NFL Championship Weekend Betting Public Action Report
Most of the time when I sit down to write about the line movement surrounding a major football game, it's a story of wild swings, clear preferences, sharp action , and general intrigue. When it comes to the Championship Round of the NFL Playoffs this year, though, the story is that there really is no story. Oddsmakers set numbers for both games that pretty much everyone seems to have been okay with. They have moved only slightly, and not in earth-shattering ways. And unless we see a few key guys wake up on Sunday morning with broken legs - Mahomes, Henry, Rodgers and maybe Kittle or Jimmy G - we aren't likely to see a whole lot of change between now and kickoff.
Being an oddsmaker is incredibly hard most of the time. But this time around they just had to post the numbers that made the clearest sense to anyone who plays a little attention and then put their feet up and relax. The NFC Conference Championship betting action has been very interesting to watch:
Tennessee at Kansas City : There are three things that bettors typically like in the playoffs - high seeds playing against much lower ones, home teams that have a clear edge given their geography, and flashy offenses in strong form. And Kansas City has all of those. The Chiefs are the No. 2 seed while the Titans were the last team into the playoffs. The weather is forecast to be below freezing at kickoff, and the Kansas City players will be much more used to that than the ones from Tennessee. And Kansas City had a truly stunning offensive performance last week - at least after the first quarter ended. Patrick Mahomes is as public and universally respected as any player in the league right now, so obviously no one is seeing that offensive showing as a fluke, either. It's all set up for a tidal wave of betting attention on the home team here. But it hasn't entirely been that way. The game opened widely with Kansas City favored by 7.5 points. There were a couple of books that opened it at a touchdown, but it moved to 7.5 almost instantly. And it can still widely be found at the same price .
The public has been consistent to their tendencies in the sense that they have been betting solidly on the favorite - almost two-thirds of bets have been on the Chiefs. But despite the tilted action, we have not seen the line move at all. When that's the case, we have to look at why. And there are a couple of reasons that stand out as potential explanations. First, Derrick Henry is as dominant as a player can be right now, and he's getting all the attention for it. The Titans could change their names to the Derrick Henry Squad right now and no one would question it. His strength, and the fact that he and his teammates have slayed too giants already in these playoffs, means that some big bets are clearly being thrown at the underdogs. And second, the Titans are drawing heavy moneyline action. About 85 percent of moneyline bets have been on the Chiefs at +280. That alone doesn't impact the betting line, but when action is tilted that heavily, there it is a sign that there is a fair bit of interest in the underdog, and that interest would make it tough to move the line too much. The moneyline action, in other words, is an indicator of why the line isn't moving, not a cause of it.
As an aside, the one thing we can be reasonably sure of is that the books are rooting against the Chiefs here - at least in a longer-term sense. Kansas City was the third most popular team in futures betting behind only the Patriots and Saints. If the Chiefs win the Super Bowl, the books will be hit hard. If the other three teams win, though, they'll come out ahead.
Green Bay at San Francisco : The line movement here has only been slightly more significant than the AFC game. The line opened at seven points, briefly moved to 6.5 in several spots, and is now widely available at 7.5. The line movement that did happen was early and very quick, though - quick enough that it didn't hit 6.5 in a lot of books. How things moved would suggest that there were sharp bettors waiting for that move below the touchdown, and as soon as they got it, they slammed bets down on San Francisco.
Nearly 70 percent of all bets have been placed on the Niners in this one, which is not surprising - home team, higher seed, defense getting all the attention, and so on. But again, we have seen action on the moneyline heavily tilted to Green Bay, with over 80 percent of bets being placed on the underdogs at +280. That's a pretty good indication that the Packers would draw action if the game line were too move too much, so it likely isn't going anywhere significant.
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