The NFL’s wild-card weekend should produce some intriguing games and results, as three of the contests have home teams with less than three-point favorites.
Take this advice; there is no sure side despite market moves and sharp action. The betting activity on the NFL playoffs is increasing as the games near kick off, and the injury reports are nearing finalization.
Wagering activity and betting support on teams vary across the country at various sportsbooks. Which teams can be counted on to win, cover and advance to the divisional round of next week’s playoffs?
Recent wild-card round history
Last year’s wild-card round results were a dog lover’s delight.
Underdogs went 4-0 ATS with two outright winners as the Atlanta Falcons flew past the Los Angeles Rams 26-13, and the Tennessee Titans shocked the Kansas City Chiefs 22-21.
Recall that all four home favorites were laying at least six points.
The prior playoff season, the wild-card-round favorites went 4-0 SU/ATS with each winning by double-digits. Three of them were laying at least six points.
So where is the edge with this year’s wild-card games with all four games lined at 6.5 points or less and three of the home favorites laying three points or less?
NFL playoff betting activity and market moves
The two games on Saturday are expected to be close and also feature rematches from earlier season meetups.
Indianapolis at Houston (-1)
Houston Texans host this game as the AFC South champs.
These two teams met twice during the regular season with each team winning on the road by three points.
The betting activity on the side is nearly even on each team at a consensus of seven of the biggest online sportsbooks as tracked by Sports Insights.
The line has dropped slightly from the opener. FanDuel Sportsbook had Houston as a one-point favorite with added vigorish (-115) as of Friday afternoon.
The Colts started the season 1-5 but finished winning nine of their last 10 games. Indianapolis was only an underdog one time during that stretch, and they won outright at Houston 24-21.
The Texans started 0-3 this season and then went on a nine-game winning streak that began with a 37-34 overtime victory at Indianapolis.
According to John Murray, director of the SuperBook at the Westgate in Las Vegas, said there is “good two-way action and we did take a $30,000 bet on the Texans. There’s been a lot of moneyline action on Houston.”
Seattle at Dallas (-2)
Both teams finished 10-6. Dallas Cowboys hosts the game as NFC East champs.
FanDuel was the only sportsbook showing Dallas -3 (+100 vig) as of Friday. Similar to the AFC‘s wild-card game, Sports Insights betting activity tracker shows a 51-49 percent split on the side for each team.
“Another game with very good two-way handle,” Murray said. “We did take a bet for $20,000 on the Cowboys -2. It will be a very high-handle game between two high-profile teams in primetime.”
When the Cowboys and Seahawks met in Seattle in Week 3, the Seahawks prevailed 24-13. The yards were nearly even and both teams near 300 total yards offense. The Seahawks were just a one-point home favorite, and three Dallas turnovers were the difference in defeat.
Sunday’s wild-card games will likely draw even more wagering activity — especially the late primetime game.
The defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles snagged a wild card by winning five of their last six games and now travel to the Windy City against the upstart Chicago Bears and their dominant defense.
LA Chargers at Baltimore (-2.5)
The Baltimore Ravens (10-6) host this wild-card game Sunday as AFC North champs after holding on last week against Cleveland.
Baltimore finished the season on a 6-1 run after rookie QB Lamar Jackson was inserted as the starting quarterback and the Ravens went to a run-heavy approach on offense to compliment their No. 1 defense.
The Chargers (12-4) couldn’t get by the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West but are tied for the second-best record in the NFL this season.
This game is -2.5 across the board at Las Vegas sportsbooks, but -3 (+100) at FanDuel on Friday. Major online sportsbooks are split between 2.5-3, favoriting the Ravens. However, a playoff-high 72 percent of the bets are on the LA Chargers, according to Sports Insights.
“So far, most of the larger bets have come in on the Ravens and pushed the number to Ravens -2.5 (-120),” Murray said.
Philadelphia at Chicago (-6.5)
The Chicago Bears (12-4) host the Eagles (9-7) as NFC North champs.
The Bears, like the Houston Texans, went from worst to first after finishing last in the division a season ago. As the sun sets near halftime of this primetime game, it will be near freezing temperatures in the mid-30s with winds 10-20 MPH.
Quarterback Nick Foles will try to lead the Eagles on another magical playoff run. Foles was a full participant at practice Thursday after suffering injured ribs during the Week 17 win at Washington.
Foles and the Eagles offense will have to play their best to pull out a victory, as the Bears were dominant with their defense at Soldier Field this season going 7-1 SU/ATS including 6-0 SU/ATS as favorite.
Chicago also closed the season on a 9-1 SU/ATS run.
The Bears are a six-point favorite across most of Las Vegas, but the major online sportsbooks in New Jersey have the Bears at -6.5. According to Sports Insights’ bet tracker,
Chicago is taking 53 percent of the bets while the Eagles are getting 62 percent of the moneyline bets.
“We took a $20,000 bet on the Eagles +6 and moved to 5.5, but we are back up to Bears -6, as the majority of the bets have come in on the Bears,” Murray said.
“Historically speaking, the fourth and final game of each playoff weekend is a high-handle game with big liability to the book, as all the moneyline parlays and teasers that are alive will be going to that game.”
Take teaser bets into consideration as the lines are set and moved at playoff time.
With tight lines and close contests expected, professional bettors are taking a stance with some underdogs this week, crossing over the key numbers of 3, 4, 6 and 7 to get +7.5 or more on six-point teasers supporting three underdogs on the Colts, Seahawks and Chargers.