Last Updated: 2018-01-01
To the NFL playoffs we go. It is fitting that the “second season” begins as the previous calendar year comes to an end. It certainly came with some drama as well, as the Buffalo Bills got that Red Rider BB Gun as a late Christmas present from world-renowned redhead Andy Dalton. The field of 32 for the regular season has been trimmed to 12 for the postseason and our first set of games is coming up this weekend.
Per usual, we’ll have action on Saturday and Sunday, as college football just wrapped up its last Saturday of games until September. Tennessee plays Kansas City to start us off and Atlanta heads to Los Angeles for the late game on January 6. Buffalo battles former friend Doug Marrone and Jacksonville on Sunday and Carolina and New Orleans meet in probably the best game of the weekend.
Here is your Opening Line Report for the Wild Card Weekend:
Tennessee at Kansas City (-7, 44.5) – The Titans weren’t all that impressive in doing it, but held off the Jaguars to punch a ticket to the postseason. Tennessee was in regardless of the drama happening in Baltimore because of that victory, but it’s easy to see why the market isn’t overly excited about the Titans. Tennessee opened a touchdown dog at most shops with additional juice on the favorite. Pinnacle opened 7.5 right away and sites like MyBookie and Heritage followed suit by adding the hook after some initial action on the -7 with extra juice.
We haven’t seen any movement on the total as of yet and really haven’t seen anything too significant on the side. Early indications are that Kansas City will be the public side and we’ll have to see if we get sharp money back on the Titans. This line appears likely to move to 7.5 across the market and then we’ll see if the wiseguys come back with Titans money as limits increase. One thing is for sure. The Chiefs will be a very popular teaser selection this week to come down to -1 or -1.5.
As of now, the weather forecast looks great with temperatures in the high 30s and sunny skies. As we know, that can change. A chance of rain is in the forecast for Sunday, so a shift in the weather patterns could bring some precipitation.
Atlanta at LA Rams (-5.5, 48.5) – The Falcons’ prize for sneaking into the postseason with a win over Carolina is to make a cross-country trip on a short week to take on the well-rested Rams. The Rams rested most of their starters in the Week 17 loss to San Francisco, a luxury that the Falcons did not have. We’ve seen the total on this game come down from 50 to 48.5 at Pinnacle and we’ve seen the side go up from 4.5 to 5.5. The shops that opened 49 are mostly still sitting there on the total, but Pinnacle is probably the best gauge of the market in terms of sharp action. Bookmaker ticked down from 49.5 to 49.
Early indications suggest that sharp guys are projecting this to be a game in which the Rams defense has a lot of success and Todd Gurley runs the rock effectively to move the chains and keep the seconds ticking off the clock. My expectation here is that we do see some Falcons money later in the week. Whether it is recreational or professional, I’m not sure. There will be a sentiment in the market that the Falcons have been here before and that provides an advantage. Furthermore, the Falcons moved the ball well this season, but had a lot of issues in the red zone. Statistically, they didn’t really look like a team that eked into the playoffs. After all, they were +0.8 in yards per play.
The weather looks picture perfect in the low 70s with sunny skies in the forecast all week.
Buffalo at Jacksonville (-7, 40) – By now you’ve seen the sheer jubilation from the Bills players in their locker room after Cincinnati upset Baltimore. This shouldn’t be a “happy to be there” scenario because the Bills haven’t been in the playoffs since 1999. On the other sideline, the Jaguars haven’t hosted a playoff game in nearly 18 years. Everybody is motivated in the NFL playoffs, but these two teams should take it one or two steps forward. We haven’t seen any movement on side or total here. The sharp side will probably end up being the Bills, since the Jaguars are in a tailspin and nobody wants to lay a touchdown with this team right now in its current state.
We’ll have to wait and see if we get that sharp involvement. Also, with the expectation of a low-scoring game, the +7 is an attractive number. Jacksonville was much better against the pass than the run and Buffalo runs the football to move it, so that may also influence some wiseguy investment on the dog.
The weather outlook is solid here with temps in the 50s and sunshine.
Carolina at New Orleans (-6, 48.5) – This should be a good one. The Saints packed it in during the fourth quarter in Tampa Bay after Carolina lost and fell to Tampa Bay 31-24 after allowing 18 points in the final frame. Astute live bettors should have been able to take advantage of that one. The Saints won both meetings during the regular season, which is why New Orleans won the NFC South and has home field advantage at the dome.
My guess here is that we see this line go down as professionals get involved. New Orleans has had a great season and has tremendous offensive balance, but the Panthers are a veteran team and have Cam Newton. Something about this line does look high, but we would certainly expect NFL playoff lines to be some of the tightest of the season. In the two previous meetings, Carolina was -5 at home and New Orleans was -6 at home. Personally, I agree that nothing has happened since that December 3 meeting to warrant an adjustment. That line opened New Orleans -4 and went up to -6. I’m guessing we see this one inch down towards that -4. I’m also guessing that New Orleans will be a popular teaser partner with the Chiefs for those that go that route.
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