Chiefs Sharp Pick for AFC Title Game
The New England Patriots went to four of the last seven Super Bowls. They have the NFL’s most respected head coach in Bill Belichick. QB Tom Brady just made the Pro Bowl for the 14th time. And somehow, despite all their accolades and public attention, the Patriots are still a money-making machine. They’re 153-95-8 against the spread since 2003, including 9-7 ATS this year.
Make that 10-7 ATS. New England put the boots to the Los Angeles Chargers last Sunday in the AFC Divisional Round, winning 41-28 as 3.5-point home faves. That’s seven straight Divisional victories at 6-1 ATS for Belichick’s crew. Now they’re going on the road to face the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday (6:40 p.m. ET, CBS) in the AFC title game. And the Pats are actually getting points this time – they’re available at +3 on the NFL odds board at BetOnline. Why would anyone bet against New England here?
The wiseguys have their reasons. According to the consensus reports, 56 percent of early bettors have Kansas City in their NFL picks this week, supplying 61 percent of the amount wagered. The average bet on the Chiefs is $136, the largest of the four remaining teams in the Conference Championships; the Patriots have the smallest average bet at $109.
These reports tell us the Chiefs are the sharp pick for Sunday’s matchup. As a rule of thumb, serious bettors jump on the NFL betting lines early in the week, usually right at the opening bell, when it’s more likely they’ll get a bargain price. So-called “recreational bettors” tend to wait until the weekend to lay their money down.The sharps also place larger bets on average than casual fans. They’re trying to make a living, after all. Recreational bettors are by definition in it for the lolz; of course, they’d like to win some money, too, but they’re mostly just laying a few bucks here and there on their favorite team, adding a little extra excitement when it comes time to watch the game.
Too Much Pressure
At this time of year, their favorite team is usually the Patriots. This will be their eighth straight appearance in the AFC title game – it’s as close to a dynasty as you’ll find in the NFL. And as we get deeper into the playoffs, more and more recreational bettors are drawn into the marketplace, dumping their spare change on their team of choice without thinking too hard about their return on investment.
The Conference Championships appear to be the tipping point for New England. As well as they’ve performed in the Divisional Round, the Patriots are 4-3 SU and 2-5 ATS over their past seven AFC title games. There are reasons for this besides market distortion; the competition level for New England gets tougher, their opponents are usually somewhat fresh after the Wild-Card bye, and sometimes, the Patriots have to play on the road.
The Mahomes Show
That will be the case Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs (13-4 SU, 10-6-1 ATS) are the No. 1 seed in the AFC, breezing into the Conference Championship with a 31-13 win over the Indianapolis Colts (+4.5 away). Head coach Andy Reid is often treated as a laughingstock, especially when it comes to clock management, but Reid is also one of the best overall coaches in the league, and he’s got this year’s MVP favorite in QB Patrick Mahomes II.
Which does throw a bit of a curveball at the betting market. Mahomes (whose father pitched for the New York Mets) is rapidly becoming the most popular player in the NFL, and his Chiefs have drawn a lot more public money this season. The Patriots, meanwhile, have lost some fans over the years, as the Evil Empire nears the end of its dynastic cycle. Will they show up over the weekend anyway and drive the price for Kansas City down to –2.5? If so, that could be the most valuable half-point of the year.