“I’ve flown first class, Elaine. I can’t go back to coach. I can’t. I won’t.”
Jerry Seinfeld speaks for all of us, as football fans and bettors, who are being asked to accept life with only two NFL playoff games each day immediately after being gifted with the first-ever three-wild-card-games-a-day experiment.
It’s not an easy adjustment. But we have no choice.
Of course, four games does not mean only four wagering opportunities. There are countless ways to bet on spreads, totals, adjusted spreads and totals, player props, game props, and so forth.
And then there’s the way that is simultaneously the most fun (in theory) for bettors and the most profitable (in cold, hard numbers) for sportsbooks: parlays.
So for this weekend’s US Bets playoff betting preview, rather than break down the four individual games, we’re going to do something a little different and explore every possible moneyline parlay option.
Saturday and Sunday spreads and totals
Here’s the quick snapshot of the major “consensus” lines for the four Divisional Round games:
|Rams at Packers||Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET||Green Bay -6.5||45.5|
|Ravens at Bills||Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET||Buffalo -2.5||49.5|
|Browns at Chiefs||Sunday, 3:05 p.m. ET||Kansas City -10||57|
|Bucs at Saints||Sunday, 6:40 p.m. ET||New Orleans -3||52|
So what we have are two games in which the top-seeded teams, coming off of byes, are clear favorites, and two games that would effectively be viewed as even-money on a neutral field.
The question is how to package your hunches together. Any four-team parlay using spreads will pay about 12/1 at any legal sportsbook. It doesn’t take a math genius to realize that, if spreads make each game a 50/50 proposition, going four-for-four is a 1-in-16 shot. Bettors get 12/1 instead of 15/1 as, essentially, a tax on the right to decide which side of each game you think the edge lies on.
Pick me a winner … times four
The payouts swing wildly from that standard 12/1 when you make moneyline picks instead of spread picks.
We crunched the parlay numbers at five leading national sportsbooks — BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, FOX Bet, and William Hill — for each of the 16 combinations in search of the best bang for the buck on each.
We found that for most bets, either DraftKings or William Hill offered the best pricing, though there were a couple of exceptions, starting with the four-favorites parlay: If you believe the Packers, Chiefs, Bills, and Saints will all win outright, FOX Bet has the best listed payout at +348 — and is offering an “odds boost” to +400, blowing away the competition on that one (albeit with a $50 betting limit).
Here are the best numbers for the other 15 moneyline scenarios, in order from the most likely to the least likely:
- Packers-Chiefs-Ravens-Saints: +501 (DraftKings)
- Packers-Chiefs-Bills-Bucs: +574 (DraftKings)
- Packers-Chiefs-Ravens-Bucs: +814 (DraftKings)
- Rams-Chiefs-Bills-Saints: +1110 (DraftKings)
- Rams-Chiefs-Ravens-Saints: +1542 (DraftKings)
- Packers-Browns-Bills-Saints: +1675 (William Hill)
- Rams-Chiefs-Bills-Bucs: +1865 (DraftKings)
- Packers-Browns-Ravens-Saints: +2263 (William Hill)
- Rams-Chiefs-Ravens-Bucs: +2567 (DraftKings)
- Packers-Browns-Bills-Bucs: +2693 (William Hill)
- Packers-Browns-Ravens-Bucs: +3620 (William Hill)
- Rams-Browns-Bills-Saints: +4663 (William Hill)
- Rams-Browns-Ravens-Saints: +6282 (FanDuel)
- Rams-Browns-Bills-Bucs: +7398 (William Hill)
- Rams-Browns-Ravens-Bucs: +9884 (William Hill)
Yes, that’s right, if you think the four road ‘dogs will all move on to the conference finals, you can get almost 100/1 on your money.
Our advice: Only bet what you can afford to lose on that one. Actually, that’s proper advice at all times — but especially so for this longshot.
The second biggest longshot, Rams-Browns-Bills-Bucs, pays almost 74/1 at William Hill but not quite 57/1 at FOX Bet, a massive disparity. So our other piece of advice: If you live in a state with access to numerous sportsbooks, give yourself as many “outs” as possible and always line shop before locking in a wager.
Fade the public?
One common approach to betting on as mainstream a sport as the NFL is to go against whatever the “square” bettors are doing. Some of the most successful bettors in the business look for games with extremely lopsided action and go the other way, trusting that the people who make the lines might know something the casual bettors don’t.
According to statistics that FanDuel Sportsbook shared Friday, there’s one game drawing extremely lopsided spread betting.
As double-digit underdogs, the Browns are drawing 58% of the bets and 58% of the money against Kansas City. The Bucs are right in the same vicinity, attracting 56% of the bets and 56% of the money for their trip to New Orleans. Those don’t qualify as “extremely lopsided.”
Even the action favoring Buffalo —70% of the bets and 70% of the money — isn’t really out of the ordinary.
No, the game where the public has flocked to one side at an alarming rate is Rams at Packers, where 82% of the spread bets and 86% of the spread money is on Green Bay. For sharp bettors, those numbers are likely setting off alarms.
The other trend of note: On all four games, the public is betting the “over” on the point total at rates of 70% or higher.
Did the books set the lines too low? Or, knowing bettors love rooting for points, do they have the customers right where they want them?
Those percentages were higher across the board early in the week than they are now, meaning the “under” action has picked up as the games have drawn closer. That should tell you everything you need to know.
Photo by Ken Blaze / USA Today Sports