Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, October 28, 2011 at 11:58 AM
Time once again for another look at what sharps (professional wagerers) in Las Vegas are thinking about this week’s NFL games based on the market moves. We’ll take the games in rotation order so you can make notes in your schedule. Please be aware that, once again this week, six teams have byes. They are: Atlanta, Chicago, Green Bay, the NY Jets, Oakland, and Tampa Bay.
INDIANAPOLIS AT TENNESSEE: This game has presented a challenge for oddsmakers, with both teams coming off very bad looking losses last week. Tennessee opened at -9. Indy money dropped the game down into the teaser window with Tennessee at -8.5 (using Tennessee in two-team teasers would move the line six points and cross both the 3 and the 7). Sportsbooks know they’ll get hit hard with Tennessee in teasers if the line stays below -9…but they’ll be exposed with Indy bets plus the points if they don’t move the number. Who do they want to root for? Who do YOU want to root for? Sharps like Indy +9 or better, and Tennessee at anything under -3 in the teaser window. The total has gone up from 42 to 43.5 given the poor defense from these teams last week.
JACKSONVILLE AT HOUSTON: Interest here as been on the total, with an opener of 42 falling down to 40.5. Both teams have been playing good defense. And, divisional games are known to be conservative slobberknockers. Unders bettors figured there was no value in waiting because the public wasn’t going to love the Over in a Jacksonville game. The lack of movement on the team side line of Houston -9.5 suggests strong support for the big dog. If sharps liked Houston, they would have hit the Texans a half point below the critical number of -10. Since that DIDN’T happen, you can assume a preference for the Jags…and the Wise Guy money will come in that way should the public drive the line higher this weekend.
MINNESOTA AT CAROLINA: Respect for the dog as Minnesota +4 is down to +3.5. We’re seeing +3 in select spots. Many sportsbooks will be hesitant to risk being sided with a 3 and a 4 in play. Cam Newton has quickly gained respect in Vegas circles. Not quite enough respect to bring in money as a favorite at this price though. The total has moved up a bit from an opener of 47 to 47.5 or 48. Christian Ponder did get some points on the board last week vs. Green Bay.
NEW ORLEANS AT ST. LOUIS: Nobody in Vegas wants to touch St. Louis with a 10-foot pole. Even the old school traditionalists who take any double digit dog they see are now shying away from the Rams. An opener of New Orleans -13 (which is HUGE for a road favorite!) was bet up to -13.5 or -14 depending on the location. Some of that may have been position-taking figuring the public will drive the line even high given scores last week of 62-7 for the Saints and 34-7 for the losing Rams. Not much interest in the total.
ARIZONA AT BALTIMORE: The old school guys did bet the big dog here, as an opener of +13 for Arizona is down to +12.5 as we go to press. Sharps are very hesitant to lay big numbers except with the most explosive favorites or against the very worst dogs. We don’t have that here, so there was no favorite money to offset the dog money. That may come from squares this weekend…who will likely bet Baltimore in the bounce back spot after an embarrassing loss. The total has dropped from 44.5 to 43, which is more meaningful than you might realize because 45 is a borderline key number on Over/Unders. The game opened a half point before a key number and moved away from it.
MIAMI AT NY GIANTS: Double digit spreads are becoming more common with so many bad teams seemingly putting themselves in the race for the #1 draft pick. The Giants opened at -10 off their bye week. Miami money brought the line down to Giants by 9.5. The Dolphins just played a game at that stadium against the Jets, so home field advantage may be smaller here than normal. The total went up from 42 to 43.5 even with Miami playing a very low scoring game last week. That suggests decent weather and no problems with wind. Either that, or the totals guys just think the Giants are going to play shootouts all year.
WASHINGTON VS. BUFFALO (in Toronto): Big move here, with an opener of Buffalo -4 being bet all the way up to -6. With so few dramatic moves this week, that one really jumps out in a big way. The game is in Toronto, but Buffalo should have a home crowd. Washington didn’t impress last week in a road loss to Carolina after they made a quarterback change. Sharps believe in Buffalo, and don’t believe in John Beck! We should note that the support did stop at -6, failing to drive all the way up to -7.
DETROIT AT DENVER: No move on the team side line, which has stayed at Detroit -3. We’ve explained in the past it takes a lot of money to move off the three. The fact that the total has dropped from 43.5 to 42 or 41.5 may express some skepticism from sharps about Tim Tebow’s chances to thrive against this Detroit defense. Obviously Mathew Stafford’s injury issues are in play as well. No doubt that the smart money is waiting to hear more about his status for Sunday’s game.
NEW ENGLAND AT PITTSBURGH: Sportsbooks put up an opener of New England -2.5…which generally means they expect the sharps to like the dog…and they’ll be positioned on the dog against public money that comes in later on the favorite. Here, the line moved fairly quickly to Pats -3. Some of that is no doubt position-taking near a critical number. And, any sharps who did like the Pats wanted to act quickly when they were so close to the trey. Pittsburgh money may wait a little longer to see what they can get. The total is up a point from 51 to 52, suggesting again there won’t be weather issues in the North and Midwest this Sunday.
CLEVELAND AT SAN FRANCISCO: Sportsbooks once again have to deal with a game that may swing from 8.5 to 9 and back. San Francisco would be an extremely popular teaser bet…dropping down from -8.5 to -2.5. Cleveland +9 would inspire some sharp money on the dog because Cleveland’s been playing low scoring defensive battles this year…and that’s a lot of points for a grinder game. The total has already dropped from 39.5 to 38.5 because of that likely scenario. Again here, sharps will likely have a preference for Cleveland +9, and San Francisco -2.5 in two-team teasers.
CINCINNATI AT SEATTLE: Some in the media seemed to think Seattle was favored here. We saw someone pick Cincinnati as their upset special. Cincinnati is the favorite! An opener of Cincy -2 is up to -3 because it looks like Charlie Whitehurst will get the start again for the Seahawks. Were the line to sit at Cincy by 2.5, then Seattle +8.5 would be a popular teaser bet for sharps because of the strong home field history the Seahawks enjoy (particularly against teams from the AFC who rarely play there). The fact that Cincy got support on this field in terms of the straight up line tells you how little the sharps like Whitehurst.
DALLAS AT PHILADELPHIA: This is what happens when sharps like a favorite. Philadelphia opened at -3, and got bet up to -3.5…where the line stayed. The money hit early…drove the game off the key number…then DIDN’T move back to the key number. That’s support! The public tends to like Dallas as underdogs, which could bring this line back to the field goal on game day. We may see a tug-of-war situation between Philly -3 and -3.5 during the course of the afternoon since this is the prime time game on NBC. Nothing yet on the high total of 51. Any potential for weather could bring that number down below 50 in a big divisional game.
SAN DIEGO AT KANSAS CITY: More support the favorite here, though oddsmakers anticipated this a bit better. San Diego opened at -3.5, and has since moved up to -4 even though sharps know that some parts of the market like betting Monday Night Home Underdogs (and those parts of the market just won with Jacksonville last week!). Somebody important is high on the Chargers…which is why they were bet heavily last week in New York…and why they were bet again here despite a relatively poor performance in New York. No movement yet on the total of 44. It’s a bit early to be confident of what Monday Night weather will be like in that part of the country.
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.