Two rematches from the regular season wrap up the NFL’s divisional playoff round on this mid-January Sunday. Covers checks in on the action and line movement for both games, with insights from Will Bernanke, lead analyst for CG Analytics in Las Vegas, and Scott Cooley, odds consultant for offshore sportsbook Bookmaker.eu.
AFC No. 2 seed Pittsburgh suffered a blowout home loss to Jacksonville back on Oct. 8, tumbling 30-9 as a 7.5-point favorite in a game that saw Ben Roethlisberger throw five interceptions. But the Steelers (13-3 SU, 7-9 ATS) have lost just once since then, and it was hardly embarrassing: a 27-24 home setback to No. 1 seed New England as a 2.5-point underdog in Week 15. Mike Tomlin’s Troops earned a bye with a 10-1 SU run (5-6 ATS), finishing the regular season with a 28-24 win over Cleveland as a 5-point home chalk.
The third-seeded Jaguars (11-6 SU, 9-8 ATS) lost their last two regular-season outings, but held it together in the wild-card round at home. Jacksonville won an offensive eyesore 10-3 over No. 6 seed Buffalo, coming up just short as an 8-point fave last week.
“Bettors were not impressed with Jacksonville. Bettors here are not believing in Blake Bortles and that offense, and they don’t think lightning can strike twice, beating the Steelers as they did earlier in the year with those five interceptions,” Bernanke said. “Three times more money on Pittsburgh on account, and it’s 85 percent Pittsburgh money over the counter.”
Bernanke said moneyline wagering was also strong on the Steelers, at 90 percent of account money and 66 percent of over-the-counter cash.
Bookmaker.eu also opened Pittsburgh -7, but had a couple spins at 7.5 during the week before sticking at 7 since Wednesday morning. (Find more online sportsbook reviews at OddsShark.com).
“Not much to report on the action here, with very little adjustment,” Cooley said of activity for this 1:05 p.m. ET clash. “We've got a few sharps on each side of the spread, and the public bettors are almost split as well, which is a bit surprising considering it’s Pittsburgh. Currently, the money handle favors the Steelers 60/40.”
Minnesota rode third-string quarterback Case Keenum pretty much all season long en route to the NFC’s No. 2 seed and a bye week. The Vikings (13-3 SU, 11-5 ATS) finished the regular season on an 11-1 SU tear (9-3 ATS), capped by a 23-10 victory over Chicago as a 13.5-point home favorite.
New Orleans (12-5 SU, 9-8 ATS) lost at Minnesota in its season opener, 29-19 as a 3-point pup, and fell at home to New England in Week 2. But the Saints followed that with eight consecutive wins (7-1 ATS) on their way to the NFC South title and the No. 4 seed. Drew Brees and Co. opened the playoffs with a 31-26 home victory over No. 5 seed Carolina laying 6.5 points at home last week.
“No surprise that the public is siding with the Saints, as they have 70 percent of that action,” Cooley said. “The pros have really only been interested in Minnesota, and they like the Vikings quite a bit. The over in this game is our biggest total liability of the weekend, as both sharps and squares are expecting points.”
That action took the total at Bookmaker.eu from the opener of 45 up to 47.
CG books also opened Minnesota -4, and the line reached 5.5 by Wednesday night before ticking back to 5 a day later and then 4.5 late Saturday night.
“Two times more Minnesota money on account, and fairly even over the counter,” Bernanke said of pointspread activity, while noting that the Saints had a 2/1 margin on account in moneyline wagering.
Further, like Bookmaker.eu, CG bettors are expecting points in this 4:40 p.m. ET kickoff.
“Ninety percent of all dollars on the total are on the over, on account and over the counter,” Bernanke said, adding that took the total from 44 to 46.5.
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.