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Odds and Ends

Book sweating Bears, rooting for Saints SB win

by Will Gray
Updated On: January 8, 2021, 7:37 pm ET

With the regular season in the books, the attention now turns to the NFL playoffs. And oddsmakers, like fans, have their own particular rooting interests.

An unprecedented postseason structure means 14 teams are still standing, with only the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers sitting out Wild Card Weekend. The longest odds on the board at PointsBet Sportsbook belong to the Chicago Bears, who snagged the seventh seed in the NFC despite losing to Green Bay in Week 17. Chicago finished a turbulent season at 8-8, getting out to a fast 5-1 start before losing six games in a row.

They're currently listed at +4000 to win the NFC and +9000 to win the Super Bowl, but those odds reached as high as +15000 and +30000, respectively, during the Bears' mid-season skid. As a result, they represent the biggest possible liability for the house should they begin a deep playoff run with a road win Sunday over the Saints.

"Part of that is due to their long odds," PointsBet senior sports analyst Andrew Mannino told NBC Sports. "It doesn't take a ton of handle to create a big liability, especially with where they were preseason."

Odds to win Super Bowl LIV (via PointsBet)

+230: Kansas City

+450: Green Bay

+650: Buffalo

+800: New Orleans

+900: Baltimore

+1000: Tampa Bay

The Kansas City Chiefs (+230) enter the playoffs as favorites and would result in a "manageable loss" if they repeat as champs, while the Packers (+450), Bills (+650) and Titans (+3000) would all be "problems" for the house. But the biggest possible win for the house might come from an unexpected team: the Saints, who are currently listed at +800 to win their second Super Bowl title.

"I think the Saints are in a strange position from a futures perspective. No one really doubted them at any point," Mannino said. "I think they just miss out on some of that attractiveness that some of the bettors look for with teams like Chicago. But they're not quite the heavy favorite that Green Bay or Kansas City has been, so they don't pick up that action, either. They're sort of stuck in that middle ground."

The best possible Super Bowl result for the book would be the Saints defeating the winner of the Browns-Steelers game, while the worst possible result would be Tennessee beating the Bears in Super Bowl LIV.

Mixed results for Week 17 bettors

The uncertainty surrounding the final week of the regular season led many bettors to dial things back.

With some teams resting starters and others leaving personnel decisions to the last minute, PointsBet saw about a 20 percent decline over the typical weekly handle for NFL action. Bettors won big with covers from the Ravens, Bucs and Packers, while the house got some back with an outright win by the Giants as well as a cover by the Titans and the Rams' 18-7 win over the Cardinals staying well below the total.

While some public parlays cashed when most of the favorites won outright, it added up to a middling week with less action than earlier in the season.

"People like to bet on stars, and when the stars aren't playing, or when there's uncertainty around who's playing, I think people just held back a bit more," Mannino said. "With the playoffs next week, we should see that rebound nicely."

Wild Card favorites receiving early support

If you liked some of the initial favorites when playoff lines were released, you were not alone.

Oddsmakers saw a deluge of support from both public and sharp action on several favorites once matchups were finalized Sunday afternoon. The Bills quickly moved from -4.5 to -6.5 against the Colts, while the Saints shot from -8 to -10.5 against the Bears. The final playoff matchup was decided late Sunday night when Washington won the NFC East, but it didn't take long for the Tampa Bay Bucs to drift from 6.5-point to 8-point road favorites.

Odds to win AFC (via PointsBet)

-115: Kansas City

+350: Buffalo

+500: Baltimore

+1200: Pittsburgh

"I think early public action tends to go on the favorite side," Mannino said. "The early sharp action is what's really shaping things and making the lines what they are."

Early action in the other three games this weekend has been a little more balanced. The Steelers are out to -4.5 favorites against the Browns, while the Seahawks are also favored by 4.5 against the Rams. The tightest current line is in Tennessee, where the visiting Ravens are laying 3.5 points to the Titans.

Notable futures wagers

While favorites like the Chiefs and Packers have received steady support throughout the season, and the Bears remain a liability concern at long odds, oddsmakers at PointsBet are also sweating a few notable futures bets.

The first such wager came in early September, when one bettor placed $1,000 on the Steelers to win the Super Bowl at +2500. Pittsburgh went on to win their first 11 games in a row and are now listed at the same +2500 price.

Odds to win NFC (via PointsBet)

+160: Green Bay

+300: New Orleans

+400: Tampa Bay

+500: Seattle

Weeks later another $1,000 wager was placed, this time on the Los Angeles Rams to win it all at +3300. The NFC's Super Bowl representative two years ago, the Rams enter the playoffs as the No. 6 seed in the conference and are currently at +3000.

Another notable wager came in early December, when one bettor put $2,500 on Washington to win the NFC at +5500. Washington winning the NFC East was a bit of a coup for oddsmakers, who faced significant liability on the Cowboys, but should Alex Smith lead his 7-9 squad to an unexpected Super Bowl appearance, that bet would turn into a $140,000 winner. Washington is currently listed at +4000 to win the NFC.

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Will Gray

Will Gray joined Golf Channel in 2007 and currently serves as a staff writer for GolfChannel.com. Gray has been covering fantasy golf since 2012 and is a regular contributor to the Golf Central blog and covers several PGA Tour events each year. He's also a regular contributor to several digital properties on GolfChannel.com, including Stat Man, On the Clock, Fantasy Central, Grill Room and the Monday Scramble podcast.