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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 11:57 AM

Even though Vegas sharps (professional wagerers) have a lot of respect for what the Seattle Seahawks have done this season, the betting line has not dropped below a touchdown for road underdog in Thursday Night’s nationally televised game against the San Francisco 49ers. Let’s go over what sharps are betting in that important NFC West showdown, and the rest of NFL Week Seven.

Note that Atlanta, Denver, Kansas City, Miami Philadelphia, and San Diego all have byes, so we have a 13-game card on tap this week.

SEATTLE AT SAN FRANCISCO: The first number up on the board was San Francisco by 7.5. That dropped to an even touchdown from initial sharp action. We’re hearing early on game day that some of the math guys who like San Francisco have decided that -7 is the best they’re going to see and are ready to step in. A split verdict overall from what we’re hearing, though more sharp money will be on Seattle at +7.5 than on San Francisco at -7. The total was bet up from 37.5 to the key number of 38, where it’s been sitting all week. That’s not an endorsement of the Over so much as a math play based on the percentage of games that land exactly on 38. 

TENNESSEE AT BUFFALO: This will not be a high action game this Sunday, with limited TV coverage and fan interest. Sharps haven’t stepped forward either. The opener of Buffalo -3.5 is largely still out there, so some stores have dropped down to a field goal with favorite vigorish. If you like Tennessee, shop for the hook. If you like Buffalo, try to find the key number. Sharps aren’t high on either of these teams right now…and would be most likely to invest in them only as medium or large underdogs against overrated favorites. Not much interest in the total. If we don’t mention the total in a game, it’s because sharps haven’t shown a meaningful preference.

ARIZONA AT MINNESOTA: Minnesota moved from an opener of -5.5 up to -6 on the confirmation that Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb would be out for several weeks. John Skelton will return to the position for a Cardinals’ offense that’s been consistently bad all season. It’s worth noting that a decent-sized underdog isn’t getting support amidst a season where underdogs are on fire against the spread. Sharps want underdogs who can score points.

CLEVELAND AT INDIANAPOLIS: Cleveland falls into that category (an underdog scoring points) based on what we’ve seen the past few weeks. And, they did get support from sharps at the opening line of +3 against the Colts. We’re now seeing Indy -2.5 in most places. That will put Cleveland in the two-team teaser window where you can move them across the 3 and the 7 for +8.5. Sharps who liked Cleveland at +3 will really like them at +8.5 in teasers. Note that this line move suggests that the market in composite now thinks Cleveland is a better team than Indianapolis. Home field by itself is worth three points in the NFL.

BALITMORE AT HOUSTON: Houston jumped from an opener of -4.5 to -6.5 because of all the bad injury news for the Ravens. It doesn’t hurt that we have a Super Bowl contender playing at home after a home loss. But, we’re hearing from sharps that this was largely an anti-Baltimore move based on the depleted defense. Note that the line didn’t move all the way to a full touchdown. We’re hearing that sharps would come in on the dog at +7 if the public pushes Houston to that key number.

GREEN BAY AT ST. LOUIS: Not much interest in this game, as Green Bay -5.5 has stayed solid all week. Green Bay did look great Sunday Night in Houston, but hasn’t played at a high enough level consistently this season to drive the line toward a full touchdown. St. Louis has offered value…but this is the first time in a few weeks that Sam Bradford is matched up against a top notch opposing quarterback. It’s one thing to hang tough with Arizona and Miami. Sharps aren’t nibbling, and would probably fade any game day line moves caused by the public.

DALLAS AT CAROLINA: Dallas opened at -2, and we’re seeing either -2 or -2.5 in most stores right now. That puts another underdog in the teaser window…which means many sharps will be pairing Cleveland with Carolina at +8.5 in two-teamers. The condensed league is limiting the number of favorites who will be in teasers because so few games are landing in the 7.5, 8, and 8.5 range. If you like playing basic strategy teasers…get ready to manage a kennel. The total is up a point from 44.5 to 45.5…one of the few totals moves worth mentioning on the Sunday card. That’s a bigger move than it seems because 45 is a strike number for a game near 3-points on the line (24-21). The money drove the line not just to 45, but past it.

WASHINGTON AT NY GIANTS: Oddsmakers opened the Giants as favorites of -6.5…kind of daring bettors to jump in on the hosts at less than a key number. Sharps didn’t bite, and…in fact…bet the Redskins. We’re now seeing Washington +5.5. Generally speaking…if you see an opener of 6.5…oddsmakers expect sharps to be on the dog and squares to be on the favorite. Oddsmakers were right about that in general terms, but are probably wishing now they had opened a tick lower than they did. The lack of totals interest so far suggests that weather isn’t going to be much of a factor this weekend. We would have seen Under money in outdoor sites if rain or wind was in the mid-range forecasts.

NEW ORLEANS AT TAMPA BAY: Probably a tug-of-war spot where sharps will be on Tampa Bay +3, while the public will be on New Orleans at -2.5. We’re hearing from a few sharps who thought this line should be more like one or two based on how the season has played out. The public loves betting on Drew Brees at cheap prices. So, we’ll have that tug of war around the critical number…and Tampa Bay will join the list of underdogs in basic strategy teasers. Again, if sharps like a dog at +3, they really like that dog in teasers at +8.5 based on the percentages.

NY JETS AT NEW ENGLAND: New England opened at -11, which struck a lot of people as high given the rivalry status of this matchup, and the fact that good defenses have been able to hang with the Patriots in Foxboro in recent seasons. The Jets won a playoff game on this field a couple of years back. Sharps hit the dog, so we’re seeing +10 now in most places. Not big passion for the Jets, but enough to drive the opener down to a key number. All the old school guys who bet all double digit dogs on principal were also involved quickly here.

JACKSONVILLE AT OAKLAND: This game has garnered a lot of discussion, but not a lot of action. Oakland opened at -4 even though many ratings systems had them better than one point superior to the Jags on a neutral field. Jacksonville is coming off a bye week…while Oakland is a dicey favorite. Sharps left the game alone. Squares are deciding whether or not they want to trust an inconsistent favorite at a price that came lower than they expected. The total is up a point from 42.5 to 43.5. We’re hearing that’s from the math guys who think Oakland’s general tendencies of poor defense but a decent offense will determine the flow of the game.

PITTSBURGH AT CINCINATI: Pittsburgh opened at -1.5 and has stayed there. This puts Cincinnati on the dog-teaser list because the six-point move crosses both the 3 and the 7. It’s hard to justify a Pittsburgh bet at this price because the team has played so poorly on the road this year. If you can’t beat Tennessee on the road, how can you lay points in Cincinnati?! But, the Bengals have been a disappointment too. Sharps will focus on teasers, and will fade any public move on game day. This strikes them as the right price based on what we’re hearing (and, “right prices” make teasers even stronger because those six points offer important value).

DETROIT AT CHICAGO: This has become an interesting game because many stat methodologies actually have Chicago as a Super Bowl team right now. A few prominent publications currently rank the Bears as #1 in the NFL, even with that dismal showing in Green Bay earlier this season. Is Chicago really that good? An opener of Bears -6 showed them respect. Some sharps (the math guys) have laid that number to drive the line to -6.5 in some locales. We know of a few syndicates that would take the Lions at +7 were the public to drive the number any higher before Monday Night’s kickoff. Note that Chicago becomes an EXTREME “public” team in their best years because of the national fan base…and the fact that many in the Las Vegas media have roots in Chicago. If the Bears do impress Monday, they may become overpriced very quickly because of a public groundswell.

That wraps up today’s look at the NFL markets. 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.

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