It’s a different ballgame for those betting on NFL playoff divisional games this weekend.
Wild Card Weekend was marked by three division champions losing on their home fields. Two of the games reached overtime and a couple of spreads that were nearly pick’em.
That has changed.
Three lines feature favorites laying a touchdown or more at New Jersey sportsbooks in the next playoff round.
Let’s examine public sentiment, the keys to the games and alternatives to betting lines that did not move throughout the early part of the week.
Across the books, the San Francisco 49ers are giving 7 points to the visiting Minnesota Vikings.
Green Bay Packers hold tight to a 4-point favorite line against the invading Seattle Seahawks.
On the most lopsided end, the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens lay 9.5 points to the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans, respectively.
Saturday’s games feature:
- Minnesota-San Francisco at 4:35 p.m.
- Tennessee-Baltimore at 8:15 p.m.
Sunday games are:
- Houston-Tennessee at 3 p.m.
- Seattle-Green Bay at 6:40 p.m.
Favorites rolled in the second round of the 2018 playoffs, covering three of four games after underdogs had gone 4-0 against the spread the previous week.
Underdogs again had a big performance in NFL playoff Week 1 for 2019, with three covers and a push.
Will the second-round pattern repeat itself or are these spreads too large for New Jersey sports betting fans?
Bettors backing three favorites, one dog
Here is an over from DraftKings Sportsbook.
The 49ers are receiving 60% of the spread handle and 50% of the bets as some big hitters have lined up behind San Fran.
The same holds true for the Ravens. They are supported by 61% of the handle, despite only 52 % of the bets.
The Chiefs, despite giving Houston a fat 9.5 points in a rematch of their earlier-season game, which was won by Houston 31-24, still garnered 68% of the handle and 52% of the midweek bets.
Seattle remains a sentimental favorite of the betting public.
The Seahawks, who have been drawing strong support in the second half of the season, are the only underdog backed by the gamblers. They have 57% of the handle and 61 % of the tickets at +4 in Green Bay at DraftKings.
It’s a split story at FanDuel Sportsbook regarding these games.
Minnesota corrals 52% of the tickets, but only 42% of the total, meaning larger individual bets are being placed on the Niners.
Houston obtained 52% of the tickets, but just 37% of handle, signaling the “sharps” favoring Kansas City.
Seattle stands at 53% of tickets, but just 43% of handle. Only the Ravens make a clean sweep of the bet total and handle at 53% and 67%, respectively.
Seahawks impress Pennsylvania gamblers
After defeating the Philadelphia Eagles 17-9 last weekend, the Seahawks knocked the Birds from the postseason. They also annexed a Pennsylvania betting majority on the moneyline this week.
Keystone State gamblers at SugarHouse Sportsbook backed Seattle at 56% on the moneyline against Green Bay. They accounted for an overall 54% edge on the Seahawks for the entire company.
SugarHouse gamblers with a long memory also reward the Vikings on the moneyline, giving them a full 40% stake against the 49ers.
Why is that number significant?
A mere 16% of the players took Vikings on the moneyline last weekend against the Saints.
It gained a sizable return with the New Orleans’ 26-20 overtime triumph. Impressed by Minnesota’s road win as a 7.5-point underdog last week, bettors have expressed faith.
NJ sports betting prop mania
What about some intriguing wagers on the mobile sports betting apps in NJ?
William Hill Sportsbook has an interesting prop agenda, including the first scoring play, a Kansas City touchdown at + 115, or a field goal at +380.
If a Houston touchdown is the first score, that’s worth + 225.
A Houston or Kansas City safety, remote to be sure as the first score, nonetheless returns 50-1.
PlaySugarHouse, which has more than 650 wagers available on the four games, rewards the over going way over. The book is paying +240 if the event reaches more than 60 points. The over/under is 51.
Do you think Chiefs quarterback Pat Mahomes can score on a run or touchdown reception and the Chiefs win? That one pays +550.
Mecole Hardman is an explosive big-play receiver for Kansas City. When he scores, it’s often on a bomb.
If Kansas City is playing downhill, this is his kind of game. A Hardman touchdown and a Kansas City victory are worth +375.
DraftKings offers a nice playoff special section, which will reward clairvoyance for those betting on the Super Bowl winner.
The “chalk” pick is the Ravens to defeat the 49ers at +450 and the Niners to pay +625 to beat the Ravens.
If you like one of these teams to beat the other in the Super Bowl, now is the time for that gamble. Prices will shrink dramatically, perhaps by half, after this weekend.
What if the Chiefs deliver an upset and become AFC champs and face the 49ers in the Super Bowl?
Kansas City would return +850 to defeat San Francisco, and the Niners to defeat the Chiefs would be worth +950. This payout is so nice; a bettor can even play both sides of that prop now. It essentially is guaranteeing a return of more than 4-1 if these teams reach the Super Bowl.
Instead of needing three wins to receive an 8-1 payout, the bettor can obtain 4-1 with two games if the right call is made.
FanDuel has an array of provocative props in its red zone. Will there be 30 or more touchdowns scored in the divisional round? Yes means +550.
Will Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and Jimmy Garoppolo combine for eight touchdown passes thrown? The price is +195.
If in the rare instance, Jackson, Garoppolo and Deshaun Watson each throw three or more TDs, that’s 24-1. The long odds reflect the fact Jackson runs in a good number of his touchdowns.
But all three quarterbacks throwing for three scores is not impossible. It certainly is a fun play, at least.
Betting on NFL divisional games in NJ
Houston-Kansas City: Fuller returns
Often-injured receiver Will Fuller will play for the Texans, which is monumental news.
The happiest person to see him return is fellow wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who can’t be double- and triple-teamed now.
Houston averages over 100 more passing yards when Fuller is in, and it converts more third downs. The Texans had a losing record this season when Fuller didn’t play.
Fuller’s presence will also make the running game a little less predictable, ease some pressure off Watson and perhaps aid “over” bettors. The game already has the highest over/under at 51 for most sportsbooks.
For Kansas City, the key is Tyreek Hill. The magnificent speedster gets behind defenders and often makes a big catch early in the game.
Hill opens the rest of the field for Mahomes, the reigning MVP who endured a pedestrian regular season while fighting injuries.
Hill also helps the connection between Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce prosper.
Texans backers must shake their heads with their team being 9.5-point underdogs to a team they defeated 31-24 in midseason.
If Kansas City covers, the Chiefs are better by more than two touchdowns from their first matchup.
Tennessee-Baltimore: Action Jackson
For Tennessee, the key is Oh Henry.
Derrick Henry, the league’s rushing champion, runs powerful and effective off-tackle behind an excellent offensive line.
His impact is critical for Tennessee to manage the game and keep Jackson, the Baltimore superstar, off the field.
Look for Baltimore to overload the areas where they believe he will run and make quarterback Ryan Tannehill beat them through the air. Because of Henry and Tannehill, Tennessee has an unreal 28 touchdowns in its last 32 red zone trips, tops in the league.
For Baltimore, it’s all about Jackson. Can the imminent league MVP now deliver in the playoffs?
The team has won 12 straight and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers by 18 points two weeks ago with their backups. Jackson has an uncanny ability to circle quickly in his backfield, pivot and then fire a run or pass. He has the intelligence of a pocket-passer and the speed of a sprinter. Jackson zips to the outside on designed run plays faster than anyone in the league — probably in history.
Tennessee may try to get him to run wide by jamming up the areas in which he likes to cut upfield.
Jackson is aided by running back Mark Ingram and emerging star tight end Mark Andrews.
Andrews led the team in receptions, receiving yards, targets and receiving touchdowns. Andrews had 16 receptions of at least 20 yards, double what the next-closest Raven had in the regular season. He’s banged up with an ankle injury but should play.
Minnesota-San Francisco: What’s cookin’?
Minnesota welcomed the presence of Dalvin Cook, who had 31 touches in the game against New Orleans. Can the Vikings rely on such a strong running game again? They will need it.
Bad news for Minnesota is the ankle injury hampering star receiver Adam Thielen, who delivered 129 receiving yards last week. Thielen was limited in midweek practice with an ankle injury. While he’ll be able to go by Sunday, he may not be able to push off on the ankle to sprint downfield, and this will hurt Minnesota. Thielen’s updated health is an important consideration prior to making a bet.
San Francisco is giving 7 points despite having a statistic that may be unmatched in NFL history. The last five 49ers games have been decided on the final play.
That’s almost impossible.
Here is the recap:
- They lost 20-17 on a final-play field goal against the Baltimore Ravens.
- Followed by a last-second field goal to nip the New Orleans Saints, 48-46, in the NFL’s game of the year.
- That led to a 29-22 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on a touchdown yielded with two seconds left. Then one more on a botched kickoff return, enabling a PointsBet patron to cap a miracle parlay exceeding $42,000.
- What came next was the game-ending field goal in a 34-31 win over the LA Rams the following week and the grand finale, The Game of Inches win against the Seahawks, in which the Niners stopped Seattle inches short of the goal line on the final play, preserving a 26-21 win.
Are they due to win by more than seven?
The key for San Francisco is whether Garoppolo can handle postseason pressure. And can the Vikings stop an exceptionally potent San Francisco backfield?
Seattle-Green Bay: Which banged-up team finds a way?
The Seahawks outlasted the Eagles last week to advance in the playoffs.
Green Bay enjoyed its bye, enabled by a last-second field goal against the Detroit Lions that salvaged its regular-season finale.
The Packers are succeeding with smoke and mirrors. Green Bay needs significant efforts from quarterback Aaron Rodgers, receiver Davante Adams and running back Aaron Jones.
Rodgers does not have much of a supporting cast this year, but the Packers willed their way into the No. 2 NFC playoff seed.
Seattle unfurled a Wild Card last week in receiver D.K. Metcalf. He’s a deep threat, and Seattle will need him, along with Tyler Lockett.
The running game is adequate with Marshawn Lynch, but that’s about it. Seattle notched seven sacks against Philadelphia last week and will need at least half that number against Green Bay to have a chance.