Making money on Wild Card weekend

You’ve spent 17 Sundays on your butt watching NFL games from either the comfort of your own home or at the local sports bar. You’re studied statistics, kept up on injuries and know which teams tend to struggle on the road. You’re ready for the playoffs.

Unfortunately, so are the sportsbooks.

With four games on the schedule as the NFL playoffs get set to begin this weekend, the oddsmakers in Vegas find themselves focusing on just four matchups instead of the standard 16. That means they’ve got more time on their hands to put out the best possible lines.

It also means finding value is harder than ever.

Pregame.com is back to help us figure out what the sportsbooks and sharps are thinking heading into wild card weekend.

SIDE NOTE: For the fantasy nuts in the house, CLICK HERE for a chance to take me down in the NFP/FanDuel Wild Card Weekend Salary Cap Challenge!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11-5, 6-2 road) at SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (7-9, 5-3 home)

Time: 4:30pm eastern
Opening Line: -10.5/45.5
Current Line: -10/44.5

The public is backing: 63% on New Orleans (-10), 54% on the OVER (44.5).

Trends: The Saints are 1-4 against the spread in their last five Saturday games and 1-8 ATS in their last nine games vs. a team with a losing record. The Seahawks are 4-1 ATS in their last five games in January, but 0-4 ATS in their last four games as an underdog of 10.5 or greater. Take note that the OVER is 5-1-1 in the Saints’ last seven playoff games and 5-0 in the Seahawks’ last five games vs. a team with a winning record.

Vegas-Runner drops it: “The price for this matchup opened almost identical to where it was when these two teams met in late November. The only difference is the fact that this time the Saints are a 10.5-point ROAD FAVORITE. The first game took place in New Orleans and based on the line for that meeting, the Saints should have only been installed as a favorite of -4 or -5.

Matt HasselbeckICONCan Hasselbeck and the Seahawks keep it close?

So it would appear the Seahawks offer plenty of line value, but it's obvious that the wiseguys don't agree just yet, because they have yet to take a position on either side. The books definitely expect plenty of "public money" to come in on the Saints and plenty of exotics (teasers, parlays) to be tied up with them as well. This should force an adjustment come gameday and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Betting Syndicates come in and STEAM (support) the Seahawks at an even better price, in which case you could be looking at a line of 10 being used by the sharper books to reflect the steam on Seattle.

The TOTAL is where the wiseguys saw some immediate betting value and they instantly STEAMED the UNDER (45.5), which forced the books to drop it through the key number of 45 and down to 44.5, which is where it sits today. According to most sharps, there is value in the UNDER all the way down to 44. The first meeting produced 53 total points, so the betting public is expected to support the OVER, which should limit the exposure the books have due to sharp money bet on the UNDER.

Don't expect the books to drop this any lower than 44, because that would open them up to a possible middle around some key totals (44 & 45).”

NEW YORK JETS (11-5, 6-2 road) at INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (10-6, 6-2 home)

Time: 8:05pm eastern
Opening Line: Colts -3/44.5
Current Line: Colts -2.5/44.5

The public is backing: 66% on Indianapolis (-2.5), 77% on the OVER (44.5).

Trends: The Jets are 4-1 ATS in their last five January games and 11-5 ATS in their last 16 games as an underdog. The Colts are 1-4 ATS in their last five games as a home favorite and 2-5 ATS in their last seven games as a favorite. Take note that the OVER is 5-0 in the Jets’ last five games as a road underdog and 6-0-1 in the Colts’ last seven games as a favorite of 0.5-3.0.

Vegas-Runner drops it: “The line opened at the key number of 3, with some shops forcing bettors to lay -120 on the Colts at -3. That didn't last long because the wiseguys were more than willing to take a position on the Jets at +3 (+100), then again at +3 (-110). This pressure by the sharps has since forced books to offer the Colts anywhere from -2.5 to -3 (+105).

Peyton ManningICONManning and the Colts play host to a familiar playoff foe.

The betting public is expected to back the Colts at home, which should once again limit the exposure the books currently have on the Jets. This line should settle at -3 come kickoff.

Word is that most sharps agree the Jets +3 offers them the best of it. However, I haven't heard many willing to take +2.5, especially when you consider that the Colts were installed as an 8-point home favorite against these same Jets last January.

The Total opened anywhere from a low of 44 to a high of 45 and has since settled in the middle at 44.5. Here is another playoff game that the books expect to be heavy on the OVER as soon as the betting public begins to get down. And since the majority of recreational bettors don't make their wagers until gameday, we shouldn't see much movement until then. And if they force the books to go through 45, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the UNDER catch some late Steam.”

Sunday, January 9, 2011

BALTIMORE RAVENS (12-4, 5-3 road) at KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (10-6, 7-1 home)

Time: 1:00pm eastern
Opening Line: Ravens -3/41
Current Line: Ravens -3/40.5

The public is backing: 86% on Baltimore (-3), 60% on the UNDER (40.5).

Trends: The Ravens are 4-1 ATS in their last five Wild Card games, but 1-4 ATS in their last five games as a road favorite of 0.5-3.0. The Chiefs are 4-1 ATS in their last five games as an underdog of 0.5-3.0, but 1-6 ATS in their last seven games against the AFC. Take note that the UNDER is 4-1 in the Ravens’ last five Wild Card games and 4-1 in the Chiefs’ last five games overall.

Vegas-Runner drops it: “The Ravens opened as a 3-point road favorite, but the vig at -3 was as high as +115. This was an attempt by the books to prevent the wiseguys from getting the opportunity to lay -2.5 with Baltimore and then possibly coming back to work a middle by grabbing the points with the Chiefs.

Ray LewisIconThe public loves Ray Lewis and the Ravens.

Rather than back the home dog, it appears the wiseguys tried to get ahead of the market by laying -3 (+115 & +110) on Baltimore. That, along with the expectation of heavy public money on the Ravens, has forced the books to adjust the vig on -3, to -110 on either side.

The next step is getting off that key number and moving to -3.5...something the books don't like doing. But with so much one-sided action expected, many may not have a choice...and it's then that those who got ahead of the market can now come back and try to earn with the home dog. So this is not a true position, but instead an attempt to manipulate the market and take advantage of the public's bias.

The wiseguys did see some definite betting value on the Total, which opened as high as 42 offshore. This was surely a significant position taken by the Betting Syndicates who not only steamed the UNDER but also were willing to go UNDER 41.5 and UNDER 41. And we all know that 41 is one of the key totals in the NFL. That pressure has since forced the books to offer this total at 40.5 and with two-way betting action expected from the recreational bettors, only a middle attempt made by sharps will force this total to go back up some. With the opportunity to work a middle around the totals 41 & 42, I wouldn't be surprised to see some step up and attempt it...with the total going off at 41 come at kickoff.”

GREEN BAY PACKERS (10-6, 3-5 road) at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (10-6, 4-4 home)

Time: 4:30pm eastern
Opening Line: Eagles -2.5/46.5
Current Line: Eagles -2.5/46.5

The public is backing: 58% on Green Bay (-2.5), 76% on the OVER (46.5).

Trends: The Packers are 4-1 ATS in their last five games as a road underdog and 7-3 ATS in their last ten games overall. The Eagles are 0-4 ATS in their last four games in January and 1-4 ATS in their last five games as a favorite. Take note that the UNDER is 7-1 in the Packers’ last eight road games and 5-0-1 in the Eagles’ last six home playoff games.

Vegas-Runner drops it: “When these two teams met back in early September, the Packers were installed as 3-point road favorites in Philly and went on to cover the spread, winning 27-20. Since then, the perception has changed and because of that, the books opened the Eagles as home favorites anywhere from -2.5 to -3 (+100). It's obvious that the power rating for the Eagles has also changed because the Betting Syndicates weren't quick to take advantage of this 6-point swing by steaming Green Bay.

Michael VickICONWill Vick and the Eagles have their revenge?

Since 3 is by far the most key of all numbers in the NFL, I wouldn’t be surprised to see plenty of sharps grab the points with the Packers, especially since we do see some 2.5's out there.

The books expect to see plenty of two-way action from recreational bettors for this matchup, so it appears that STEAM will be the only action that forces any kind of significant adjustment. With the books having no idea yet which side the wiseguys feel offers the best value, we should see plenty of vig adjustments being made at those outs using 3, while those at 2.5 should only end up moving in one direction (up) as we approach kickoff. I would be very surprised to see any books still offering 2.5 when the weekend gets here and bettors begin to tie up their exotics.

It appears that the bookmakers may have gotten the Total right as well. So far, it's hovering right around where it opened (46.5) and even though the books expect more money to be wagered on the OVER, they will be in no rush to offer it up to the sharps at 47. Because at 47, my experience tells me that the wiseguys would look to go UNDER.”

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Upcoming Games

Aug 5th, 8:00 PM

Dallas +1 -110

Pittsburgh -1 -110

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Aug 12th, 7:30 PM

Washington -2 -110

New England +2 -110

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Aug 12th, 7:30 PM

Pittsburgh +1 -110

Philadelphia -1 -110

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