Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Things aren’t as topsy turvy in the NFL as the media is suggesting right now. But, there are some good teams with surprisingly poor records. The market has been trying to determine how much “need to win” matters when Super Bowl contenders like New England and Green Bay start off the season 1-2. Those teams were involved in dicey finishes last week, which caused the media to overstate how “random” the game-to-game results were becoming across the league.
Hopefully officiating will be better this weekend given recent developments, and everyone can go back to remembering that good quarterbacks usually beat bad quarterbacks regardless of who’s officiating.
Let’s check in and see what the sharps are thinking about this week’s games. Note that Pittsburgh and Indianapolis have byes (the first of the year), so there are only 15 games on the NFL board…
CLEVELAND AT BALTIMORE: Not much interest from sharps here. We’ve seen a slight tick from -12 to -12.5 in a handful of places. Many sharps are still way down on Brandon Weeden. But, there are some old school guys who automatically back double digit dogs for historical reasons. That worked with Arizona over New England two weeks ago, and Kansas City at the opening price in New Orleans last week. The total has dropped a shade from 45 to 44.
NEW ENGLAND AT BUFFALO: Buffalo got strong support here as a divisional home dog. They opened +6 but have been bet down to +4. Sharps do like to go against New England’s soft defense with decent quarterbacks. Fitzpatrick has put some points on the board vs. the Pats recently. The total is up from 50 to 51.5 or 52 because of the same reasoning. Some anti-New England personnel issues in the mix there as well.
MINNESOTA AT DETROIT: There’s no line yet on this game as we go to press because Stafford’s availability is still in question. He’s such an important quarterback in terms of his team’s projected performance that Vegas won’t even post any “feeler” lines unless they have to on game day.
CAROLINA AT ATLANTA: The only move here has been on the total, as an opener of is down to 49 or 48.5 because of Cam Newton’s shaky play this year and Atlanta’s shutdown of Philip Rivers and San Diego last week. The team side opened at -7 and is staying there. Sharps would fade any public move based on what we’re hearing…backing Carolina at +7.5 as a divisional dog, but liking well-playing Atlanta at -6.5.
SAN FRANCISCO AT NY JETS: Just a half point move here, with SF opening at -3.5 and moving up to -4. Any opener above the key number of three tells you that oddsmakers expect the sharps to like the favorite…and they’re not giving them that critical number. Sharps didn’t expect the public to play the Jets the way they’ve looked the past two weeks. If anything, sharps are concerned the public will play San Francisco in the bounce-back sport. They jumped in early so scores like 14-10, 17-13, 24-20, or 28-24 would be winners rather than pushes or late pointspread losses were the line to keep scooting up.
SAN DIEGO AT KANSAS CITY: We flipped favorites here, as San Diego opened at -1.5 on the road, only to see sharps hit the Chiefs so that Kansas City is now laying a point. The Chiefs did play better last week after a slow start, matching what happened for them in 2011. San Diego looked so vulnerable vs. Atlanta that the market wouldn’t accept them as a road favorite vs. this divisional rival. The total is down from 46 to 45.
TENNESSEE AT HOUSTON: The Texans have been bet up from -11 to -12, with a chance to go to -12.5 from what we’re hearing. That’s important because it over-rode the old school passion for big dogs. Even though those guys took the big dog, so much Houston money came in on the favorite that the line went up anyway. Note that the public is likely to back Houston on game day given that team’s blowouts of Miami and Jacksonville (comparable opponents). Some of this early money was position-taking for middles in case squares did take the line to -13 or -14. The total is up from 43.5 to 45 given the lack of defense shown by the Titans last week vs. Detroit and earlier vs. New England.
SEATTLE AT ST. LOUIS: The only move of note here was on the total, as an opener of 40.5 is down to 38.5. Seattle’s playing low scoring grinders. St. Louis showed offensive issues last week in Chicago. Frankly, a bad opener from the oddsmakers here based on team tendencies. The Seahawks are laying 2.5 points, which is our first teaser window game. St. Louis +8.5 will be a popular choice for sharps in two-team teasers because line movement would cross the 3 and the 7.
MIAMI AT ARIZONA: The total was of more interest to sharps again here, with an opener of 41 dropping to 39.5. Sharps like what they’ve seen from Arizona’s defense, and figure they can keep the solid play going vs. a visiting rookie quarterback. They’d prefer to express that interest on the total rather than laying -6 or higher with Kevin Kolb. They’ve soured on him in general. All three Cardinals wins have been “defensive” wins.
OAKLAND AT DENVER: Support for Denver at the opener of -6 has lifted the line to -6.5. It hasn’t gone all the way to -7 though. Oakland did show signs of life while upsetting Pittsburgh last week. And, this is a rivalry both teams take seriously. Sharps would like hit the rivalry underdog if the public moved the number up to the key number of seven. The total is up a tick or two from an opener of 47.5 based on what’s seen as softening defenses based on what we’ve heard in discussions with sharps.
CINCINNATI AT JACKSONVILLE: This won’t be a highly bet game in Vegas. Though, the late start will give it a larger handle than normal. The total is up from 41.5 to 42.5 or 43 because Andy Dalton has been putting up numbers. Sharps would rather bet the Over with him than ask for a second straight good game from what’s probably a non-playoff team. The Bengals are -2, which would put Jacksonville in the teaser window.
NEW ORLEANS AT GREEN BAY: This was supposed to be the showcase game of the day! Instead, we have an 0-3 team visiting a 1-2 team and it’s very likely that at least one of these teams will miss the playoffs. There’s still plenty of time for Green Bay to recover from MNF’s robbery. They’d better snap into form here though. It’s not like they really played well vs. Seattle, or the prior week vs. Chicago. No movement yet…because sharps don’t want to lay the -7.5 against a strong offense. A total of 54 has scared everyone away for now.
WASHINGTON AT TAMPA BAY: Vegas opened TB -2.5 figuring people were looking to bet RGIII against a team with no offense. Sharps zigged the other way though, impressed with Tampa Bay’s defense. The Bucs are now -3 in most places. The total has fallen from 49 to 47.5 or 47. Another bad opener. Tampa Bay’s defense shone vs. Carolina and Dallas, and Washington’s throwing mostly conservative passes with Griffin.
NY GIANTS AT PHILADELPHIA: The total is down a point from 48 to 47, with the Eagles sitting at -2 on the team side. Sharps don’t trust Michael Vick at all. Those interested in taking the Giants are waiting to see if the public will drive the favorite up in this Sunday Night TV game. No reason to bet NYG at +2 in terms of point value unless it’s almost kickoff and that’s the best you’re going to get. If there’s no line move, sharps liking NYG will be focused on two-team teasers, where they can cross the 3 and the 7 for +8.
CHICAGO AT DALLAS: Big move on the total here, with an opener of 45 falling all the way to 42 or 41.5. Again, you get the sense that oddsmakers haven’t been watching any games! The Cowboys have played three Unders so far. Chicago was way Under its last two games. On the team side, Dallas opened at -3 and was bet up to -3.5. They still get respect at home from sharps when prices are that low.
That wraps up today’s look at the NFL markets. Look for this feature EVERY Thursday through the course of the NFL season. And, remember that the best way to think like a sharp and bet like a sharp is to visit VegasSportsMasters every day! Be sure you check out the display ads on the home page, and the expanded service details on the “buy picks” page for big play bulletins every day this weekend for the very best college and pro selections.