Last Updated: 2019-01-21
The Conference Championship Weekend didn’t lack drama. Both games went to overtime for the first time in NFL history. Over bettors were rewarded in the Patriots vs. Chiefs game with a 38-point fourth quarter. Dog bettors were rewarded with two money line upsets.
And, of course, there was the officiating, which was egregious and awful in both games. So was the coaching. It was an interesting day for NFL fans and bettors overall. While both losers were heavily impacted by the men in stripes, both losers also blew leads and made some questionable decisions.
After all the dust settled, we were left with the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII. Now we’ll have two weeks for this line to be bet into and a collection of prop betting opportunities to emerge.
For the final time during the 2018 NFL season, here is the Opening Line Report:
New England (-2, 58) vs. LA Rams – The Saints would have had a little bit of a hidden home field advantage had they advanced to Atlanta, but this is a neutral-site game for all intents and purposes. A case could be made that the Patriots have maybe a half-point of HFA because of the easier travel from Boston to Atlanta and, quite frankly, because they have a much larger, more established fan base. The Rams just relocated to Los Angeles three years ago after spending 21 seasons in St. Louis.
Even though many in LA have the money and capability to fly to Atlanta, it will probably be a slightly New England crowd. Unbiased observers will gravitate towards the Rams, so that may balance things out a little bit.
In any event, money hit the board on New England rather quickly. The books that opened PK swung to the Patriots side. The books that opened the Patriots a small favorite were forced to add to the line. The total bounced around 57.5 and 58 before mostly settling 58. Last year’s game featured the Patriots favored by 5.5 and a total in the upper 40s, for what it’s worth.
The offshore market and the Las Vegas market are two very different entities. Keep in mind that a lot of weekend warriors go from the LA area to Las Vegas, so the sportsbooks have to be wary of their exposure on the Rams and on the Rams money line in particular. The offshore market doesn’t have to worry about that nearly as much, so we should see the offshores a little bit higher than Vegas over the next two weeks from a consensus standpoint.
It wasn’t surprising to see the Belichick and Brady tandem take on money right away. For one thing, that trust factor looms large in a game like this. For another thing, many believe that the Rams don’t deserve to be here after the pass interference penalty that wasn’t. A lot of those same people will ignore the ridiculously weak roughing the passer call on the Chiefs that allowed the Patriots to score in the fourth quarter. Also, if Dee Ford doesn’t line up in the neutral zone, Tom Brady’s pick likely changes the outcome of that game.
For yet another thing, I mean, come on. It’s second-year quarterback Jared Goff against the GOAT and the Hooded GOAT. How can you bet against that? We’ll see if that sentiment continues in the betting market as we get closer to kickoff.
This is a really unique NFL betting situation with the line up for two weeks before the actual game. This is more like Week 1. We’ve seen some initial waves of money and the market should settle in for several days. Sportsbooks will take hits here and there, but because limits are still lower early in the process, sharp bettors aren’t going to make their feelings entirely known. That will come next week.
Also, prop bets will spread some of the exposure and will be the market most sharp bettors look to take advantage of for the big game.
Similarly, the total will probably sit and marinate for a while. There is no reason to jump on the total all that quickly. My best guess here is that the under will be the preferred sharp side. Last year’s Super Bowl ended 41-33 and Super Bowl LI went over the highest-ever total of 57 with Brady’s furious second-half comeback. That should entice some over money from public bettors, but I would expect a historical outlier such as this to see sharp under money.
Knowing when to enter the market can be a little bit tricky with a game like this. There really isn’t any reason to do anything crazy right now. Let the line settle and let bettors start to take some whacks at it. If you like New England, -3 probably won’t be coming anytime soon. If you like the Rams, you’ll be able to get the current number or better next week, but you will want to try and extract as much value on the money line as you can before gamblers bump that plus-money price down.
For me, I’d recommend just waiting on props. Regardless of what you do for the big game, thanks for reading these all season and good luck on Super Bowl LIII!
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