Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, November 24, 2011 at 10:22 PM
Time once again for another look at what sharps (professional wagerers) in Las Vegas are thinking about this weekend’s NFL games based on the market moves. We’ll take the games in rotation order so you can make notes in your schedule. Bye weeks are finished for the year. Six teams played their Week 12 games on Thanksgiving.
ARIZONA AT ST. LOUIS: No line had gone up as we went to press because of the Kevin Kolb situation. He’s perceived to be a few points better than John Skelton at the moment, so sportsbooks don’t want to give up any value by pricing for the wrong guy. Sharps aren’t particularly impressed with either team right now given last week’s performances by each. Kolb might get sharp money if they’re confident he’s close to being fully recovered.
BUFFALO AT NY JETS: The Jets opened at -8.5, and moved to -9 in most places. Sportsbooks don’t want the Jets in the basic strategy teaser window…because many would put the Jets -2.5 in two-teamers because Buffalo has been playing so badly lately. So, that move probably has les to do with Jets support at a high line, and more to do with defensive strategies from sportsbooks. The total has dropped from 43.5 to 42, possibly influenced by the low scoring first game…and maybe the potential for weather in the Northeast this weekend.
CLEVELAND AT CINCINNATI: Cincinnati has fallen from -7.5 to -7…which could again be part of teaser strategies. Cincinnati -1.5 would be popular in teasers as a home team playing an opponent without much offense. There may also be some true dog support in the mix because Cincinnati doesn’t have much recent history at high prices, nor do rookie quarterbacks. If you liked the dog, you’d sure want to take that hook while it was available. Some creative sharps may try to bet Cincinnati up to -7.5 on game day just to get the game into the teaser window.
HOUSTON AT JACKSONVILLE: Houston opened at -3.5, and had been at either -3.5 or -4 since then. That’s respect for Matt Leinart getting his first start after the bye week. If there was any love for Jacksonville from sharps, it would have shown up right away and brought the line back to the critical number of three. Houston has a lot of believers right now in Las Vegas because of a strong defense and potent running game. Matt Schaub wasn’t really having a blockbuster year before the injury. The total has come way down from 40 to 37.5 or even 37. Remember that 38 is a big number on totals, so that’s A LOT of money coming in on the Under. The Jags have been an Under team all season because of a strong defense and very poor offense. The totals guys…and the computer guys with their math all got big edges on the Under at the early lines.
CAROLINA AT INDIANAPOLIS: Indianapolis got early dog support at +4, and the line has come down to +3.5 or +3. Carolina money tends to hit at Panthers -3…so we have a game that now swings back and forth between the 3 and the 3.5. Indianapolis now has some margin for error in the race for the worst record, which means they can try to win a home game and they’d still be worst in the league. Some sharps like their chances to play a good game in that light. The total has moved up from 44.5 to 45.5 on the assumption Indy will play better offensively…and because Carolina’s defense has been so shaky in recent weeks. The number 45 is common for NFL totals, and the money blew right through it.
TAMPA BAY AT TENNESSEE: Another game that may swing between Tennessee -3 and Tampa Bay +3.5 depending on how the money comes in on Sunday. You’ll note that there aren’t many “public” favorites on the early card. A great Thanksgiving schedule has led to a very shaky early schedule in terms of TV appeal. That means few popular favorites bringing in chalk money Sunday morning. Three is such a common number, that sharps are going to bet the Titans at home at a field goal…but the Bucs if they get the hook. The total is up a point from 42 to 43, and even 43.5 in some places.
MINNESOTA AT ATLANTA: Atlanta opened at -9 and is up to -9.5. The Falcons have been playing better in recent weeks, and the bubble may have popped a bit for Christian Ponder. Then, when it became clear that Adrian Peterson was very likely to miss the game…there was just no reason to bet the Vikings at less than ten. Sharp money might come in at +10 if the public hits Atlanta on game day. Early money at -9 was position-taking for some investors…knowing they’d have a decent shot to buy back part of that at +10 if they wanted to. Some interest on the Over at 44, as we’re seeing some 44.5’s out there.
CHICAGO AT OAKLAND: There’s a big difference between Jay Cutler and Caleb Hanie at the quarterback position for Chicago. The adjustment because of Cutler’s injury has made Oakland a favorite of four or 4.5 points depending on where you shop. The game would have been closer to pick-em with Cutler…who had been earning respect in recent weeks from sharps. The total is 41 or 41.5…which is more than a field goal below what it would have been with Cutler on the field. Sharps don’t see the Bears as a playoff caliber team in their Power Ratings with Hanie at the helm.
WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE: Seattle opened at -4.5, with early Washington money bringing the number down to 3.5. It’s amazing how many unexciting favorites are on the card today in terms of public sentiments. Sharps had few teams to take position with, and were free to jump on any underdogs they liked right away because there was no reason to wait for the public to jump on somebody like Seattle, Carolina, or Tennessee.
NEW ENGLAND AT PHILADELPHIA: No early line in this game this week because of Michael Vick’s injury situation for the Eagles. Sharps have a number in mind, and will act accordingly once news is locked in and sportsbooks post something. Be sure to watch line moves on game day…because the public WANTS to bet this one…and sharps want to fade the public.
DENVER AT SAN DIEGO: Tebow is making a believer out of sharps! It’s more accurate to say that sharps like what they’re seeing from the team as a whole in recent weeks…which means the Broncos offer value as underdogs. They were +7 at the opener, but the line is now down to +6.5 without any San Diego sentiment moving the line back to the critical number. You regulars know this represents a strong vote of confidence for the dog because critical numbers are so important. A game drops from +7 to +6.5 and stays there? That’s a big dog vote. The total has dropped at least two points from 44.5 to 42.5 and lower. Denver’s playing defense. San Diego’s offense is struggling. Tebow is struggling except for the last two minutes…which all adds up to Under at the high opener. Sharps did finally find a stopping point.
PITTSBURGH AT KANSAS CITY: Not much happening yet with the news that Kyle Orton will is now a Kansas City Chief. Pittsburgh opened at -10.5 and that hasn’t budged as of press time. The total is up a tick from 39.5 to 40. Bad luck for NBC and ESPN that the Chiefs have been so prominent on the TV schedule the last two weeks.
NY GIANTS AT NEW ORLEANS: Looks like this game is going to flip-flop around the seven…with New Orleans -6.5 getting favorite money, NY Giants +7 bringing dog players into the mix. The total has fallen from 52 to 50.5. Scoring has calmed down so much in recent weeks that the Over guys aren’t betting the games in the 50’s any more. There are some knee-jerk Unders guys who are back in the mix now after playing duck-and-cover in the first few weeks in the season. You saw defenses take control on Thanksgiving Day.
That wraps up this week’s look at what sharps are thinking in the NFL. Back again with you next Friday afternoon for the next “Market Report” of Wise Guy betting in pro football