51.5, which is the number MGM started with last week.

“The Pats game was fantastic,” Station Casinos sports book director Jason McCormick when asked how huge the win was. “The Eagles’ outright win and under would have been the best case scenario for us, but we’ll take the cover. The Saints and over would have been a disaster.”

The SuperBook opened the Saints -3 -120 at home against the Rams in Sunday’s NFC Championship game and have been bet up to -3.5. The total has been bet up from 55.5 to 57. The two teams met in Week 9 at New Orleans with the Saints winning 45-35. The Rams were -1.5 in that game.

Saturday’s two games also turned out well for the books despite an all-way teaser hitting in the Rams’ 30-22 home win against the Cowboys. The Rams (-7) got the slim cover and went over 49.5.

“The Chiefs was great for us by knocking down the Colts teasers as well as the side, total (55.5) and money-line (-190).” said McCormick. “The all-way teaser is never good.”

Prior to the four games, William Hill sports books reported the Colts had 79 percent of the cash wagered at their bet shops in that game, the Cowboys 59 percent, the Patriots 51 percent and the Saints 54 percent. Their money lines were also tilted the underdog’s way with 57 percent of the cash on the Eagles (+310) and 55 percent on the Chargers (+170).

“It ended being up a very good day,” William Hill’s head bookmaker Nick Bogdanovich said Saturday night. “That Chiefs game was a monster.”

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