NFL Championship Weekend Odds: Public Action Betting Report
As I write this it is late Wednesday night, so the lines for Sunday's playoff games have been set for a long time now. They have gotten a lot of attention from sharp bettors, and casual bettors have started hitting them as well. It's a good time, then, to look at how bettors are reacting to the lines and how the lines are reacting to the early betting. With so much money bet on the two games this weekend, we can often learn a whole lot just by looking at the public action and what it can tell is.
The first thing that stands out is the symmetry of the two games. Both teams have the home team favored, and both by a field goal. Three points is, of course, pretty much the standard home-field advantage in the NFL. So these games are seen as pretty much coin flips by oddsmakers - which is exactly what you would expect when you have four competitive and well-matched teams battling for the final two spots in the tournament.
L.A. Rams at New Orleans Saints
This game opened with the Saints favored by 3.5 points at home - though some books tried to open it right at the key number of three. A small majority of bets have come in on the visitors - about 55 percent of bets at this point. As a result, the number has fallen to three in most spots, and is likely to follow in other places. The bets were tilted toward the Rams enough to move the line to three, but books will be very hesitant to move it through that key number unless something happens so the books don't risk being middled. We'd either need to see action tilt much more aggressively towards the Rams or news emerge that favors the Rams in order to see the number fall further. It feels more likely that the public will start to embrace the Saints a little more as they think about Drew Brees' 6-0 home playoff record. Barring news, though, it feels like this game is likely locked into a tight range of either three or 3.5 points. Obviously, then, if you like the Rams you would want to jump on the 3.5 if you can find it, while Saints backers will be happy not to have to give up the extra hook when taking the three points.
The total opened at 57 and has shown stability at that point - with movement to 56.5 in some spots. Given how impressive both of these offenses can be, it is notable that the number is falling - at least on the surface. But the Rams are actually 8-8 on the total this year, and the Saints have gone under in nine of 16 games. Still, the more the public attacks this game, the more likely they are to hit the over - the public loves offense. Over bets could act now, but under bettors might prefer to show some patience.
New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs
This game opened with the Chiefs favored by three points at home, and though a couple of books have tried to move it, the major books have locked it in on the key number up to this point. A small majority of bets have come in on the Chiefs, but not enough to move this number at this point - books hate moving off the key number if they don't have to. Without significant news on one side or the other, this line isn't likely to move that much because we aren't likely to see the action shift much from where it is. New England will be popular from the public because of their history of success - they are a very public team. But Patrick Mahomes is a walking freakshow - in a good way - and the public has fallen hard for him already. Both sides will have their backers, and that will make it hard for this line to move much, if at all.
The total opened at 58, fell quickly to 54.5, and has since climbed to 55.5. There are conflicting forces here. On one hand, the public will be in love with both of these quarterbacks and the potential they both have to pile up a lot of points. The teams combined for 83 points when they met last time, and they could certainly do so again. But while the over went 10-5-1 for the Chiefs, the under was a strong 11-5 for the Patriots. And, most significantly, the forecast is for a miserably cold game, and that can really hold offenses in check as much as anything. I suspect the excitement about the offenses will force the line up a touch more, but other factors should keep it in control.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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