NFL Wild Card Playoffs: Which Favorite have Sharp Bettors put on Upset Alert?

The first round of the NFL playoffs kicks off Saturday at 4:35 PM eastern time when the Carolina Panthers host the Arizona Cardinals. Although this game is receiving the least attention from the media, it’s actually receiving the second most bets at the time of publication — trailing only the Detroit Lions/Dallas Cowboys game.

After sneaking into the playoffs with a losing record, the Carolina Panthers (7-8-1) opened as a 4-point favorite at the market-setting Pinnacle sportsbook and are currently receiving 54% of spread bets. Even with this even distribution of public bets, Carolina has moved from -4 to -6.5 across the sports betting marketplace.

Some oddsmakers, including the offshore sportsbook WagerWeb and the Vegas-based Golden Nugget, have moved to Carolina -7 — a fact that is particularly significant since 7 is one of the most important key numbers for NFL bettors.

As we pointed out in our analysis in ESPN’s NFL playoff preview, both Arizona and Detroit may be offering value to bettors this weekend. Although neither of these two teams have seen the type of reverse line movement that we typically utilize as a sharp money indicator, there is one underdog being backed by wise guys and betting syndicates.

The Cincinnati Bengals opened as a 4-point underdog at Pinnacle and, according to the data available on our free NFL odds page, are receiving 32% of spread bets for Sunday’s matchup against the Indianapolis Colts.

Despite being ignored by the public, Cincinnati has actually dropped from +4 to +3.5 indicating that more money has been placed on the road dog than the home favorite.

This is also interesting because underdogs receiving less than 50% of spread bets with reverse line movement of at least a half-point have gone 11-3 ATS (+7.74 units. 55.3% ROI) during the NFL playoffs. This information further indicates that sharp money likes the Bengals and that the Colts should be on upset alert this weekend.

Our research indicates that the Bengals have gone both 0-6 straight-up (SU) and against the spread (ATS) in their last six playoff games. They have also struggled recently against the Colts with a record of 2-8 SU and 4-6 ATS in their last 10 matchups.

On the flip side, the Colts have been red hot of late with a 9-2-1 ATS record in their last 12 home games. We constantly preach the value of buying on bad news and selling on good, making this an interesting opportunity to buy low on the Bengals.

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David Solar is the Content Manager at Sports Insights and can be reached directly at david@sportsinsights.com.

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David Solar

David Solar has been the Content Manager at Sports Insights for over four years. He specializes in sports betting analytics and has created several popular data-driven betting systems. He can be reached directly at david@sportsinsights.com or on twitter at @TheDavidSolar.

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