By Doug Upstone of Sports-Watch
NFL – (301) SAN FRANCISCO at (302) ATLANTA 3:00 ET FOX
I had a friend of mine who has been going to Las Vegas for 10 years the week of the NFL divisional round and asked him to call me once a line on the NFC title game was posted. I was thinking the 49ers by 2 or 2.5 before seeing the dude rockin’ out in his Volkswagen Passat to Rush for the 1,000th time since the bowl season began. He called and told me “Niners by 3 and 47.5.” While absorbing the numbers and playing around with my own Power Ratings, the cell rings again five minutes later and it’s him again, “You’re not going to believe this, San Fran’s already up to 3.5!”
He was right; I was stunned, especially coming off a key number so quickly. Letting this sink in for a few seconds, I surmised the sportsbooks must have established the Niners as a field goal choice during Atlanta’s game when up by 20 points and after watching them blow it, only to miraculously find a way to win, they had to feel the public would jump all over the impressive San Francisco team from the night before. Checking around on Monday afternoon, there was juice associated with the favored visitor (-3.5, -120 to -125) and the total was up a point to 48.5.
The Falcons are among the least respected No. 1 seeds in the last 15 years, with the 2004 Steelers and 2000 New York Giants sent off at +3 in their championship battles. For history buffs, NFC top seeds are 7-2 SU (4-4-1 ATS) since ’99 with four consecutive wins.
Update- Atlanta probably is playing a continuous Rodney Dangerfield video collection, because like him, they get “No Respect”, now up to a 4-point home underdog. It would not be a surprise to see the number drift back to 3.5-points by game time. Presently, just under 70 percent are backing San Francisco and bettors have so little faith in the Falcons, they are attracting less than 50 percent of the money line action. (Read more on this below) Every Nevada sportsbook we checked had the total up to 49 or 49.5 and the OVER is being taken a whopping 87 percent of the time. S-W Take – Atlanta covers and Over
NFL – (303) BALTIMORE at (304) NEW ENGLAND 6:30 ET CBS
Once the Patriots officially ended Houston’s season, New England was released by oddsmakers at -9.5 with a total of 51.5. Later Sunday night, the Pats were down to -9, but the most intriguing element to this conflict is the previous matchup price.
On Sept. 23, Baltimore was a standard three-point home favorite over New England and won 31-30 in a decidedly chippy contest, which showcased 24 penalties for 218 total yards. There is no doubt a lot can happen over almost four months of football (it changes week to week for god’s sake); nonetheless, this week’s number is worth examining.
If one assumes the two teams are nearly equal, than New England would be a four-point home favorite. Obviously, oddsmakers are aggressively trying to think ahead of bettors, floating the idea New England is five-points better than the Ravens, whether it is actually true or not. (In situation like this, sportsbooks would rather error on the side of the favorite)
Taking it a step further, in last year’s same matchup in the same location, New England was touchdown favorite at kickoff and was outgained by 78 yards and was minus two in turnovers and still won 23-20 because great fortune.
This time around, New England offense is as good as last year’s with an improved defense. Baltimore’s defense is not as good, yet it has a great deal more big play potential on offense. In AFC championships, the higher side has won six straight (4-2 ATS).
Expect the sharp money to be on the underdog and public money to back the home favorite. The line will move in accordance.
Update – Nine out 10 books checked have New England down to an 8-point favorite, with just a few still at 8.5. Two-thirds of football bettors are riding the Ravens and a colossal 87 percent have played them on the money line. Though just over 80 percent are on the OVER, 60 percent of the sportsbooks I checked have lowered their number to 51. S-W Take – Baltimore covers and Under