Just like that, we are down to four teams and onto the conference championships! Luckily for football fans and gamblers alike, Super Wild Card Weekend and the Divisional Round didn’t disappoint, and the Conference Championship matchups look amazing.
With the Super Bowl just around the corner, it also means we only have a few games left to wager on, so let's not waste them.
Prior to making your NFL wagers, it's worth reading up on which sides are drawing the most sharp and public money.
BetQL has picks on the side and total for both NFL conference championship games this Sunday. Sign up today with BetQL and become a better bettor!
To learn more about the betting markets for this weekend, we talked to three oddsmakers for their insights: Johnny Avello (sportsbook director for DraftKings), Andrew Mannino (Sr. Trading team member of PointsBet Sportsbook), and Dave Sharapan (long-time Vegas bookmaker).
I wanted to talk to all three to show the different sides of the market.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers (-3.5, 52)
Both games are going to be terrific this weekend, but this is the matchup I’m most excited to watch.
Two of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time and two of hottest teams in football facing off for a trip to the Super Bowl. Tom Brady aiming for his tenth Super Bowl vs. Aaron Rodgers trying to supplant his name among the greats. It doesn’t get much better than this for a football fan or a gambler.
“They’re betting Tampa in this game,” Avello said. “But, that’s no surprise because they’ve been betting the Bucs since Tom Brady got there.”
Avello does foresee a slew of Packers money as the weekend progresses.
PointsBet, on the other hand, is getting hit on the Green Bay side.
“This is coming in one-sided for us,” Mannino said. “It’s 77 percent of our handle, all on the Packers.”
Sharapan would not be surprised if this game ends with the number landing on three.
“The line on Green Bay might be a little low considering power ratings and the perception of Tampa traveling to a cold place, playing a 43-year-old quarterback,” Sharapan said. “The number is going to make guys bet the Packers with the futures in mind.”
Speaking of futures. I asked Mannino if they take into account future liability when making a line for a game like this.
“There is always temptation, but you have to play everything on its own merit and stick to the games in front of you,” Mannino explained. “Can’t be worried about futures, so we look at this week and focus on this number without thinking of other outstanding wagers.”
DraftKings is also heavy on the TB12 to win the Super Bowl futures.
“Tampa Bay is No. 2 for us in liability,” Avello said. “They are very popular to win it all, only behind Kansas City.
Sharapan leans the Packers in this one, and points to Antonio Brown being out as a huge loss.
“AB is who Tom Brady trusts the most,” he said. “The offense opened up the last six weeks with him, so that will be big.”
As for the total, the bets are coming in on the over.
“The total has been bet over,” Avello stated. “It will be bet over all weekend, but I can see some sophisticated bettors waiting for 52 to bet the under.”
PointsBet is also seeing all over money.
“This is what we expected, as 80 percent of the handle is on the over,” Mannino said. “You have two great QBs, so it's easy to see points being scored.”
Speaking of points...
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (-3, 54.5)
The big story coming into this game was the health of Patrick Mahomes and if he was going to play. Mahomes has cleared concussion protocol and will be suiting up this Sunday.
If it wasn’t for the injury to Kansas City’s star quarterback, maybe more people would be talking about Buffalo. This is a team that is a hail mary loss away from winning 12 games in a row.
I asked Sharapan about putting out a number before Mahomes officially cleared protocol.
“Being first in the media is great, but sometimes being first in the booking business isn’t,” he laughed. “But, there is value in putting out a line first and seeing which guys bet what and that’s how you know and adjust.”
PointsBet had already anticipated KC’s QB playing.
“Mahomes is officially back, but the line hasn’t really moved for us,” Mannino explained. “We were pretty confident he was going to play, so that was already baked in.”
Action wise, PointsBet is heavy on Buffalo, with 62 percent of the money and 64 percent of the handle on the Bills.
DraftKings is on the same boat, and Avello attests that to the Bills being a good football team.
“We have more public money on the Bills,” he said. “Josh Allen is playing with confidence, they are tough and their defense is stepping up.”
Sharapan is leaning Buffalo plus the points because of how hot they are and due to KC’s inability to cover.
“How don’t you like the Bills in this one?” he asked. “This is a game where everyone is looking at Buffalo and trying to justify a reason to take the Chiefs.”
He does think the Chiefs pull it out somehow at the end, but the points are valuable in this one.
Total wise, everyone is on the over, as fans are expecting a shootout.
“The total has jumped significantly from 51.5 to 54,” Avello said. “That has to do with the public and Mahomes coming back.”
This is one where PointsBet was on the opposite side.
“We’re actually seeing under money, which is a little unusual for Kansas City games,” Mannino said. “Maybe people are foreseeing a hobbled Mahomes, the Chiefs not being able to score as much, and long, clock eating drives by Buffalo.”
Sharapan believes that the books will need the under by game-time, pointing to 51 being a key number that was crossed.
As for teasers, Sharapan anticipates a lot of Bills/Bucs teasers.
“Mt. Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in the world,” he said. “By the time Sunday comes around, you are going to have so many teaser tickets on the Bills and Bucs, that stacked up they will rival the height of Kilimnanjaro.”
That might be one of my all-time favorite quotes.
Before parting ways, Sharapan said to look for the late moves come Sunday.
“The first one on Sunday to get off of three, that will tell you the story,” he said. “That will be the move when you know.”
Odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook
Vikas Chokshi covers the gambling industry for BetQL and his written work can be found on the sports betting vertical of Radio.com. He has an extensive network of oddsmakers and appears frequently on podcasts, radio and television shows. His previous work can be found at The Action Network, VSiN, Gaming Today, Front Office Sports, and The Big Lead. You can find him at @docksquad33 on Twitter.