Sportsbooks pulling hard for big underdogs Packers and Steelers in the playoffs

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Green Bay Packers wide receiver Dontayvion Wicks (13) celebrates with teammates after making a touchdown catch during the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

LAS VEGAS – Sportsbook directors follow the money when it comes to cheering for particular teams, and they are solidly behind the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend.

Both are sizable underdogs in the NFL playoffs, with the majority of the money from casual bettors going to the favorites.

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The Packers are 7 1/2-point underdogs, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, in the wild-card round at the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Pittsburgh is an even bigger dog, at plus-10, on Sunday at the Buffalo Bills.

“As you move into the playoffs, sportsbooks are looking for one or two underdogs to win outright, so that's usually a saving grace for us at this stage,” said Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading for Caesars Sportsbook. “I don't know if the Steelers or the Packers are up to the task.”

Christian Cipollini, the lead sports trader for BetMGM, agreed.

“Those are probably going to be the two most important games,” Cipollini said. “If we get the Steelers or the Packers to least cover, that'll probably get us a pretty good week.”

Bruce Marshall of The Gold Sheet said he thought those two underdogs could be competitive.

In Pittsburgh's case, Marshall said the move to quarterback Mason Rudolph made it a different team than it had been most of the season. The Steelers closed the regular season on a three-game winning streak under Rudolph.

“(Coach Mike) Tomlin's got a pretty good record as an underdog,” Marshall said. “I think they've got a shot this week even though (T.J.) Watt is out.”

In the other matchup, Marshall said the Cowboys are vulnerable enough that the Packers could spring the upset.

“Dallas is the mystery here,” Marshall said. “I am not sold on them whatsoever.”


Marshall said he is oddly interested in the Philadelphia Eagles' game at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night.

The Eagles, who made the Super Bowl last season, enter the postseason losing five of their final six games. Tampa Bay won the NFC South with a 9-8 record, edging out the New Orleans Saints on a tiebreaker.

“These are the two worst teams in the playoffs, I think rather clearly, and here they are playing one another," Marshall said. "One of these teams is going to be in the final eight. In a screwy year like this, who knows what's going to happen? One team could get hot. At this point, I have a hard time thinking that would be Philadelphia. They really hit the playoffs in reverse, and Tampa Bay wasn't playing all that great, either.”

The Eagles, though, are went from 2 1/2 to 3-point favorites at BetMGM.

“The sharps (professional bettors) are betting that,” Cipollini said. “That was surprising to me because they stink. ... It's all coaching and they don't seem to want to change it. The coaching is a complete disaster. The players are in the worst position ever. I can't imagine they get this fixed in a week.”


Caesars has dropped the total on the Steelers-Bills game from 41 1/2 points to 36 because of expected heavy wind and temperatures in the 20s.

The adjustment wasn't quite as dramatic for the Miami Dolphins' game at the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday, going from 45 points to 44. The wind chill at kickoff could be anywhere between minus-10 and minus-15 degrees.

“The wind is the biggest factor,” Pullen said. “You get to those lower and lower temperatures — and there is going to be some wind in Kansas City — that's going to play a part.”


Baltimore secured the No. 1 seed in the AFC and the bye that comes with it, but the Ravens' recent playoff history has Marshall concerned.

They have lost four of their past five playoff games, including in 2019 when the Ravens had the bye and lost to the Tennessee Titans 28-12 in the divisional round.

That puts pressure on the Ravens and quarterback Lamar Jackson, the likely NFL MVP this season.

“He has really come up short in the playoffs,” Marshall said. “Lamar has not been a great playoff quarterback in the past. I think Baltimore looks better and they beat the (NFC top-seeded) Niners on Christmas. It's just Lamar in the playoffs. Until you get that monkey off your back, that's going to be kind of tough.”


Marshall is much more bullish on the Los Angeles Rams, who visit the Detroit Lions on Sunday night.

“They've been playing down the stretch as good as anybody,” Marshall said.

On the AFC side, Marshall is intrigued by the Cleveland Browns, who with veteran Joe Flacco at quarterback won four consecutive games late in the season. The Browns are at the Houston Texans on Saturday.

“Cleveland is one that sort of scares me in the AFC,” Marshall said.



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