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Submitted by SportsMasters Consensus on Friday, December 28, 2012 at 12:50 PM

The final week of the NFL regular season always offers unique challenges to sports bettors. Sharps evaluated the openers to see if oddsmakers had properly reflected “need” into the equation or all the playoff contenders. Though, as we go to press, some “meaningless” games still don’t even have a line yet because it’s not clear how many starters will be playing at key positions.

This makes it a very important time to pay attention to how the sharps are betting!

Because there’s such a dramatic dichotomy this week between games that matter and games that don’t (in terms of the playoff race), we’re going to split everything up into two groups. First, let’s go in rotation order through the games that matter to at least one team on the field for either playoff qualification, or seeding position. After that, we’ll then study the meaningless games to see who sharps bet the openers that did come up.

Games that matter, in rotation order…

MIAMI AT NEW ENGLAND: Note that this has been time-changed to a late afternoon start. New England opened at -11, but was bet down to +10 by the Wise Guys. This is sharp money going against the team that needs to win. Miami’s defense gets respect from the sharps (and has all year). New England’s recent slump is also an influence here. Sharps assume a divisional dog with revenge that has a first year head coach and a rookie quarterback will show up with some intensity. THIS is Miami’s playoff game as it relates to setting a tone for next year according to the sharps we’ve talked to. Note that we also saw a big move on the Under because of respect for Miami’s defense. An opener near 50 has been bet all the way down to 46. Potential weather influences are also in play here. If we don’t mention the Over/Under in the remaining games, it’s because there weren’t any sharp indicators on that total as of press time.

BALTIMORE AT CINCINNATI: The Bengals opened at -3, but the dog has been receiving sharp support at that number. Most stores are now below the critical number…without Cincinnati money coming in to drive it back up. That tells you fairly dramatically that sharps like Baltimore, and will like them even more in two team teasers if they’re positioned to drive a dog of +1.5/+2.5 up to +7.5/+8.5. We also have Under money here, with an opener of 43 being bet down to 41. If you’re wondering what’s at stake in this game…Baltimore has a chance to catch New England for the #3 seed if the Ravens win and the Patriots are upset by Miami. That would mean a home game rematch against these very same Bengals instead of a home game against Indianapolis.

HOUSTON AT INDIANAPOLIS: Houston was hit hard here by sharps as an opener of -4 is up to -7 on the assumption that Houston will play hard to clinch their #1 seed in the AFC, while Indianapolis has nothing to play for with their #5 seed set in stone. The line didn’t move past the key number of seven, which tells you sharps liked the Texans below the key number…but not at it.

PHILADELPHIA AT NY GIANTS: This game was bet down when it was announced that Michael Vick would be back to quarterback the Eagles because of an injury to Nick Foles. The Giants had opened at -9.5 in a game they had to win just to have a chance to reach the playoffs. Vick is such an upgrade over Foles that the number fell to NYG -7. Once again, we have the sharps betting a game to a key number, but not past it.

DALLAS AT WASHINGTON: We have another time change here, as this one was time-changed to prime time for national coverage on NBC. The winner claims the NFC East title and a #4 seed in the NFC. Washington could still back into a Wildcard if they lose…though that option may be off the table by kickoff. The Redskins opened at -3.5 on their home field. Sharps bet the underdog Cowboys down to +3. Now that we’re sitting on the most popular key number, sharps will fade any public moves off the three before kickoff. The opening total of 50 has been bet down to 48.5 because of the potential for playoff intensity and weather.

CHICAGO AT DETROIT: No movement here, as Chicago opened at -3 on the road and stood pat. Even though this is a must-win for the Bears, sharps do respect this home dog in a divisional game…and they’re not fond of laying points on the road with Jay Cutler. We’re hearing sharps believe this is the right line. They’ll fade any square move off the three before kickoff.  

GREEN BAY AT MINNESOTA: Another time change game here, with a 4:25 ET start now in place. Similar situation to the game above with a three-point road favorite standing. Though, there are rumors of sharp action depending on news of Adrian Peterson’s abdomen injury. He’s missed some practice this week. Green Bay clinches the #2 seed and a bye if they win this game. Minnesota wins a Wildcard berth if they can spring the upset. Sharps would hit the Packers if they get confirmation before kickoff that Peterson will be less than 100%. Otherwise, they’ll fade any line moves caused by public money.

KANSAS CITY AT DENVER: Not much interest in this game from sharps. Denver opened as a huge 16-point favorite. Sharps assume Denver will take care of business against a team that would clinch the #1 seed by losing.

ARIZONA AT SAN FRANCISCO: The 49ers also opened as a big favorite. The opener of -15 was bet up to -16.5. It didn’t go to the key number of 17 though, as oddsmakers are confident sharp money would come in on the defensive dog at that line. Arizona doesn’t need to lose the way Kansas City does! San Francisco will know by kickoff if they have a chance to catch Green Bay for the #2 seed.

ST. LOUIS AT SEATTLE: Seattle opened at -10, and was bet up to -11. They’ve been winning by big margins recently, and sharps thought the opener offered value. Note that Seattle would take the NFC West if they win here and San Francisco gets upset by Arizona. Sharps are of the opinion that San Francisco will take care of business relatively early…which would make the second half meaningless for Seattle. That’s why there wasn’t a bigger move to a higher number. We can tell you now that sharps believe in Seattle, and are looking to back them in their Wildcard game against the NFC East winner.

Sharp action in meaningless games, going in rotation order…

NY JETS AT BUFFALO: Buffalo opened at -3.5, but the line was bet back to the field goal when it became clear that Mark Sanchez would return to the Jets lineup to replace the injured Greg McElroy. The total has dropped from 41 to 39 because of the potential for weather. We’re hearing an additional drop maybe in the offing.

CLEVELAND AT PITTSBURGH: No line yet because of the injury situation at quarterback for Cleveland.

JACKSONVILLE AT TENNESSEE: Tennessee opened at -4 and has stayed there. We’re hearing of now sharp interest in this one unless there’s surprising injury news before in the hours before kickoff.

TAMPA BAY AT ATLANTA: No line yet.

CAROLINA AT NEW ORLEANS: New Orleans has been bet up from -4 to -5.5 because sharps believe New Orleans will bring more intensity to the matchup. Carolina was lethargic in a quiet win over lowly Oakland last week, while the Saints beat Dallas on the road. The Saints and Drew Brees typically get sharp respect at home at reasonable prices.

OAKLAND AT SAN DIEGO: No line yet.

This will be a very heavily bet NFL weekend from the public because so many people are in Las Vegas for New Year’s. The big TV games in particular may see lines moves from square money. Keep an eye on that Sunday morning (and all day in the lead up to Dallas-Washington). Remember that sharps fade the public!

Also remember that the best way to think like a sharp and bet like a sharp on game day is to link up with our handicapping legends here at VegasSportsMasters. Check out our “buy picks” page for daily big play bulletins in the college bowls and the NFL. Be sure to check out your favorite legend’s packages for the rest of football through the Super Bowl.

Our next sharp report will be posted overnight Friday to get you ready for Saturday bowl action. Expanded sharp coverage continues through the BCS bowls and the NFL playoffs. Be sure you visit VSM every day!


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