Bookies Battle, Wild Card Picks: Bills The Sole Favorite Consensus Play

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It’s the Bills and five underdogs on most sheets for Wild Card Weekend, as seven of 11 Bookies Battle contestants in our playoff pool are laying the points against the Patriots on Saturday night in frigid Buffalo.

The contest line of Bills -3.5 looks like value, with -4.5 painted across the betting market Saturday morning.

Two dogs are tied with Buffalo as this weekend’s most popular picks, including the largest one on the card — the Steelers catching 12.5 points at the Chiefs. That’s the widest point spread of the NFL Playoffs since 2017, when the Patriots covered as 13.5-point favorites in a 35-14 win over the Titans.

49ers +3 (at Cowboys) is also on seven contestants’ wild card sheets, although the line has inched toward Dallas at some sportsbooks.

The other three games see a 6-to-5 split among our contestants, as narrow as it can possibly get.

TeamNumber of picks (of 11 contestants)Contest line
(Tuesday)
Market line
(Saturday morning)
Bills7


-3.5
+4.5
Steelers

7
+12.5

+12.5
49ers7
+3+3 (-105)
Cardinals6+4+4
Raiders6+6+5.5
Eagles 6+8.5+8.5

Thoughts From Our Winners

Max Schmerin and Duane Colucci, who finished first and second in the regular season for respective $3,000 and $1,000 prizes, lead the Bookies Battle field into the playoffs with a chance to win another grand.

While closing-line value is easy to find in these types of contests – since lines are posted on Tuesday and picks are not due until later in the week – picking off that low-hanging fruit didn’t pay off this year.

Schmerin employed a different tactic en route to his contest-best 58% win rate.

“A lot of home underdogs,” Schmerin, Sportsbook Manager at Rivers Casino Pittsburgh, told Gaming Today. “Home underdogs usually getting a field goal or less than a touchdown. …. Divisional dogs and home underdogs, it seemed like this year, they’ve really been coming through.

“(But) the playoffs are a different animal.”

Colucci, Race and Sports Manager at Rampart Casino in Las Vegas, said of his approach to the playoffs in this contest, “I’m going to handicap like I did all season. I’m gonna have my power ratings that I have on the side and all my formulas, and I’m gonna try to be as perfect as I can in these playoffs. But this is a wide-open field this year. There’s no team that is gonna crush and stand out. Most people will tell you the Packers, most people will say the Chiefs, but it’s gonna be a tough road.”

Pittsburgh customers, meanwhile, are not shy about betting against their Steelers, per Schmerin. “A lot of them bet with their head and not with their heart,” he said. “I think a lot of people enjoy making money more than seeing their team win.”

He’s not sure fading Mike Tomlin’s men is the right call Sunday night, however.

“It’s pretty hard to blow out a professional football team twice,” said Schmerin, recalling the Chiefs’ 36-10 rout over his favorite team in Week 16.

“I usually don’t bet on or against my hometown team, because that’s one of the things where you really don’t think clearly — every time the Steelers play, I think they’re gonna win. But looking at it from a bookmaker perspective and someone trying to make some money, if you’re getting 12, 13 points in an NFL Playoff game, every team’s pretty good, I would feel pretty comfortable starting with those points.”

See all the contestants’ picks and follow along through the Super Bowl here.

More NFL: 49ers-Titans Super Bowl? | Super Bowl MVP odds | Alternate ways to bet NFL Playoffs

About the Author

Marcus DiNitto

Sr. News Editor
Marcus DiNitto is Senior News Editor for Gaming Today. He has been managing editor at SportsBusiness Daily, Sporting News, The Linemakers, and USA Sports Gaming. Marcus earned his MBA from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

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