Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Friday, December 5, 2014 at 4:00 PM
It’s been weeks since we’ve had a Sunday this busy. No byes on the schedule any more. Only one game this past Thursday rather than the three we had for Thanksgiving. So, it’s 14 games on tap for Sunday, including many matchups that will weigh very heavily on the playoff picture in both the AFC and NFC.
This will easily be one of the most heavily bet Sunday cards of the season. There isn’t one true blockbuster along the lines of New England/Green Bay or Denver/New England like we’ve had in recent memory. But, there are several matchups involving playoff caliber teams going head to head. Sportsbooks are looking forward to what they hope will be a very profitable day.
As are the sharps! Professional wagerers and sportsbooks are often rooting for the same teams on big days like this because they’re positioned against the public. Let’s see how professional wagerers have been betting Week 14 thus far. As always, games are presented in official Nevada rotation order so you can makes notes in your schedules.
BALTIMORE AT MIAMI: Looks like we have a tug-of-war in play already here between Miami -2.5 and Baltimore +3. The opener of Miami -3 was hit by Ravens backers. But, Miami money comes in whenever the game drops below the critical number of three. Note that stores showing Miami -2.5 will also be taking basic strategy teaser bets from sharps who will move Baltimore up from +2.5 to +8.5 (crossing both the 3 and 7 at one time). The opening total of 45 has been bet up to either 45.5 or 46. From this point forward, I’ll only mention totals that have moved at least a point due to sharp action.
PITTSBURGH AT CINCINNATI: Basically nothing happening so far on the openers of Cincinnati -3 and 47. These teams are seen as about even by most Power Ratings. Those showing Cincinnati as slightly better might push the vigorish higher. There doesn’t seem to be enough sentiment to push the game off the key number. Sharps would fade any move off the three caused by weekend public action. Another big weekend in the AFC North with all four teams playing important games vs. other playoff contenders.
INDIANAPOLIS AT CLEVELAND: An opener of Indianapolis -3 has been bet up to -3.5 or -4. We’ve seen this a few times already this season with the Colts on the road in this price range. Sharps will push them above the key number…and there’s no buyback after the move. A lot of Wise Guys respect Andrew Luck’s ability to win close games, making anything at -3 or better seem like a great bet because you’re looking at push or win as the most likely scenarios. There was some talk about Johnny Manziel getting the start for Cleveland over Brian Hoyer. That didn’t pan out. Sharps don’t have the Browns Power-Rated much differently either way. Hoyer has struggled in recent weeks, and Cleveland is priced as a non-contender no matter what the standings say. Home field is worth three points, so Indy as seen as six to seven points better than Cleveland with Hoyer on a neutral field.
HOUSTON AT JACKSONVILLE: An opener of Houston -3.5 was bet all the way up to -6. Sharps are back on the Texans bandwagon with Ryan Fitzpatrick playing quarterback again…at least against lower echelon opponents. Jacksonville got a win last week vs. the NY Giants, which means they may not want to risk winning again in the race for the #1 draft pick! Houston drilled Tennessee last week…and sharps believe they’ll drill the Jaguars too.
NY GIANTS AT TENNESSEE: This will be one of the least bet games of the day as a rare matchup of non-contenders. If not for a New York team being involved, it would barely get touched at all. Stores are either showing pick-em or NYG -1 as we publish. The total is up from 45 to 46 because lame duck games often see half-hearted defensive efforts.
CAROLINA AT NEW ORLEANS: Looks like we’ll have a tug-of-war here between New Orleans -9.5 and Carolina +10. Sharps haven’t been very interested in either of late, though New Orleans did finally play a good game at Pittsburgh last week. The Saints played very well in the first meeting between these teams…which is likely to encourage squares to bet them here at -10 or less. The Wise Guys will fade that with a double digit divisional dog. Some old school guys will bet all double digit dogs, and double up if it’s a divisional game. The Over/Under is up from 48.5 to 50 thanks to the resurgence of the New Orleans offense last week.
TAMPA BAY AT DETROIT: Similar story here as a tug-of-war is likely between Detroit -9.5 and Tampa Bay +10 in a game involving a must-win home favorite against a non-contending road underdog. Though, this isn’t a divisional game, so raw betting volume will probably be less. Squares love betting Drew Brees and the Saints more than they love betting Detroit. And, old school sharps love betting big divisional dogs more. Same prices involved, but a less intense tug-of-war.
ST. LOUIS AT WASHINGTON: St. Louis has been getting respect in the line, particularly when matched up against non-contenders. The slaughter of Oakland last week didn’t change anyone’s mind. An opener of St. Louis -1.5 has been bet up to the key number of -3. The Rams are a road favorite…so that equates to -6 at a neutral site, or -9 at home. Big point differential for two non-contenders. Sharps are basically pricing the Rams like a Wildcard team no matter what the standings show. The Over/Under is up from 44 to 45, possibly because both teams played high scoring games last week…and there’s no reason for a defensive struggle in a matchup like this.
NY JETS AT MINNESOTA: Minnesota was bet up from -5.5 to -6, with the Jets in a short preparation week for a non-conference road game on the heels of a divisional heartbreaker. If Minnesota’s offense could be trusted, sharps would have hit the Vikings even harder.
BUFFALO AT DENVER: We move to the four late afternoon starts now (or, early afternoon starts if you live here in Las Vegas). Once again we have a tug-of-war around the ten. Money is coming in on Denver -9.5 and Buffalo +10. The public will be more prone to bet Peyton Manning and Denver in the hours before kickoff given the big Sunday Night win over Kansas City. That ended a bit of a cover slump. Sharps have a lot of respect for this Buffalo defense, and will gladly take +10 when offered. The total of 48.5 has been bet down to 47.5 because of respect for the Bills defense.
KANSAS CITY AT ARIZONA: Interesting game here. Sharps have fallen out of love with the Chiefs. Non-cover losses against Oakland and Denver ended what had been an 8-1 ATS cover streak. The game vs. Denver in particular was seen as a “flunked test.” Arizona has seemingly fallen apart in pressure situations since the Carson Palmer injury. No love for either side at the opener of pick-em. Some stores are testing KC -1 to see if that generates any action.
SAN FRANCISCO AT OAKLAND: San Francisco has been bet up from an opener of -7 to -8. That will have the Niners in the teaser window…with sharps and squares alike likely to load up on San Francisco -2 in two-teamers. How hard will Oakland be trying? They’re battling with Jacksonville for the #1 draft pick. And, the Raiders sure no-showed in St. Louis last week.
SEATTLE AT PHILADELPHIA: Great matchup here. You may recall that sharps were really in love with Seattle in the two seasons leading up to their Super Bowl win. They backed off this season because of the Super Bowl letdown effect. But, I’m hearing rumblings again of a new surge of sharp interest in Seattle. That’s why this line is only Philadelphia -1 at home, right after the Eagles looked fantastic in crushing Dallas on Thanksgiving afternoon. The Wise Guys have lifted Seattle back up to Super Bowl caliber in their Power Ratings. I’m very interested to see how the public bets this one in the hours leading up to kickoff. It’s a marquee TV event…but both teams are usually square darlings. The total has been bet down from 49.5 to 48, which is another show of support for Seattle’s defensive-minded approach.
NEW ENGLAND AT SAN DIEGO (Sunday Night): New England opened at -3, and was quickly bet up to -3.5 where it’s stood pat ever since. Here’s an example of what support for a favorite at -3 looks like. So, when it doesn’t happen in other games (like Pittsburgh/Cincinnati for example), you know that sharps DON’T like the favorite. Sharps announce their intentions very quickly on favorites because they know they have to bet quickly in advance of the public. For now, this isn’t shaping up as a tug-of-war game because there’s not a lot of support for the Chargers. That could change on game day…because San Diego money has no reason to bet early. Dog lovers will see how many points they can get.
ATLANTA AT GREEN BAY (Monday Night): Green Bay was hit hard early, even though we had a double digit opener. That’s telling…because it’s rare for sharps to lay something like -11 out of the gate in an NFL game…particularly when the result is important to both teams. It’s a must-win game for Atlanta…but the Wise Guys still bet Green Bay at -11, -11.5, and -12. I’m currently seeing -12.5 and even a -13 out there. This tells you how much respect the Packers are getting at home off the blowout of Philadelphia and the win over New England. And, it’s also an indictment of the poor Atlanta defense that will likely be overmatched by the passing arm of Aaron Rodgers. The old school dog guys are greatly outnumbered here.
This report is going up on Friday afternoon. So, as of publication time, the full CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND is still ahead of us. You can purchase my top college plays Friday and Saturday, and then my top NFL plays Sunday and Monday right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about my personal service, call the VSM office Friday afternoon or either weekend morning at 1-888-777-4155. Be sure to ask about early season basketball when you call. I really love attacking soft college basketball lines in December!
That’s it for this week’s sharps reports. I’ll be back again next Thursday to look at Arizona/St. Louis in the NFL (Thursday Night) and the Army/Navy game (Saturday afternoon). With only two pre-Sunday games next week, that will allow for some time to talk about basketball in that Thursday update. Then, the standard NFL report will run next Friday afternoon. Bowl coverage will be intense, and will begin just before the postseason slate kicks off December 20.
Have a great Championship Weekend!
Be sure to follow:
Richie B. on twitter @vsm_baccellieri
Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters