Vikings, Saints had most public weight attached

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 Of the four NFL Wild Card games last weekend, the side that had the most public weight attached to were the Saints, who were playing host to the Vikings in Sunday’s early game. 

 Carryover risk from the two evenly bet Saturday games magnified the liability on the Saints into a beast for the books. Drew Brees at home against Kirk Cousins who had never won a playoff game. Sounds bleak, but Cousins made the big plays in overtime to get the 26-20 Vikings win.

 “The Saints losing once again at home — and under — proves to be a substantial win for us every time,” said Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook VP Jay Kornegay.  

 The SuperBook opened the Saints as 8-point favorites and closed at -7 and Circa sportsbook closed with a Las Vegas best +325 on the Vikings money line. The South Point sportsbook had ticket counts favoring the Saints at a 5-to-1 ratio. 

  “The Vikings were huge for us, both with the game itself on straight bets and parlays and also with the teasers,” said MGM Resorts sportsbook director Jeff Stoneback. “We had a great deal of volume in that game and were winners all the way around.”

 Betting the Saints on a teaser against the Vikings was a textbook move on how to play teasers and bettors followed suit taking 6 points off the spread and passing the most key numbers of 7, 4, and 3. 

 “The Titans and Vikings made both Saturday and Sunday winners for us,” said Station Casinos sportsbook director Jason McCormick. “The Vikings were the key because it seemed like every teaser we took had the Saints keyed.” 

 However, there was one book that wasn’t rooting for the Vikings.

 “The Vikings was a bad result for us,” said South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews. “We got flooded late with Vikings points spread and money-line plays. We got even with Seattle but had a lot of parlays running to them, too. Just a slight profit on the day.”  

 The Vikings will be catching +6.5 at San Francisco in Saturday’s Divisional Playoff. 

  For most bet shops, Sunday’s late game with the Seahawks at Philadelphia would determine whether Wild Card weekend would be really good or great.

 “We lost a little bit with the Seahawks in the late game, although we were balanced more on the game closer to kickoff with late Eagles sharp money that forced us to close Eagles -1,” Stoneback said. “We still had tickets bet on the Seahawks at a 4.5-to-1 ratio.”

 Eagles QB Carson Wentz got knocked out of the game in the first quarter with a concussion. The Eagles winning would have made an epic day for the house, but back-up Josh McCown was no Nick Foles to the rescue. The Seahawks held on to a 17-9 win, which was ironically the same exact score from the Nov. 24 meeting at Philly. The Seahawks are getting +4 at Green Bay in Sunday’s Divisional Playoff.

 “If the Saints had won it would have been a brutal day, but the Vikings helped make it a winning weekend overall despite losing Saturday with college hoops and hockey also beating us,” Stoneback said. “The wild card games Saturday were a wash with us losing big on the Texans but getting most of it back with the Titans to wash each other out.”  

 The Texans’ (-2.5) 22-19 overtime win against the Bills was the only favorite of the weekend to win. The other three all lost outright, which includes the Eagles who became the favorite late at a few books. All four games stayed under the total making the under 10-2 in the last three Wild Card rounds. The all-way teaser also hit in the Texans game making the Saints teaser risk even greater. The Texans are now getting +9.5 at Kansas City on Sunday.

 Saturday’s late game saw the Titans win, 20-13, at New England with some people suggesting, or hoping, it’s the end of a dynasty. What I took away from the Titans win is that Ryan Tannehill has been managing great games and coach Mike Vrabel should get all the credit for having the guts to make the move benching a high priced starter (Marcus Mariotta). And who wants to tackle RB Derrick Henry? The Titans are catching +9 at Baltimore in the AFC Divisional on Saturday.  

Clemson offers value

 Before the College Football Playoffs began, William Hill sportsbooks posted spreads for possible National Championship Game match-ups with Clemson being their highest-rated team listed as a 1-point favorite over LSU. And that’s after they gave LSU a big rating boost when they disposed of Georgia so easily, 37-10, in the SEC Championship Game.  

 But when LSU embarrassed Oklahoma, 63-28, in the National Semifinals, LSU got another rating boost. But was that win really worth a 6.5-point bump? They were 13-point favorites against the Sooners. They were supposed to win by a large margin. And what about Clemson’s rating staying flat after beating Ohio State, the highest-rated team in the nation according to many smart people.   

 Shouldn’t Clemson be the team getting a rating boost based on being defending National Champions and also the fact that QB Trevor Lawrence is 25-0 as a starter? The Clemson defense allows only 11 ppg.

 I don’t believe that most oddsmakers made LSU such a large favorite against Clemson. I think the true numbers make the game pick ‘em or LSU -1, but because this is the most bet game of season bookmakers had to take what the oddsmakers suggested and factor in what their public is thinking. 

 The bookmakers know their customers and know they bet most on what they saw last and that lasting visual for most was Joe Burrow and LSU scalping Oklahoma. So the bookmaker tags on some extra luxury tax with the spread and then lets the public decide where the number should go. And it turned out they were correct and the majority of action in the first week of being open has come on LSU laying whatever number. 

 As of Monday afternoon, the SuperBook had 82 percent of their tickets wagered on the game taking LSU and Station Casinos had 77 percent siding with LSU. Most books have settled on LSU -5 or -5.5, a dead number, but also a good one for the bookmaker because they can move quickly either to -4.5 or -6 without hitting a threshold.

 I’ve been rooting for Burrow and LSU all season, but it’s only because of the inflated number that I bet Clemson. It’s as simple as that. No trends or no random stats, just the value to the number. And if I lose, I’m O.K. with it just because I took a great number. Had I bet LSU laying a bad number and lost, I’d be torturing myself for laying the bad number.

 Enjoy the game and Happy New Year!

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