Sharp NFL Picks & Consensus Report: Conference Championship

Jason Lake

Wednesday, January 14, 2015 3:11 PM GMT

Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015 3:11 PM GMT

There’s massive early money on the New England Patriots for Sunday’s AFC title game vs. the Indianapolis Colts. But is this sharp money when the Patriots are 0-8 ATS in their last Final Four games?

Jason’s 2014-15 postseason record: 3-1 ATS, 2-1-1 Totals
That tears it. In our most recent article, we speculated that the old handicapping rule “early money is sharp money” might be ready for the dustbin. Maybe it’s still useful for making football picks in lower-volume situations, but now that we’re in the Conference Round of the playoffs, square bettors are coming out of the woodwork to lay down some serious cash. And according to our first expanded consensus reports, the New England Patriots are the ones rolling in action.

Yes, the New England Patriots. The same incredibly public team that has honked each of its last eight games ATS in either the Conference Round or at the Super Bowl. This Sunday (6:40 p.m. ET, CBS), the Patriots are laying between six and seven points on the NFL odds board to the visiting Indianapolis Colts, and our consensus numbers show over 91 percent of the action coming in on New England. That’s from just 53.25 percent of the betting population, giving the Patriots an average bet size of over $1,060. The Colts are pulling in $118 a pop. So much for our other rule of thumb: Big money is sharp money.

Understand the betting market for Conference Championship Round in more detail.

Bean Counters
Before we go completely mental, let’s consider the possibility that the Patriots are actually the preferred sharp NFL pick in this matchup. Indianapolis did become this year’s top team on the public money charts; people love Colts QB Andrew Luck, although as we laid out in our offensive rankings going into the Divisional Round, the Indy offense isn’t terribly efficient.

But those betting sins are countered at least somewhat by New England’s own popularity and inefficiency. The Patriots checked in this year at No. 4 in public money, and as we saw in their 35-31 Divisional victory over the Baltimore Ravens (+7), they’re not all that great on the defensive end. On top of that, since the Pats are home favorites, we can expect casual bettors to open up even wider for New England.

Having said all that, the spread on the Patriots has dropped slightly since the open; we’re looking mostly at –6 and –6.5 as we go to press, while some of our featured online sportsbooks have New England at –7 and positive vigorish. That would normally suggest that the early money has been on the Colts. Our earliest consensus numbers are naturally the smallest sample size we have during the week, so take them with the proverbial grain of salt – we’ll see what they have to say later in the week.

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Alternative Chalk
By comparison, you can hear the tumbleweeds tumbling through the betting market for Sunday’s NFC title game (3:05 p.m. ET, FOX). We have yet to pull in the required minimum data at press time to produce our expanded consensus reports. We do know that 53 percent of early bettors are on Green Bay as a 7.5-point road dog (–115), while reports from Vegas say the initial action was leaning toward the Seahawks. The football odds have been fairly stable since the open.

This matchup is probably going to divide the sharps. On one hand, despite being the favorites and the defending Super Bowl champions, the Seahawks have a primarily regional fan base and were only No. 11 on the public money charts this season. Green Bay was No. 2. Also, while the Packers are getting the points that sharps love, Aaron Rodgers is not at 100 percent because of a partially torn calf muscle.

By the time you read this, there will probably be enough data on the Packers-Seahawks for our expanded reports, and we suspect it’ll be the ‘Hawks who display the usual earmarks of sharp action. Those earmarks might indeed be more trustworthy in this relatively low-volume situation. As always, employ an appropriate amount of discretion when you’re making your NFL picks this week, and may the prolate spheroid be with you.

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