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Submitted by SportsMasters Consensus on Friday, January 04, 2013 at 4:00 PM

Four big games this weekend as the NFL playoffs officially get underway. We’re going to take a look in this report at what sharps have been betting in all four games to this point in the week. We’ll also outline the best expectations for what sharps would do on game day if public money moves any numbers before kickoff.

Let’s take the games in schedule order…

CINCINNATI at HOUSTON

Opening Line: Houston by 5, total of 44

Lowest Line: Houston by 4

Current Line: Houston by 4.5, total of 43

Games in the pocket between the three and the seven on the Vegas board sometimes take awhile to get settled because there’s no clear “percentage” play involving a key number. If betting action is dormant, sportsbooks are known to move the line a half point in either direction just to see if they get any nibbles. Sportsbooks can’t make money if nobody’s betting!

Generally speaking, sharps aren’t enthusiastic about either team here. Those who preferred the dog took Cincinnati at the opener because they didn’t think slumping Houston would go up any higher than five. Those who don’t trust Cincinnati made small investments when the line dropped down to the four.

Sharps did prefer the Under at 44 because we have decent defenses on the field, and because Houston’s offense has slumped in recent weeks. They may not be any additional move downward because weather won’t help defenses in this stadium that has a retractable roof.

You can expect sharps to fade any public moves, particularly if squares hit the favorite and drive the number up to five or six. This doesn’t seem likely. Sportsbooks themselves would be comfortable with a position against a publicly bet favorite.

MINNESOTA at GREEN BAY

Opening Line: Green Bay by 9, total of 46

Current Line: Green Bay by 7.5, total of 46

There are some stores that opened Green Bay at -8 rather than -9. The earliest on the board had the nine. Sharps hit the dog right away, encouraging stragglers to post an eight. Sharps have still bet the dog at +8, and may continue to do so all the way down to the key number of seven. There may not be a sense of urgency to do that for dog lovers here because the public may bet the favorite on game day. Remember, this is a night game, so there’s plenty of time for square action to influence the number.

We’re hearing from our sources that sharps are very much impressed with Adrian Peterson’s ability to control a game at the moment. And, they’re also skeptical about Green Bay’s pass protection. Minnesota just missed covering on this field a few weeks ago, and is playing better now overall than they were back then. The Vikings are the sharp side at anything over a touchdown.

The total hasn’t moved even though the game is being played outdoors in cold weather. Sharps believe Green Bay is comfortable in these conditions. And, they’ve seen that the Vikings can put points on the board with their ground-based attack. If the possibility of precipitation enters the forecast, you will see some Under money hit the board. No sharp interest at the number of 46 with the current forecast.

INDIANAPOLIS at BALTIMORE

Opening Line: Baltimore by 6.5, total of 46.5

Current Line: Baltimore by 7, total of 47

Normally sharps prefer underdogs of more than a field goal in the playoffs because the games are likely to be competitive…and because sportsbooks typically shade lines higher based on public preferences. In this case, we had a line move UP anyway. If you were watching the lines this week, you know that the interest in Baltimore was keyed to the Ray Lewis announcement that this would be his final season. Sharps often “bet the news” when it happens just to have position before the public. If the Lewis announcement motivates the Ravens, they’re likely to play better than had been previously expected.

Is this the sharp view?

We’re hearing that much of that sharp money was more about position than sentiment for the Ravens. Sharps figured the public would buy into the motivation angle, possibly causing the line to move beyond the seven and set up middle possibilities around a key number.

*An early bet on Baltimore -6.5 can be bought back with Indy +7 even if the public doesn’t take the bait. Sharps who liked Indy can even come back over the top for more units than their initial investment.

*An early bet on Baltimore -6.5 can be really valuable if Indy +7.5 or higher becomes available. Sharps who like the dog can come back over the top, and would sweep all bets if the Ravens won by exactly seven.

There are some sharps who are skeptical about Andrew Luck’s ability to avoid turnovers on the road. They’re sticking with Baltimore -6.5.

There’s no interest on the total yet. Weather is supposed to be relatively clear, with wind in the single digits in mph. Sharps would look at the Under if the forecast changes to something that would help defenses more.

 

SEATTLE at WASHINGTON

Opening Line: Seattle by 1.5, total of 45

Current Line: Seattle by 3, total of 46

This was the biggest sharp move of the weekend in the NFL, with the Wise Guys hitting Seattle at the opener…then driving it all the way up to the key number. The lack of buy-back on Washington as a home dog at the key number tells you there’s a lot of support for the Seahawks. This is not shaping up as a tug-of-war situation between different factions of sharps with the favorite at -2.5 and the dog at +3.

Oddsmakers knew the sharps had great respect for Seattle. They thought opening the Seahawks as a road favorite would be enough to stem the tide of sharp money. Turns out the line needed to be at a field goal.

Who will the public take here? Typically squares prefer the favorites. But, that may be tougher for them here because it’s a ROAD favorite laying points to a celebrated home quarterback. It’s possible that the public will come in on Washington before kickoff. And, since this is the last game of the weekend, it will be the most bet game of the weekend because of the additional lead-in time. We COULD see a tug-of-war between sharps and squares if public sentiment is on the dog. The Wise Guys would gladly fade any move back to -2.5.

The best expectation is for a heavily bet game that sportsbooks hope doesn’t land exactly on Seattle by three.

The total has been bet up from 45 to 46 because weather conditions should be fine (the game’s not far from Baltimore!), and both offenses have established that they can move the ball with their exciting young quarterbacks. There are concerns about the field surface in Washington though, which has prevented a move any higher than 46 as of yet.

That’s how the sharps have been betting in the NFL. What should YOU be betting at the settled, widely available lines? Our VegasSportsMasters have made their reputations by knowing how to answer that question. You can purchase their plays all weekend in the NFL Wildcard games, the college bowls, and the busy college and pro basketball schedules right here at the website with your credit card.

We’re looking at a very exciting stretch for sports bettors…with Alabama-Notre Dame coming up Monday, the NFL playoffs getting even hotter with New England, Denver, San Francisco, and Atlanta soon joining the fray, and The Road to March Madness soon grabbing the headlines. Be sure you visit VSM every day for handicapping tips or market news. And link up with THE BEST BRAINS IN THE BUSINESS for THE BIGGEST WINNERS ON THE BOARD!


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