There are two huge conference championship matchups on the NFL board this Sunday, with the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos battling for the AFC title, and the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks mixing it up for the NFC crown.
We talk with Michael Stewart, an oddsmaker with CarbonSports.ag, about the action coming in the AFC Championship Game, the drastic line move that occurred shortly after posting this spread, and where he sees the line landing coming kickoff.
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos – Open: -7, Move: -4.5, Move: -5.5
The Brady vs. Manning media blitz was overshadowed – at least in the sports betting industry – by the massive line movement this spread saw once it hit the market. Books opened New England as high as a touchdown underdog after thumping Indianapolis in the Divisional Round and took instant action on the road team, pushing this spread as many as 2.5 points.
“We literally wrote 50 bets to zero bets at that number,” Stewart says of the touchdown opener and action on the Patriots. “No question, we hung a bad opening number because we saw nothing but one-way action.”
Stewart admits the spread was off but is baffled by how far bettors have driven this spread, and the amount on money on New England at the mid-week mark. He points out that the Broncos were double-digit favorites in six of their eight home games during the regular season and easily covered those single-digit home spreads versus Baltimore and Kansas City.
“Bottom line, this team has been dominant at home and while I admit we opened with a bad number of 7, all the money we booked on the Patriots is surprising to me and my crew,” he says. “We’ve gone from needing the Broncos’ opponent in every single game this year, to all of a sudden seeing everyone fading the Broncos here. It is amazing to me.”
Once the spread dropped to Denver –4.5, action started to show up on the home side. Stewart says sharp money came in Monday afternoon and commanded a move to Broncos -5. Another hit from wiseguys forced books to tack on a half point Wednesday morning.
“This is by far one of the more interesting games we’ve booked in recent memory, as the public is supporting the dog and the wiseguys are on the favorite,” Stewart tells Covers. “The public drove this number down and now the sharps are driving it back up. So far 75 percent of the action is on the Patriots and, while sharp money is on the favorite, I don’t think we’ll get back to -6 because of our exposure on the Patriots is already significant enough.”
The total for Sunday’s AFC Championship Game isn’t as volatile as the spread, but has seen its share of adjustments. The number opened 55 and with 70 percent of total wagers siding with the Over, the book has since moved to 56. But Stewart believes this line isn’t done moving yet and could see major sharp influence before Sunday’s game.
“I suspect the wiseguys are waiting for this total to go even higher and I expect their patience will pay off because we’re going to eventually get to 56.5 and maybe, maybe even 57 as we get closer to kickoff,” he says.