The underdogs in the four NFL playoff games this weekend are drawing more action among bookmakers than the favorites. That actually makes sense, since underdogs have covered the spread or won outright in 14 of 15 games since the start of the playoffs last year.
At BetOnline.ag, the online sportsbook, the Indianapolis Colts, 5-point underdogs in Kansas City against the Chiefs, were drawing 59% of bets as of Wednesday. Some 62% of bets were being placed on the Dallas Cowboys, 6-point underdogs for a game in Los Angeles against the Rams.
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For their playoff game on Sunday against the New England Patriots at Foxboro, Mass., the Los Angeles Chargers were just 4-point underdogs but were getting 69% of the bets—and for several valid reasons, one being that the Chargers (13-4) have a better record.
The Chargers are also an NFL-best 8-1 away from home this season, and the Patriots (11-5) have dropped three of their last seven games and generally perceived to be less potent as in other years. They were 8-0 at home, but the last four were over non-playoff teams.
As Dave Mason, the sports book manager at BetOnline.ag, wrote in an email: “There hasn’t been a time in recent memory when the public was so against the Patriots at home during a playoff game.
“As a matter of fact, I can’t remember the last time the public was against the Pats at home, away, regular season or postseason. It will definitely be a unique feeling rooting so hard for the Pats this weekend.”
But standing above all as a betting curiosity are the Philadelphia Eagles and, more specifically, quarterback Nick Foles.
The Eagles (10-7), who had to win their last three games just to earn a wild-card berth, are drawing a whopping 71% of bets for their game in New Orleans against the Saints (13-3). The overload may be because Philadelphia is getting a generous 8 points from the bookies.
That percentage number, quite interestingly, was only 65% on Monday.
New Orleans tied the Rams for the best regular-season record in the NFL this season, and the Saints walloped the Eagles, 48-7, at New Orleans in November for their ninth victory in a row. The unsightly loss dropped Philadelphia’s record to 4-6.
But that was before Nick Foles replaced the injured Carson Wentz at quarterback for the second time in two years, and Foles has led Philadelphia to four straight victories, including a 16-15 playoff triumph over Chicago that was only cinched on a missed late Bears field goal.
Mason says, “As far as the Eagles are concerned, the 8-point spread is all about their opponent and where they are playing—the Saints in the Superdome. Throw out their Week 17 loss against the Panthers when they benched some key players, and the Saints were 6-1 at home with four of those wins by double digits, including their Week 11 victory over Philly.”
But Philly has a savvy quarterback and a lucky charm. Foles led the Eagles to a victory over the Rams in the game last year in which Wentz was hurt, then won two more games in the regular season before he led the Eagles to a Super Bowl victory over the Patriots and Tom Brady.
All three victories in the playoffs were as an underdog, and the Eagles were favored to lose by 4 points to the Bears. The Saints and veteran quarterback Drew Brees are formidable, but the Saints won their division on Dec. 9 and home-field advantage on Dec. 16.
Since Brees and the Saints won their last playoff game, Foles and Philadelphia have won four playoff games. New Orleans could very well win comfortably again over the Eagles, and the point spread has stayed at 8. The Chargers and Colts are getting fewer points.
But the Eagles have Nick Foles, and I have a feeling that a majority of bettors took the Eagles not because they thought he’d keep them within a touchdown—but because they could win again.
More Info: forbes.com