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Saints, Chiefs small favorites for NFL conference title games

Updated January 13, 2019 - 8:59 pm

It was still early in the second quarter of the Patriots-Chargers game Sunday morning when the Westgate sports book posted the opening line for the AFC title game between New England and Kansas City.

The Patriots were building a 35-7 halftime lead over Los Angeles when the Chiefs were installed as 3-point favorites over New England next Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.

“Jeff wanted to put that line up halfway through the first quarter,” Ed Salmons said of fellow Westgate sports book manager Jeff Sherman.

The opening total of 59 was quickly bet down to 57½ for the rematch of the Patriots’ 43-40 win over the Chiefs in Week 6 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

“It’s just going to be a little slower track,” Salmons said.

Las Vegas oddsmakers also expect plenty of points in the NFC championship game. The Saints opened as 3½-point (even) home favorites over the Rams with a total of 57 moments after a late interception preserved their 20-14 divisional-round win over the Eagles.

Another rematch, New Orleans beat L.A. 45-35 at the Superdome in Week 9.

“It was sort of like the Rams got humbled down there the first time around, but they’re hitting on all cylinders right now,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said. “I think the Rams are live.”

Salmons also leans to the Rams getting 3½.

“I think that’ll be a field goal game,” he said. “I could definitely see the Rams winning, just because they lost there the first time.

“But it’s tough to play in New Orleans with the noise there.”

Early action on Pats

The Westgate took $15,000 in early money on the Patriots (+3) over the Chiefs, including one $10,000 straight bet.

“I would definitely lean to the Patriots. It’s obvious listening to (Tom) Brady that the Patriots are playing with a chip on their shoulder,” Salmons said. “And it’s Andy Reid in a pressure game. I just don’t see a game where (Bill) Belichick is going to allow the Chiefs to go crazy with the scoring.”

After New England whipped the Chargers 41-28, Brady said on CBS that “I know everyone thinks we suck and you know, can’t win any games. So we’ll see. It’ll be fun.”

Bizarro bettors

The betting public turned the divisional round of the NFL playoffs into a bizarro world, backing the underdogs in a big way on a weekend in which all four favorites won and three of them covered.

“This week really surprised me,” Salmons said. “I was shocked they liked the Colts the way they did and I was shocked they liked the Chargers the way they did.”

Bettors lost big on the Chargers — who closed as 3½-point underdogs after the line opened at 4½ — and lost even more Saturday on the Colts, who closed as 4½-point ’dogs after the line opened at 5½ in a 31-13 loss to the Chiefs.

The Rams covered as 7½-point favorites over the Cowboys in Saturday’s 30-22 win. The Saints, laying nine points, were the only favorite that didn’t cover.

“It’s amazing that three of the teams they bet on all year — the Rams, the Patriots and the Chiefs — they bet against for some reason this weekend,” said Jason Simbal, vice president of risk management at CG Technology. “We needed the Pats pretty big. It’s so rare when we need them that it was nice being able to root for them for once, especially at home.”

Big bets

There were a bevy of six-figure bets placed on the games. A William Hill bettor lost a $150,000 wager on the Colts and MGM Resorts took three $110,000 bets on Indianapolis.

An MGM bettor won $150,000 on a $180,000 straight bet on the Chiefs (-4) and another MGM gambler won a $100,000 straight bet on the Rams.

One MGM bettor lost both a $100,000 money-line wager on the Chargers and a $100,000 ML bet on the Chargers in the first half.

“I don’t think we’ve ever needed the Patriots at home in a playoff game,” The Mirage sports book director Jeff Stoneback said. “Fortunately we needed them today and it was one of those games we didn’t have to sweat.”

A Caesars Entertainment bettor won $42,000 on a $160,000 ML wager on the Saints and the MGM had big bets on both sides of the New Orleans-Philadelphia game. One bettor won $100,000 on a $350,000 ML wager on the Saints while another bettor lost a $105,000 ML wager on the Eagles.

The MGM paid out three separate $100,000 straight bets on Philadelphia, but ended up needing under 52½ the most after a bettor wagered $100,000 on the over. The same high roller won six figures on the Rams-Cowboys over (48) when Dak Prescott scored on a 1-yard run with 2:11 left.

“We had some large casino players the whole week, starting with the Alabama-Clemson championship game,” Stoneback said. “We’ve taken quite a few large wagers, much more so than the regular season.”

More Betting: Follow at reviewjournal.com/betting and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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