NFL Wild Card Action Report: Bettors Laying the Points with the Bears

khalil mack
(USA Today Sports Images)

The NFL playoffs kick off this weekend with four games in the Wild Card round. Three of the games are rematches from the regular season with the fourth featuring the defending Super Bowl Champion Eagles as the weekend’s biggest underdog in Chicago.

According to oddsmakers, we’re in store for some competitive games this weekend. Three of the matchups have spreads under a field goal. The Bears -6 over the Eagles is the lone exception.

“This weekend is a little tough,” said Johnny Avello, Director of Race and Sports Operations for DraftKings Sportsbook. “These games are so tight when you look at the spreads. The games are basically picks. The Bears are just short of a touchdown over Philly but everything else is really tight.”

“The players are going to bet them, don’t get me wrong. There will be a lot of money on these games but it will intensify more the next round until the Super Bowl. I’d say out of all the weekends of betting in the playoffs, this is probably the lightest.”

The tight lines are resulting so far in good two-way action on NFL games this weekend, limiting their exposure. Ironically, the team seeing the most early action across the board is the one with the biggest point spread.

“Action is pretty balanced out right now with accumulation from the public,” said Tony Miller, Sportsbook Director at the Golden Nugget. “We might see some sharp money here in a couple of days. I’d say if there’s any one team that has more tickets written on them so far it would be the Bears. We’re a local house for the Bears anyway with a lot of customers from Illinois but the ticket count is double for them over the Eagles.”

Colts at Texans

Opening Line: Texans -2.5, 47
Current Line: Texans -1.5, 48.5

The Texans and Colts kick off Wild Card weekend on Saturday afternoon. It’s the third meeting between the two teams this season. The Texans won in Indianapolis 37-34 back in Week 4 as a 1-point favorite (and a total of 48). The game went into overtime where Colts head coach Frank Reich decided to go for a 4th-and-4 from his own 43-yard line instead of punting. The Texans stopped them and kicked the game-winning field goal on their next possession.

The Colts got revenge on the road in Week 14, defeating Houston 24-21 as 4-point underdogs (again a total of 48). Indianapolis closed the season going 9-1 SU and 6-3-1 ATS. The Colts are also 3-1 SU and ATS in their last four road games and are 5-0-1 ATS in their last six games in Houston.

The early money is backing the road underdog Colts. Houston opened as a 2.5-point favorite but as of Thursday, that number was down to 1.5. The total opened at 47 but is up to 48.5, despite the Texans allowing just 19.8 points per game (fourth-fewest in the NFL) and 17 points at home (third in the NFL).

“The Colts are getting bet more than any team right,” Avello said. “The Colts are certainly grabbing early money and you can see that by the line movement. That could be the one game where the favorite actually swings to the other side by the time the game goes off.”

Seahawks at Cowboys

ezekiel elliott cowboys
(USA Today Sports Images)

Opening Line: Cowboys -2.5, 42
Current Line: Cowboys -1.5, 42.5

The night game on Saturday features another rematch when Seattle visits Dallas. The Seahawks won 24-13 at home as 1-point favorites. The Cowboys are 7-1 SU and 6-1-1 ATS in their last eight games but Seattle coach Pete Carroll is the king of primetime. The Seahawks are 5-0 ATS in the last five games as an underdog in primetime and an astounding 25-6-4 ATS in their last 35 night games.

The Cowboys opened -2.5 but that number had dropped to 1.5 at many sports books on Thursday. The total opened 42 and moved slightly to 42.5. The OVER is 7-1 in the Seahawks’ last eight games.

​Bettors were buying the Seahawks as a short road underdog earlier in the week at William Hill with over 80 percent of the money wagered on Seattle. However, that number dipped to 64 percent by Friday.

At the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, action is split but because of future bets, the house will be rooting for the Cowboys Saturday.

“This game is dead even. We have the same amount of tickets written on the side, total and money line,” said Miller. “We took a big bet from someone on the Seahawks to win the Super Bowl midseason, so that’s one of the teams that will really hurt us if they win it.”

Chargers at Ravens

Opening Line: Ravens -2.5, 41.5
Current Line: Texans -2.5, 41.5

On Sunday, the Chargers and Ravens will square off for the second time in three weeks. Baltimore won 22-10 as 4-dogs on the road in Week 16. The Ravens’ defense dominated that game, allowing just 198 total yards. The Baltimore defense harassed Philip Rivers all night long. He finished with just 181 yards passing yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.

Despite the Ravens’ impressive performance, early money came in on the underdog Chargers, although the line has moved back toward Baltimore. The Ravens opened -2.5 at many sportsbooks. The spread initially dropped to as low as -1.5 as some shops but was back up to 2.5 on Thursday with the South Point and Williams Hill at -3. The total opened 41.5 and has stayed at that number with a couple of books sitting at 42.

The Chargers have been money on the road all season, going 7-1 SU and ATS away from home. Meanwhile, the Ravens are just 1-5 ATS in their last six home games.

“I believe there will be a lot of underdog money on these games,” Avello said. “I can see the Chargers grabbing more money before kickoff. People will see value with them getting points.”

Eagles at Bears

Opening Line: Bears -4.5, 42
Current Line: Bears -6, 41.5

The final game of Wild Card weekend pits the defending Super Bowl Champion Eagles against the Bears. It’s the only game that isn’t a rematch from the regular season. The Eagles are a perfect 3-0 SU and ATS since reigning Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles took over for the injured Carson Wentz at quarterback.

​While Philadelphia enters the playoffs on a heater, the Bears are even hotter. For sports betting purposes, Chicago has been the most profitable team in the NFL over the second half of the season, going 9-1 both SU and ATS in its last 10 games.

Bettors aren’t buying into another magical Super Bowl run for Foles and the Eagles. The line opened Bears -4.5 and went up to -6 at most sports books. The total dropped a point from the opening number of 42 down to 41.

While early action is on the Bears, depending on the sportsbook, money could come in on the underdog Eagles closer to kickoff.

“The Bears may be the one favorite that gets bet more than the underdog this week,” Avello said. “Although, you’ll also have people on the other side though because of the 6-point spread and the Eagles won the Super Bowl last year. They’re a team that’s been there before and the Bears haven’t. I can see more two-way action on this game than the others as it gets closer to kickoff.”