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The divisional round of the NFL playoffs gets underway Saturday, with games in the southeast and northeast corners of the country. Covers talks about action on those two matchups with Jason Simbal, vice president of risk management for CG Technology in Las Vegas, and Scott Cooley, odds consultant for offshore sportsbook Bookmaker.eu.
Seattle is back in the playoffs for a fifth straight year, a stretch that includes winning the Super Bowl in the 2013-14 season, and losing the Super Bowl on the final play against New England the following year. The No. 3-seeded Seahawks (11-5-1 SU, 9-8 ATS) had a very uneven second half of the season, but rolled through their wild-card game last week, beating No. 6 Detroit 26-6 as an 8-point home favorite.
Atlanta, which missed the playoffs the past three years after reaching the NFC title game in 2012-13, returns this year and as the No. 2 seed is coming off a bye. The Falcons (11-5 SU, 10-6 ATS) won their last four in a row SU (3-1 ATS) and five of their last six in the regular season, capped by a 38-32 home victory over New Orleans as a 7.5-point chalk.
“This game has been pretty interesting because this is the only game of the four (this weekend) where the sharps have weighed in. They laid the Falcons,” Simbal said of action at CG books, including at The Cosmopolitan, M and the Venetian. “This game opened 4, it (went) up to 5, and that’s been pretty sharp money coming in on Atlanta.”
Leading up to the 4:35 p.m. Eastern kickoff, Simbal said CG books could see a little more interest in the Seahawks, and in fact, the line ticked down to 4.5 on Friday afternoon.
“I think that the public might take Seattle, specifically on the moneyline, because of the pedigree they have,” he said. “But I actually would anticipate us needing the Seahawks here, because even in victory last week, they didn’t look great.”
Bookmaker.eu opened the game a tick lower and has also seen heavy interest in Atlanta.
“The Falcons are the strongest play from the sharps as of now, which prompted the move from -3.5 to -5,” Cooley said. “We do expect to see some ‘dog money at some point, so it’s doubtful this heads north much longer, but we will see when limits are raised this weekend. Right now, around 75 percent of the handle is on Atlanta.”
Indeed, Bookmaker.eu saw some Seattle cash Friday afternoon, dropping the line from Atlanta -5 to -4 over the course of an hour.
New England had the best record in the league both on the field and against the oddsmakers this year, going 14-2 SU and a stout 13-3 ATS to secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Patriots finished the regular season with a 35-14 smackdown of fellow playoff team Miami laying 7.5 points on the road, and the bookmakers clearly feel the Pats could put a beating on Houston in this 8:15 p.m. Eastern clash.
The Texans (10-7 SU, 7-9-1 ATS) scraped into the playoffs as the champion of the middling AFC South, then got a huge break in the wild-card round, facing an Oakland team missing star quarterback Derek Carr (broken leg). Houston posted a 27-14 home win giving 4 points to earn the trip to Foxboro.
“As you would expect, all New England money, despite the huge pointspread,” Simbal said. “There’s been very little action on Houston at all. No sharp involvement at all, it’s all public on the Patriots. When this line first opened, we took $20,000 on New England before we even took $1,000 on Houston.”
The early action at Bookmaker.eu took a different direction, though that’s beginning to shift.
“Some bettors are certainly shying away from this one due to the large spread,” said Cooley, whose shop opened at Patriots -16. “We initially saw smart money on the big ‘dog, moving the number to -15.5 and then -15, but that’s creeping back up as we speak, at 15.5. Most of the public bets are on the Patriots, and the money handle is close to even, but slightly favors Houston at this point.”