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Odds and Ends

House cleans up as NFL playoff underdogs cover

by Will Gray
Updated On: January 11, 2021, 5:55 pm ET

It was a good weekend for NFL underdogs, and that turned into a good weekend for the house.

Oddsmakers at PointsBet Sportsbook enjoyed a profitable weekend, thanks in no small part to the efforts put forth by several teams catching points as the postseason got underway. A cover by the Indianapolis Colts and an outright road win by the L.A. Rams got things started Saturday, while Washington covered as a hefty home underdog in the night game.

That all led up to the Cleveland Browns, whose line against the Pittsburgh Steelers had moved from +3.5 to +6 with multiple players and coaches sidelined because of COVID-19, winning outright in a wild nightcap Sunday.

"Across the board, we had upsets and covers and unders hit," PointsBet senior sports analyst Andrew Mannino told NBC Sports. "With the exception of the Ravens, basically every other game broke our way."

Baltimore came from behind to cover as 3.5-point favorites against Tennessee, but that was a lone bright spot for the betting public. The Seahawks lost to the Rams by 10 despite attracting 80 percent of spread (-3) bets and 82 percent of moneyline (-180) bets, while 82 percent of spread bets in the Cleveland-Pittsburgh game went to the Steelers. More than 70 percent of bets were on the over in both Tennessee and New Orleans, with the under easily hitting in both.

The book also made out well with the Saints covering the spread against the Bears, thanks in part to a new rule that prevented Chicago from kicking an extra point after scoring a touchdown on the game's final play. The toss to Jimmy Graham made the final score 21-9, and the game ended without an extra point attempt since it would not have affected the final outcome. The Bears closed as 11-point underdogs, with a significant portion of that handle at PointsBet (unsurprisingly) coming from Illinois bettors. Wagers from Illinois accounted for nearly 50 percent of the total handle on the game, with 60 percent of overall spread bets on the Bears coming from within their home state.

Kansas City afforded 'cushion' in divisional round

Once the Super Wild Card games wrapped up, it didn't take long for oddsmakers to turn their attention to the divisional round.

While close contests are expected in Buffalo and New Orleans, various outlets differed on where exactly to place the opening line for the game between the top-seed Kansas City Chiefs and upstart Cleveland Browns. Oddsmakers at PointsBet opted to open the game with the Chiefs favored by 10 points, and the line has remained steady in early action.

NFL Divisional Round odds (via PointsBet)

Los Angeles at Green Bay (-7, O/U 46)

Baltimore at Buffalo (-2, O/U 50)

Cleveland at Kansas City (-10, O/U 56)

Tampa Bay at New Orleans (-3, O/U 52)

"I think the Browns looked sharp yesterday, and I think they did something that nobody was really prepared for, coming out with a chip on their shoulder like that," Mannino said. "But Kansas City has the ability to really turn it on, and they have the ability to score points seemingly at will. So we wanted to give them a nice cushion.

Early wagers have come in on Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Bucs, who opened as 3.5-point underdogs at New Orleans but are now down to +3. Likewise, the Baltimore-Buffalo line opened with the Bills at -3 but has drawn early action on the Ravens, who are now +2. The fourth and final game of the weekend is holding steady, with Green Bay listed as 7-point favorites over the Rams.

Super Bowl action increases on Saints while Chiefs still 'prohibitive favorites'

While they watched the opening round of the playoffs from home, the Kansas City Chiefs continue to draw plenty of attention in the futures market.

The defending Super Bowl champs remain the most likely team to win it all again this season, and their odds to do so continue to dwindle. The Chiefs were +230 betting favorites entering the playoffs and have not given up that spot, now listed at +190 ahead of the Packers (+400).

PointsBet oddsmakers were able to eliminate significant outstanding liability when Tennessee, Chicago and Washington were all eliminated from the postseason. While a $1,000 bet on the Rams to win it all at +3300 from September remains on the books, another Chiefs title is being viewed as potentially a manageable loss.

Odds to win Super Bowl (via PointsBet)

+190: Kansas City

+400: Green Bay

+600: New Orleans, Buffalo

+750: Baltimore

+800: Tampa Bay

+2000: Los Angeles

+2800: Cleveland

"The Chiefs continue to be prohibitive favorites," Mannino said. "That's what we think will be the most likely result, and that's one we can live with."

The Rams and Browns remain the biggest longshots on the board, but support is picking up a bit for the Saints. While oddsmakers described a New Orleans title last week as a best-case scenario from a futures perspective, some bettors have begun to hone in on Drew Brees & Co. as their title odds have fallen from +800 to +600 ahead of their divisional rematch with the Bucs.

"We've taken a bit more action on the Saints," Mannino said. "I think there's a viable pathway for them to get out of the NFC now."

Alabama CFP title is 'no good for us'

Don't be surprised if oddsmakers don the scarlet and gray for the final college football game of the season.

Alabama takes on Ohio State Monday night to decide the CFP title, with the Crimson Tide listed as sizeable 9-point favorites. After opening at -7.5, Alabama drifted to -8.5 by Monday morning but were up to -9 hours ahead of kickoff in Miami Gardens. While Ohio State was +800 to win it all entering the playoff, needing to likely upset the top two teams in the country, Alabama was listed at -200 and has never been higher than +300 to win the title since odds were released last January. Despite the short odds, they've received plenty of attention in the futures market.

"From a futures perspective, Alabama is no good for us," Mannino said. "People have been willing to put a lot of faith in Alabama these last few years, and they've been pretty well-rewarded for it. We've seen that trend continue this year."

Despite the line move, action on the game itself remains rather balanced. Alabama accounts for 54 percent of tickets, while 57 percent of the money is on the underdog Buckeyes. The total sits at an eye-popping 74.5, with 54 percent of tickets on the under.

Ahead of the title game, PointsBet released odds on who will win the CFP title for the 2021 season. Alabama and Clemson are listed as +300 co-favorites, followed by Ohio State (+500), Georgia (+800) and Oklahoma (+800).

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner, and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links.

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.