NFL betting: In this unpredictable season, underdogs rule divisional round

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Bettors who lean on favorites had a rough start to the NFL divisional round playoffs.

When the Los Angeles Rams beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first game Sunday, pulling it out despite an incredible comeback by the Buccaneers, it marked the third betting underdog to win straight up in three divisional round games. The Rams were a 3-point underdog at BetMGM. The Rams closed as a +130 underdog on the moneyline. That came after both No. 1 seeds were upset on the final play of each game Saturday.

If you parlayed the moneyline on the first three underdogs of divisional round weekend to win, a $100 bet would have won $1,763. And it's not like it was impossible to see coming, after the season we watched.

Bengals, 49ers knock out No. 1 seeds

Wild-card weekend might have made favorite bettors more confident. Of the six games, only one underdog covered. That was the San Francisco 49ers, who beat the Dallas Cowboys.

But most of the season, the story of the NFL was that all the Super Bowl favorites were taking bad losses and generally looking vulnerable. If there was to be a divisional round that featured multiple upsets from road underdogs, this was the year.

The Cincinnati Bengals were first. They were 4-point underdogs and +170 on the moneyline against the Tennessee Titans. They won 19-16 after a late Ryan Tannehill interception and a field goal on the final play. Then the 49ers got a great win for anyone who bet them as 5.5-point underdogs against the Green Bay Packers. They trailed 10-3 late, but a blocked punt turned the game around. That was a key play in the 49ers' 13-10 win. Like the Bengals, they won on a field goal as time expired. They were +200 on the moneyline.

The Rams made moneyline and even +3 bettors sweat. A 27-3 lead in the third quarter turned into a 27-27 tie after a late Buccaneers rally that was helped by a crucial Cam Akers fumble. Matthew Stafford hit Cooper Kupp on back-to-back passes to set up a field goal as time expired, and a third straight underdog had won outright.

With the Titans, Packers and Buccaneers losing outright, a lot of futures bet tickets were ripped up too.

Cooper Kupp and the Rams pulled out a thilling win over the Buccaneers. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Cooper Kupp and the Rams pulled out a thilling win over the Buccaneers. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Underdogs were winners this season

The wild-card round was the anomaly, in terms of betting.

This was a season for underdogs. In the regular season, underdogs were 142-127-3 against the spread according to Covers.com. Road underdogs were 85-72-3. The lack of dominant favorites played a role in that. Advanced stats and betting lines were skeptical of the Titans and Packers, in particular.

The Rams will be favored over the 49ers next weekend. Whoever plays the Bengals will be favored. That might not mean too much at this point in the playoffs.

This could be the season for an odd pairing in the Super Bowl. Maybe more upsets are to come in the conference championship round and Super Bowl. It's not like it should be too big of a surprise if we see more chaos.

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