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♦ NFC Wild Card Playoffs ♦ Sunday 1/10/16

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    Books win Wild Card weekend
    By Micah Roberts

    For the first time ever during an NFL Playoff weekend all four road teams won, three of which happened to be favorites with the other only being a small underdog who originally opened as the favorite.

    The net result for the Las Vegas sports books was a winning Wild Card weekend, but almost every book had the feeling of chips being left on the table when Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard go-ahead field goal with 26 seconds remaining, which helped the Seahawks advance to next weekend’s divisional playoff round with a 10-9 win.

    “Seattle was a good win for us in regards to parlays,” said South Point sports book director Bert Osborne, “but the teasers hurt us as did the Seattle money-line.”

    The Seahawks had been as high as six-point favorites, but closed -4.5 at most sports books. Had the Vikings won 12-10, it would have destroyed a huge chunk of remaining teasers that had Seattle +1.5 to pick ‘em.

    Osborne said the Seahawks, who were the biggest favorites of the weekend, was the most heavily bet teaser and parlay game of weekend. Seattle had been a popular choice at -230 on all money-line parlays and the missed field goal allowed several to cash with the Saturday’s two favorites — Kansas City and Pittsburgh — winning.

    “Today (Sunday) was okay, said CG TechnologyVP of risk management Jason Simbal. “The Vikings covering for us was good, but it would have been better if they won. We went red/red (any side/total decision) into the last game because of parlays, but were guaranteed a winning day once the Vikings got there.”

    Most books opened the Packers -1 or pick ‘em but by kickoff, enough Redskins straight bet action had pushed the Redskins to -1.5 which made them the only home favorites of the weekend. After the Redskins jumped out to early 11-0 lead, most Washington bettors had an uneasy feeling about their wager just because the Redskins had already squandered so many scoring opportunities. The Packers end up outscoring Washington 35-8 after spotting them the lead, which ended Green Bay’s two-game losing streak and Washington’s four-game winning streak.

    “The last game of these playoff weekends is always rough because so much risk is built up from the first three games,” said Osborne, “and we had equal action on the Packers and Redskins, so we still managed to do okay with it.”

    The first three games of the weekend saw the games stay UNDER the total, but bettors were out in force betting the OVER in the Packers-Redskins game which pushed the total from 45 all the way up to 47.5 and the wager never seemed in doubt as the Packers cruised to a 35-18 win.

    Saturday’s games saw the Chiefs win their 11th straight game (8-3 ATS) in a 30-0 win at Houston — a game that wasn’t even that close as Texans’ QB Brian Hoyer accounted for five turnovers.

    In the late game, the Bengals made a furious come back after being down 15-0 to take a 16-15 lead over the Steelers, which all coincided with a crushing hit on Ben Roethlisberger’s shoulder that took him out of the game. Big Ben would come back with his injured shoulder for the final drive and took them 74 yards for the winning field goal, which was aided by 30 yards worth of two personal foul penalties on the Bengals when Pittsburgh only had 22 second remaining with no timeouts left from the Bengals 47 yard line. Final score: Steelers 18, Bengals 16.

    The Steelers opened up as three-point road favorites and were at -2.5 for the majority of the week until dropping to -1.5 on Saturday. Most of the public parlay action had the Steelers -2.5. The South Point was able to come out ahead in this game in part because of offering attractive money-line odds on the Bengals, which plenty of large bets took.

    “(Saturday) was kind of the same as Sunday,” said Simbal. “We lost to KC, but got it back with the Bengals covering.”

    That seemed to be the same story with everyone around town, and teasers played a major role everywhere as the sides went 6-2 with Pittsburgh-Cincinnati and Seattle-Minnesota being all-way side wins. It’s a pretty cool option for the bettor when a game is close as the spread suggests and everyone wins on a teaser while the book has no chance.

    “The Chiefs and Packers-Redskins game were no good for us,” said Station Casinos Jason McCormick, ”but it was still solid weekend results and we’re looking forward to the great matchups next week.“

    Those matchups this week truly are great with the best of the best squaring off.

    The first game Saturday has the Patriots as 5.5-point home favorites against the Chiefs. New England lost its last two games and four of six (2-4 ATS), but lost only one home game all season. The late game will feature a rematch from Week 16 where the Cardinals embarrassed the Packers 38-8. Arizona was favored by 10-points in that game, but are now only -7 this week.

    On Sunday, the Panthers are 2.5-point home favorites over the Seahawks, a team that no one seems to want to face. Every NFC team alive was grimacing when Walsh missed the field goal because there was a easy chance to oust the top rated team in the league. Carolina being -2.5 suggests that they’re equal on a neutral field, and that’s not really the case as Seattle is about 3-points better in the power ratings which means this game should probably be closer to pick ’em when factoring in Carolina’s home field.

    The most interesting game of the weekend will be the Steelers getting six points at Denver, which is a rematch from Week 15 when Denver was getting +7.5 at Pittsburgh, and lost 34-27. The spreads of the two games look funny with a 13.5-point swing after such a short time frame, but a lot has happened since then.

    Both these teams are rated equally, which should call for Denver -3, but now you have to figure in a slight upgrade of about 2-points from backup quarterback Brock Osweiler, who played in the first game, to Sunday’s starter Peyton Manning. Then you have a cautionary measure placed on the Steelers because of Big Ben likely not being 100 percent — he told his offensive coordinator to not call any deep passes on that last drive at Cincinnati because he couldn’t make the pass. Las Vegas oddsmaker Kenny White say the difference between Rosthlisberger and back-up Landry Jones is worth at least 5-points.

    Wild Card weekend was a teaser bonanza for bettors and the teaser action this week will be even higher just because of more higher profile teams and larger spreads.

    Look for the New England, Arizona, Seattle and Pittsburgh teaser to be one of the books worst outcomes this weekend.

    Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas sports book director that has been covering the sports betting industry for the last 11 years.

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