Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, September 30, 2011 at 1:05 PM
This will be my final piece here at Vegas Sports Masters. As I’ve been explaining through the summer, I promised the new owners at Cal-Neva that I’ll devote 100% of my focus to my work as Head Oddsmaker and SportsBook Director, which makes it impossible to contribute here at VSM. I promised VSM at the time of the decision that I would stay through to end of September to honor the completion of all regular season baseball packages. I’m writing this on the final day of September.
I’d like to personally thank all of you who have been reading my articles here at the website the past few years…and those of you who have signed up for service. It was an honor serving you. Please come by and say hello if you happen to see me at one of the many Cal-Neva outlets in Las Vegas and Reno.
I also want to let you know that Vegas Sports Masters has long recognized the popularity of this particular feature…the report on how sharps are betting the NFL each and every week. They will continue that tradition for readers beginning next week with input from various respected sources on both sides of the line. You can still pop in every Friday to see what sharps are thinking in the NFL!
Let’s se what’s in play this week. Games are presented in rotation order.
DETROIT AT DALLAS: The Cowboys opened at -3 with the general perception that the teams were even, and home field advantage is worth three points. Sharps really like Detroit this year, and immediately came in on the underdog. The line has moved all the way down to Dallas -1. Some of that is concern about the teaser window. Sharps like Detroit, and like playing six-point teasers that cross both the 3 and the 7…so you can imagine that sharps would be all over Detroit +7.5 of +8 in their two-teamers. Moving the line down to Dallas -1 discourages that…and encourages Dallas money to come in and even out the betting balance a bit more. I want to emphasize how much sharps love Detroit in general this year. They didn’t want for the public to bet a “public team” like Dallas. They were very happy at +3, and the money kept coming in after the move. It has stopped at the current line though, suggesting the percentage value is gone near pick-em. The total has dropped from 47 to 46.
NEW ORLEANS AT JACKSONVILLE: New Orleans opened at -8, but the line has been bet down to -7. The Saints haven’t impressed much on the road since winning the Super Bowl. They can always put points up on the board…but the defense sure plays soft. You saw that in the playoffs last year against a bad Seattle team. Sharps took more than a TD, but stopped betting once the line reached a touchdown. The total has dropped from 46.5 down to 45 because the Jaguars need to run clock to compete in this one.
SAN FRANCISCO AT PHILADELPHIA: Philadelphia opened at -8.5, which is right in the teaser window. Places who want to discourage teasers have moved them to -9. Sharps haven’t been active yet. My take from talking to them is that they prefer the defensive dog…but there’s no reason to jump in yet because we’re not near a critical number. Maybe the public drives the Eagles higher over the weekend. If not, dog players will take the best number they can get Sunday morning.
WASHINGTON AT ST. LOUIS: The only interest here has been on the Over, with an opener of 42 jumping up to 43.5. Sharps generally like Overs indoors…and they know both teams are trying to move the ball through the air to this point in the season. It’s not like sharps expect a shootout. They just thought 42 was too low for the matchup. Washington is at -1.5, which is in the teaser window. This one may not move though because St. Louis +7.5 may not be all that big a bargain considering how badly they lost at home to Philadelphia and Baltimore. Sportsbooks don’t mind teasers in games with volatile potential. And, its not like the public is going to come in on St. Louis +7.5 in the same way they might with a power team like Philadelphia at -2.5. (Teaser players were hurt last week with both Philly and New England, who lost straight up).
TENNESSEE AT CLEVELAND: Another game without any movement yet on the team side. The total has moved up from 37 to 38.5. That tells you the weather is probably going to be nice in Cleveland on Sunday! Cleveland is -1.5, which puts the game in the teaser window. Sharps like defensive dogs in teasers…particularly in games with low totals because the value of each point is greater when scoring is more scarce. Is Cleveland capable of blowing out anybody right now? Well, anybody besides Indianapolis?
BUFFALO AT CINCINNATI: No movement at all here. Buffalo is -3…and there’s enough respect for the Bills that nobody jumped on the Bengals even though this is an obvious letdown spot for Buffalo after they upset New England. We may see some of that over the weekend though. Sharps who like Buffalo are waiting to see if there’s a public bandwagon on the team. I should also note that Cincinnati was a popular play at the opener last week against San Francisco…but they couldn’t even win straight up. And, Cincinnati Under its regular season win total was a sharp play over the summer. Not many fans of the Bengals right now amongst the smart money men.
MINNESOTA AT KANSAS CITY: You’re going to see Minnesota by -1.5 or -2 in most places. That’s right in the teaser window for another ugly underdog. Kansas City lost their first two games by such monster margins that including them in teasers may become very dicey. Sportsbooks are less afraid of games like this in the teaser window as a result. If the Chiefs lay down again, that’s going to bust up a lot of sharp teasers. No support for either of these two struggling teams. Sharps don’t trust either one of them frankly.
CAROLINA AT CHICAGO: Big action on the total here, with an opener of 44 falling down to 42. That might mean bad weather in Chicago on game day, or at least a lot of wind. Also, Chicago’s defense may be well-suited to pressure Cam Newton and keep the rookie quarterback from having a big day. The team side line hasn’t moved off of Bears -6.5. The lack of movement tells you that sharps have no interest in the Bears here. Obviously if you like the Bears you jump in QUICK before the line moves to -7. Should the public come in on Chicago Sunday, sharps are very likely to come in strong on Carolina +7. Remember that the lack of betting action near a critical number through the week tells you a lot about what sharps are thinking.
PITTSBURGH AT HOUSTON: Huge support for Houston here from sharps, as an opener of -3 (even lower in the earliest shops) has moved off the critical number with authority past -3.5 to -4. As I’ve explained in the past, it takes A LOT of money (or early one-sided sharp sentiment) to move off a critical number in the NFL. Steelers money isn’t exactly pouring in at +4 either. Sharps haven’t been impressed with the horrible road performances from Ben Roethlisberger’s team to this point. And, if you’ve been following along all summer…you know the sharps really respect Houston this year.
ATLANTA AT SEATTLE: Heavy action on the total has driven an opener of 41 down to 38.5. Maybe that’s a forecast for rain and wind in the Pacific Northwest. Or, more likely, a meeting of the very poor Seattle offense against the struggling road offense of Atlanta. The Falcons looked awful in Chicago and Tampa Bay. Seattle barely looks like an NFL team on that side of the ball to this point. Atlanta is laying -4.5, and the sharps haven’t tipped their hands yet…beyond the fact that they’re not interested in the favorite at this price or they would have bet ahead of public money that almost always comes in on the favorite.
NY GIANTS AT ARIZONA: We have another sustained move off a critical number here, as Arizona opened +3 but is now down to +2. Sharps don’t think much of Eli Manning these days. I should mention that sharps liked the Kevin Kolb acquisition in Arizona…but many were very disappointed with the Cards last weekend. Arizona as a small favorite in Seattle was a popular bet for sharps…until some buy back on the home dog came in once the game passed a field goal. Are sharps being stubborn?
MIAMI AT SAN DIEGO: Big support for the underdog here, as Miami +9 is down to +7. San Diego has been consistently overrated for awhile now. We’ve seen them struggle at home this year against the likes of Minnesota and Kansas City…plus they lost by two touchdowns to the Miami team that subsequently lost in Buffalo. Also in play here…sportsbooks DON’T want San Diego to be in the teaser window because the public would go crazy with San Diego -1.5 to -2.5 in two-team teasers. The public always thinks the Chargers are going to win blowouts…so that would be irresistible. So, sharp support on the dog and concern about teaser exposure is involved in this two-point move in my view.
DENVER AT GREEN BAY: Small support on the dog at Under, with Denver +13 falling to +12.5, and the total of 48 coming down to 46.5. I’ve mentioned before that there are some old school sharps who take every double digit dog they see in the NFL. Kansas City rose up in the role last week for them, and covered quite easily.
NEW ENGLAND AT OAKLAND: Wow…a two-point move on the team side and a three-point move on the total here. New England has fallen from -6 to -4 on the heels of their poor result in Buffalo last week (and the poor play of their defense overall). The total has shot up from 52 to 55 because this looks like another shootout. Both teams just played Buffalo in extremely high scoring games. That suggests to sharps that points will be plentiful again here. Plus, the numbers guys with their formulas are bound to get an Over here given the types of games these teams have played already.
NY JETS AT BALTIMORE: Interesting mix of support on the dog and Over here. The Jets have fallen from +4.5 to +3.5 (though, not all the way to the critical number it’s important to note). The total is up from 40 to 42.5. I think that’s based on how good Joe Flacco has looked against Pittsburgh and St. Louis, and how shaky the Jets defense looked in Oakland last week. It only takes a few big plays to put a low total like 40 in danger. Also…both of these quarterbacks could be interception prone against the opposing defenses, creating the possibility for a lot of cheap points.
INDIANAPOLIS AT TAMPA BAY: This may be the least bet Monday Night game of the year. Nothing yet on the team side…with even the old school guys not particularly excited about Indy +10. The total has fallen from 42 to 40.5 because it looks like Curtis Painter is going to play for the Colts. Sharps think he’s awful.
That wraps up my final report for you here at VSM. Thanks again to all of you who have been reading through the years. Remember that this website will continue to provide notes on what NFL sharps are thinking in Las Vegas and offshore every Friday right here in the blog. Best of luck to all of you in the future. I hope my work here at the website has helped you learn how to think like a sharp, and how to bet like a sharp!