Opening Line: Divisional moves

Wild-card gambling reactions and examining early divisional line moves

Updated: January 6, 2014, 12:04 PM ET
By Dave Tuley | ESPN Insider

LAS VEGAS -- Let's call 2014 the Year of the Underdog.

Granted, we've got a long way to go, but football underdog bettors are having a happy new year so far as dogs went 3-0-1 ATS and pulled three outright upsets over the NFL's wild-card weekend (and that's on the heels of underdogs winning all four BCS bowl games heading into Monday night's BCS title game).

The only underdog to come up short this weekend was the Packers, as they lost 23-20 to the 49ers but pushed as a consensus 3-point home dog. Actually, there were some dog bettors who cashed on the Packers plus-3.5, as some books went that high before Sunday afternoon's kickoff, but most books held the line at 3 and the majority of bettors got that number.

But the rest of the weekend clearly went to the dog bettors as the Colts rallied from a 28-point deficit to beat the Chiefs 45-44 after closing as a 1.5-point home underdog (also of note, early bettors on the Chiefs plus-2.5, plus-2 and plus-1.5 cashed tickets before we saw the change of favorites), the Saints beat the Eagles 26-24 as a 3-point underdog and the Chargers beat the Bengals 27-10 as a 6.5-point underdog.

That's right, the drama-filled weekend saw three of the games -- all of them with spreads at a field goal or under -- decided by 1, 2 and 3 points and the one 17-point blowout came as expected in the game with the biggest spread, but it was by the team that wasn't supposed to roll to an easy victory.

The books here in Vegas had an OK weekend. They got knocked around in the Chiefs-Colts games, as they lost the vast majority of the bets on all the numbers where the Chiefs were getting points and then got middled when most of the late bets came back on the Colts plus-2 and plus-1.5. The game also flew over the total of 48.

However, even though three of the games landed around the spread (which means a lot of teasers cash on both sides), the Bengals' failure to cover or at least win straight-up killed a lot of teasers. Also, the other three games all stayed under their totals, which usually helps the house.

The books were also happy with the betting handle on the wild-card games. With the league's top seeds (Broncos, Seahawks, Patriots and Panthers) returning to action after their bye weeks as well as four popular teams (Colts, Saints, Chargers and 49ers) advancing, it looks like this upcoming weekend will be even bigger. We'll take a look at the early line movement for the divisional round games along with my gambling lessons from this weekend below.


To read about the early NFL divisional line moves and wild-card gambling takeaways, plus to gain access to all of Insider's gambling content you must be an ESPN Insider.

Dave Tuley has covered the Las Vegas race and sports book scene since 1998 and runs his own website, ViewFromVegas.com.