With a 2-1 Week 17, we, in tracking the sharp action in the marketplace, finished the 2018 regular season on a 10-2 run with our identified sharp plays of the week. And while it was a positive week for our plays, it likely amounted to a down week overall for sharp bettors, however, as the public had one of their better weeks of the year, with consensus sides going 12-4 ATS.
Fortunately, out of the four unpopular sides of the week that covered, we had two of these as plays, while we went with the Bills as a team getting love from both the public and professionals. The Bills and Panthers provided us with two easy covers, while the Jags were the loss of the week, losing, 20-3, in Houston as a seven-point underdog.
While I usually go back through last weeks games box scores looking for takeaways and future value, I won’t do so this week, as it is Playoff time now, and the Playoffs are a whole different animal. Situational handicapping, for the most part, bears lessened importance, as we can count on the teams giving maximum effort, emptying playbooks, and being all the way up for games from a motivation standpoint. Therefore, I don’t believe that looking for edges based on Week 17’s performances proves very useful as we transition into January.
For the Playoffs, I’ll look at every game, whether there is substantial sharp interest or not, and at least try to come up with a sharp lean in terms of how the market has reacted to the action. It is, however, important to note that being the College Football season is now behind us, and what was once a full slate of games on Saturday and 16 games on Sunday has dwindled down to just a few games a weekend; as a result, these lines will be extremely tight and efficient. Getting the best of the number will be a lot more difficult, but if there is a sharp side to be found, at the very least, we can hope to be on the sharp side of the game.
And if the results of being on the sharp side has shown us anything this season, it’s that it pays to be on the sharp side of games more often than not. So, let’s take our first postseason look at the off-shore betting market, and see if we can align our positions with those of the Pros in this Wildcard Weekend edition of NFL MarketWatch.
Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans
Off-shore opening line: HOU – 2.5 -117
Consensus current line: HOU – 1 -110
Off-shore Betting Consensus: 51% IND
The Colts finished the regular season on a tear and snuck their way into the Playoffs, winning four-straight; one of which was a, 24-21, win at Houston in Week 14. Last week, Indianapolis dismantled the Titans, in Tennessee, with a Wildcard spot on the line; while Houston, in jockeying for Playoff positioning, made easy work out of the Jaguars, 20 – 3. As these two division rivals meet for the third time this season, having split the previous two meetings in field goal games, the sharp lean in the market appears to be with the Colts.
With action mostly split down the middle, 50/50, up until now, this number ticked down a bit, to a consensus of one in the off-shore market from open. While the move isn’t over significant, taking place under the primary three, it’s at least safe to say that the “bigger” money is on the Colts for the market to have responded at all.
At one, many of the major off-shores, such as Bookmaker, BetOnline, and BetCris are juicing the Houston side, while your major high limit shops, Pinnacle and Matchbook, are reduced on both sides but making the Texans a bit more expensive. 5Dimes is the outlier, having been the first to flip favorites, and has Indy laying one with reduced juice, while Houston is reduced, but a tad more expensive.
I think you’re splitting hairs when you’re talking about different prices on one, but if you want to side with the bigger money in this one, it wouldn’t hurt to shop around for a reduced price on the Colts. Where this number goes by kickoff is hard to say at this point, but we can be sure it’ll remain under three, and therefore, timing in market entry isn’t overly critical.
Seattle Seahawks @ Dallas Cowboys
Off-shore opening line: DAL – 3 -111
Consensus current line: DAL -2 -110
Off-shore Betting Consensus: DAL 51%
Having met once this year already in September, the Seahawks, as a one-and-a-half-point favorite over the Cowboys at home, won the game easily, 24-13. The Seahawks appeared to be a mediocre team back then, and really for ¾ of the season, but in December, as Seattle usually does, they buckled down, went 4-1, and made the Playoffs.
While taking advantage of a down NFC East, Dallas turned what was a rocky 3-4 start into an 8-2 finish, going 9-3 in conference, and securing themselves the NFC East crown. With that NFC East title came a home Playoff game, where against what has been the trend in Dallas since the opening of Jerry’s Palace, the Cowboys went 7-1.
Opening officially off-shore at Dal -3 -111 at Bookmaker, this number didn’t last very long, as early Seattle money gobbled up any threes that were available in the off-shore market. In that respect, Seattle did show some sharp interest, but under three, where the market has been most of the time as a consensus, action has been split right down the middle, without much significant movement.
We did see the market make it down to as far as one earlier in the week, but since then, apparent Dallas money has driven all the one’s back up to two’s and 2.5’s.
Currently, two is the norm with varying juices, ranging from the reduced -101 on both sides at Matchbook, to the Dallas -2 -113 at BetCris. With Pinnacle, being one of the only books now at a reduced 2.5, and MyBookie being the only book at 1.5, I’d call the current lean in the market towards Dallas, as far as a sharp/recreational split.
Overall, while here was some obvious sharp interest at three, this is likely a number grab and I wouldn’t call Seattle the sharp side under three. If anything, the market shows the slightest of leans towards Dallas, and with Pinnacle leading the way on the expensive end of the Dallas bet, getting any number better than a +103 -2.5 on Dallas is probably the sharpest play to make at this point, though you’ll probably want to shop around for something reduced.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Baltimore Ravens
Off-shore opening line: BAL – 3 +102
Consensus current line: BAL – 3 +105
Off-shore Betting Consensus: LAC 71%
After a .500 2-2 start to the year, the Chargers have only lost two games since, and as they are unfortunate to have to hit the road in the Wildcard round of the Playoffs with one of the better records in the NFL, they may be even more unfortunate to be playing one of the teams that gave them a loss, at home, in the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens are now 6-1 since the dawning of the Lamar Jackson era, and while it could be argued that lack of competition may have assisted in creating the impressive record, Baltimore has competed with Playoff-caliber NFL teams as well – only losing to the Chiefs by three in KC, and beating the Chargers in LA.
As of now, the Chargers are by far, the most popular side of this Wildcard Round, getting over 70% of the action in this rematch with the Ravens. And while many have tested the waters south of three, some opening below three, the consensus is now three, heavily juiced to the Chargers side, across the board.
The two primary recreational representatives in the market, Bovada and MyBookie, are the only two major off-shores to have remained at 2.5, both a -105/-115 juice, and this is perhaps the best indicator of the sharp lean in the market. The higher limit off-shores are showing an unwillingness to budge off the primary key number of three, expressing either a fear of taking heavy Baltimore action at 2.5, or comfort with taking a position on Baltimore.
Therefore, I’d consider Baltimore -2.5 -115 or better the sharpest play to make on a side given the current market conditions, but I’m not sure I’d be in a hurry to make that play. I’d wait things out and see if this LA consensus doesn’t present better opportunities on Sunday when the recreational money fully shows itself.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Chicago Bears
Off-shore opening line: CHI – 4.5 -110
Consensus current line: CHI – 6.5 -115
Off-shore Betting Consensus: CHI 53%
The biggest story here is obviously the reemergence of Nick Foles, who since regaining the starting job, given the injury to Carson Wentz, has led the Eagles to three straight wins to close out the season and an unlikely Playoff birth. With two of these wins being over now Playoff teams, the Rams, in LA, and the Texans, the buzz about another Philly Playoff run has begun to brew.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Bears went 8-1 to finish out the regular season, with their sole loss coming in the hands of a backup Quarterback. The Bears will get Philly at home, where they have been extremely dangerous this year, going 7-1 both straight up and ATS.
If you’re going to go by Bookmaker’s rogue off-shore opener of 4.5, then Chicago is the clear sharp side here, as this number has been driven all the way up to a consensus of 6.5. Though most of the major off-shores did open south of six, at 5.5, meaning this number has gone through a secondary key number with only 53% of the action coming in on the Bears.
A move all the way through a secondary key number is rare come Playoff time, and in that regard, I’d have to call Chicago the sharpest side of this Wildcard Round. At 6.5, however, it’d be tough to call a play on the Bears equitable, being that Pinnacle and Matchbook are highly reduced on Chicago at this number. That rogue -6 -108 on the Bears is highly attractive, however, and if you have access to that, I’d consider it a must play relative to the rest of the market.
You do have one higher limit shop, BetCris, charging -115 on the Bears – 6.5, so the argument can be made for laying 6.5, but I’d certainly want a highly reduced number if I laid it at this point. If without access to a reduced price, I’d just wait this game out and see what happens on Sunday. I think Foles is the focal point of the narrative here, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this consensus flips by Sunday night, creating some potential line value on the Bears.