How Sharps are Betting the NFL Conference Championships

We're down to the final four in the NFL Playoffs. And, what a week it's been in the betting markets! I can't ever recall a situation quite like this...where the most important player in the league suffers a weird injury in practice midweek...in a game where the line was already troublesome for sports books because it was right on the edge of the teaser window.

Let's jump right in. There's a lot to talk about considering there are only two games...

Jacksonville at New England: An opener of New England -9 has come down to -7.5 (and -7 in some spots offshore) because of the hand injury suffered by Tom Brady. Before the injury, the line was in a precarious spot anyway. Sharps were going to bet Jacksonville at +9 or better depending on how high the public drove the number. If the game came down to 8.5 for any reason, that would open the door for sharps to bet New England -2.5 in teasers. You regulars know that the Wise Guys LOVE betting any team in six-point teasers where you can move the line across both the 7 and the 3.

Now, with the injury, those teasers are very much in play, but may be a horrible risk if Brady can't go, or is too injured to play well. The Pats could definitely lose straight up (or only win by a point) in a way that kills teasers. What if you bet the Pats in a teaser today, then Brady is scratched in favor of Brian Hoyer?

What was going to be a heavily bet game, possibly with the complications of teaser exposure, is now in a holding pattern as everyone waits for news on Brady's health. The public has made good money betting the Pats in the Brady era. They WANT to bet him if he's healthy. If he isn't, who's going to bet the Patriots?

This report focuses on sharps. Sharps liked Jacksonville initially for value, and like them even more if Brady won't be likely to have a big day. The Over/Under has stayed pretty still, as quants agreed with the opener. Nobody's touching the total now until more is known about Brady.

Minnesota at Philadelphia: This game hasn't been in the headlines as much. But, we have a fairly significant move toward the Eagles that has been driven by a mix of sharp and square money through the week. Minnesota opened at -3.5. We're now down to a field goal, with some stores charging extra juice to bet on the Eagles. Given how important the three is in football betting, this is pretty big news.

Normally, when you see a game at -3.5 fall to three, money then comes in on the favorite in a way that could bring the game back to where it started. A classic "tug-of-war" as we've been calling it around a key number. Here, more money came in on the underdog at +3. It might take -2.5 for Minnesota money to come in hard. Sportsbooks don't want to set up a possibility of getting "middled" were the final margin to land exactly on the three. Plus, a drop to 2.5 would bring in a lot of teaser play on the Eagles +8.5. For now, sportsbooks will be rooting for the Vikings in this one, something oddsmakers weren't expecting this past Sunday night.

The Over/Under is down from the earliest opener of 40 to 38.5. Quants were getting gradings in the 30's. The public usually bets Overs in the playoffs, but might not here with these quarterbacks and these defenses. Because weather isn't expected to be an issue, we may see square money hit the Over on game day. Could set up a tug-of-war between sharps on Under 40 and the public on Over anything in the 30s.

Be sure you monitor the markets all weekend. Square money is going to be "late arriving" this week because of the Brady situation. Many in the public won't get too involved in the second game until they know what they're going to do in the first game (partly because of parlays or teasers that would involve tying the two together).

Summarizing sharps:
*Looking for ways to bet the Jags
*Will take the Pats in teasers at -2.5, -2, or -1.5 if Brady's prognosis improves
*Looking to bet the Eagles at +3 or better
*Looking to bet the Eagles at +8.5 in teasers if +2.5 comes into play
*Looking to bet Under 40 or better in Vikings/Eagles