NFL Betting Report: Where's the Public Love for the Underdogs?

Jason Lake

Friday, January 22, 2016 7:16 PM GMT

Not many people are putting the Denver Broncos or the Arizona Cardinals in their NFL picks this week. Too bad – at least one of these teams is likely to win on Sunday.

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Free NFL Pick: Arizona +3.5 (–115)
Best Line Offered: at Bovada

 

It's fading time, peoples. We've reached the Conference Championship round of the 2015-16 NFL playoffs, that magical time when there are so many recreational bettors in the marketplace, all you have to do is hit the “easy” button and fade the public teams. Except here we are with the top two seeds in either conference playing on Sunday. They're all public teams.

True, but some teams are more public than others. Take the New England Patriots – please. They're easily the most popular NFL pick this week, drawing nearly twice as many bettors as anyone else. That includes their competition this Sunday (3:05 p.m. ET, CBS), the Denver Broncos. So what if the Pats are 3-point road faves? Recreational bettors love them some Tom Brady, even twice as much as what's left of Peyton Manning. Of course we're fading New England here at the home office.

 

Handy Cam
But what about the other favorites? The Carolina Panthers have increased their profile this year, nearly going undefeated during the regular season while picking up fans along the way. Cam Newton is probably going to win the MVP vote. And the Panthers are popular 3-point home faves on the NFL odds board for Sunday's NFC title game (6:40 p.m. ET, FOX) against the Arizona Cardinals. Fade, or no fade?

Well, obviously we're fading – you can see our pick right there up top. It's not with as much confidence as the Denver pick, but the betting value is with Arizona, especially with that valuable extra half-point at Bovada. We don't mind paying the premium in vigorish considering how close this game looks on paper, and how valuable it is to move off that most magical of magic numbers.

Must Read: Early Money On Panthers & Patriots But Is It Sharp?

Red vs. Blue
Are the Panthers really the better team, though? Or to put it more accurately, have the Panthers really outperformed the Cardinals this year? Maybe not. Pro-Football-Reference gives Carolina a healthy +8.1 on the Simple Rating System for the regular season, but Arizona led the league at +12.3 SRS. Maybe the Cards “should” be about 2-point road faves instead.

Then again, recent returns have been better for Carolina. Looking at the Weighted DVOA stats at Football Outsiders through the Divisional Round, the Panthers are the highest-ranked of the remaining four teams, with the Cardinals third. FO even gives Carolina a 65-percent chance of winning Sunday's game, which would work out to something like Panthers –6. FiveThirtyEight is being a little less generous at 61 percent, or about Panthers –3. Seems legit. We'll stick with a small wager on the underdogs, though, and we'll recommend waiting until closer to kick-off, just in case you can get Arizona at +3.5 with the standard –110 juice or better. Good hunting.