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On The Money | NFL Divisional Betting Recap: Sharp Turns

Bill Ordine for Bookies.com

Bill Ordine  | 5 mins

On The Money | NFL Divisional Betting Recap: Sharp Turns

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Chalk one up for the Sharps. Sharp money, meaning professional bettors, drove a substantial line move in the AFC Divisional Round game between Cleveland and Kansas City on Sunday, and despite trimming about two points off the spread — leaning toward the Browns — the wise guys still collected as the Chiefs won, 22-17, but failed to cover what finished as a 7.5- to 8.5-point line.

Meanwhile, the NFL betting public stubbornly put its money on the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs and took it on the chin again. Over the last nine games, the Chiefs are 8-1 on the scoreboard but 1-8 against the spread.

“Sharp money came in and that Browns line went from 10 to 8.5, but still the public was on the Chiefs,” said Jeff Stoneback, director of trading for MGM Resorts. “The Chiefs have been great for us this year. They win and the public keeps betting them, but they just don’t cover.”

Johnny Avello, head of sportsbook operations for DraftKings, concurred that it was the Sharps influencing the line.

“Public money will never move a line like that,” Avello said. “I don’t know who the groups were, but you have to think it was a couple of sophisticated betting groups to move a line from 9.5, 10 points down to 7.5 within a couple of hours before game time.

”Injury-wise, there weren’t any. Everyone who was supposed to play played. … Maybe those guys have a crystal ball and they were able to see that (Patrick) Mahomes was going to go out in the fourth quarter.”

Avello referred to the Kansas City star quarterback who left the game near the end of the third quarter with a concussion. Mahomes, the MVP of last season’s Super Bowl, was replaced by career backup Chad Henne, who led Kansas City to a field goal, but the Browns roared back with a TD to close the gap to 22-17 setting the stage for a possible upset.

However, when the Kansas City got the ball back with just over four minutes left, Henne managed the Chiefs offense to a pair of first downs to run out the clock and set up next week’s AFC championship with Buffalo, winners over Baltimore on Saturday.

Waiting on Mahomes Injury Update

Meanwhile, with difference-maker Mahomes now in the NFL’s concussion protocol, the betting world is in a quandary. Sunday night in the early lines, the Chiefs were listed as 3-point favorites but that’s just a starting point given the uncertainty of Mahomes’ status.

“We put up a line at 3 and we took some early money on the Bills,” Stoneback said. “It’s tough and we won’t take any big bets until we know what Mahomes is going to do, whether he’ll play or not. … It does make it tough on us not knowing. If this were the regular season, we wouldn’t have a line on it at all until we were sure whether he was going to play or not. But obviously for the championship game, we have to hang a line.”

The same is true at DraftKings.

“It’s at 3 and that’s in the middle,” Avello said. “If it becomes clear that Mahomes is going to play, that number is going to go up some. In a game like this, you want to get something (posted). … This is a safe line to get up and people will be able to get action but obviously, we’ll keep a close eye on Mahomes.”

Packers Deliver for Bettors

In other Divisional Round games, the betting public made its biggest score on the Packers’ 32-18 win over the L.A. Rams at Lambeau Field on Saturday. Green Bay, a 7-point favorite and a darling of the betting public, covered the spread, plus the Over (45) points also got there for the public.

At BetRivers, 88% of the money line handle was on Green Bay and 70% of the handle was on the Over. At PointsBet, the story was the same with 88% of the spread handle on Green Bay and 57% of the handle on the Over. And at FanDuel, 86% of the spread handle was on the Packers and 70% of the handle was on the Over.

For BetMGM, the weeklong rush of bets on the Packers was eased by a single $300,000 losing wager on the Rams.

Buccaneers are Underdogs in NFC Title Game

The Packers are 4-point favorites in next week’s NFC championship against visiting Tampa Bay.

The Buccaneers (+3 to +2.5 underdogs Sunday) advanced by beating New Orleans on the road, 30-20. The point spread betting was relatively even but generally the wagers skewed toward the Saints. Bettors who could get 3 or 3.5 went with Tampa Bay and when the line slipped to 2.5, the money went with New Orleans. MGM took a pair of $100,000 bets on New Orleans.

The Baltimore Ravens-Bills game in Buffalo was an outcome that made the public some money with favored Buffalo (-2.5) covering, 17-3, but strong winds helped hold down the scoring and the Over (50) bettors had no chance.

About the Author

Bill Ordine for Bookies.com
Bill Ordine
Bill Ordine was a reporter and editor in news and sports for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore Sun for 25 years and was lead reporter on a team that was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.