Sharp bettors are on the Colts over the Texans on Saturday in the opener of the NFL’s wild-card weekend.
Houston opened as a 2½-point home favorite, but the line has been bet to 1.
“There’s definitely sharp money on the Colts,” Westgate sports book manager John Murray said Friday afternoon. “That number’s going down.”
Handicappers Micah Roberts, Mark Franco and Doug Fitz — the top three finishers in the Review-Journal NFL Challenge — like Indianapolis, which has won nine of its past 10 games behind quarterback Andrew Luck.
The Colts’ 9-1 run includes a 24-21 win at Houston in Week 14.
“Right now, the Colts are a much better team on a much better roll, and that’s what you want to go with in the playoffs — the hot team,” said Roberts, who won the RJ contest with a 52-32-1 record against the spread (61.9 percent).
Roberts (Sportsline.com) also noted that Luck has been sacked only 18 times this season, second-fewest in the league behind Drew Brees (17). On the flip side, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has been sacked an NFL-high 62 times.
“It’s an impressive model: protect the quarterback and you win the game,” Roberts said.
Franco (Francosports.com), who tied Fitz with a 46-37-2 ATS record, also gives a big quarterback edge to Luck.
“I don’t think he should be MVP, but he should be in the conversation,” Franco said. “And I think the Colts have the coaching edge with Frank Reich over Bill O’Brien, who is an average coach at best.”
Fitz, who gives out all his plays for free at Systemplays.com, is backing Indianapolis based on a power rating system he developed for NFL underdogs.
Seahawks (+2) over COWBOYS
A William Hill bettor in New Jersey bet a total of $275,000 to make $250,000 on the Cowboys ($110,000 at minus 1½, $110,000 at minus 2 and $55,000 at minus 2½). But Roberts likes the Seahawks, who led the league in rushing yards (160 per game) and have a Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Russell Wilson.
“Who do you want if the game’s on the line, Russell Wilson or Dak Prescott? I’ll take Wilson all day, and it’s not even close,” Roberts said. “I think it’ll be a close game, and I think the Seahawks and under on a teaser is a really good play as well.”
Chargers (+3) over RAVENS
Los Angeles won and covered seven of its eight road games this season.
“The Chargers are the most hardened road team in the NFL because their home field has been no advantage,” Roberts said. “I love the Chargers this week. I think the Chargers are going to roll, actually.
“I think the Chargers score often and get short-field opportunities from Lamar Jackson mistakes.”
Murray also likes the Chargers.
“I don’t think the Ravens should be a full 3-point favorite in that game,” he said. “If the Ravens fall behind early, it’s going to put a lot of pressure on Jackson.”
Asked for a Super Bowl sleeper pick, William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich chose the Chargers, who are 14-1 to win it all at William Hill and 18-1 at the Westgate.
“They’ve got the toughest road, but I still think that the Chargers are live,” Bogdanovich said.
BEARS (-6½) over Eagles
Roberts’ best bet of the weekend is the Bears, who are consensus 6½-point favorites after the line opened at 4½.
Chicago won and covered nine of its final 10 regular-season games and limited its last four opponents to 10.5 points per game, a stretch that started with a dominant 15-6 home win over the Rams.
“The Bears’ defense at home, to me, is the key,” Roberts said. “Nick Foles has been quite impressive, but I just think this is a tough spot.
“The Bears are going to have such an advantage defensively that the Eagles do not cover. I can see like a 24-10 game.”
Murray also likes Chicago.
“Foles is dinged up, Philadelphia can’t run the ball and the game is in Chicago,” he said. “Unless they really blow it Sunday, the Bears should have a pretty easy time against Philadelphia.”