Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Friday, August 28, 2015 at 11:00 AM
Time for the NFL dress rehearsals, the most actively bet weekend of the Preseason every summer. Pro football betting action will cut way back next week because games featuring mostly non-starters are scheduled against the first night of regular season college football. THIS is the week to pay attention to if you’re thinking about the regular season, from a team or “market” perspective.
For the teams…obviously this is the closest thing you’ll see to regular season pro football until Week One after Labor Day. For the market…oddsmakers have priced the games close to where they’d be during the regular season for the most part. And, sharps are hinting at who they’ll be backing and fading in September with their betting action.
Let’s run through the full weekend in order of the official Nevada rotation. I’ll only mention Over/Unders in games that have seen a move of at least a full point. Remember that this card will once again see a lot of “late” moves. That’s been common in the first two weeks. Sharps want to pin down as best as possible what the quarterback plans are for each game. That encourages patience rather than jumping in midweek.
NEW ENGLAND AT CAROLINA: This game is a pick-em. That actually represents a lot of respect for the visiting Patriots because home field advantage is worth 2-3 points at this stage of the Preseason. Carolina did make the playoffs last year. I’m hearing that the Wise Guys liked what they saw from Jimmy Garappolo last week against New Orleans. They expect both Tom Brady and Garappolo to put points on the board. Oddsmakers correctly defended against potential Patriots bets with an opener at pick-em.
TENNESSEE AT KANSAS CITY: Clear sharp sentiment for Kansas City, as an already high opener (for a Preseason game) of -4.5 has been bet up to -5.5 and -6. We may see underdog money come in on the six because the Wise Guys have liked what they’ve seen from the Titans offense thus far. Long time bettors who liked some Andy Reid trends stepped in early. Statheads optimistic about a Titans bounce back this season are waiting to see what they can get.
DETROIT AT JACKSONVILLE (on CBS): Not much betting interest on the team side yet in this TV game. An opener of Jaguars -2 has stood pat. But, the total has dropped a point from 42 to 41. Remember that Jim Caldwell is the coach of the Lions…and he tends to emphasize defense and conservative play when it matters. I’m hearing that’s a big part of why the totals guys played Under.
PITTSBURGH AT BUFFALO (NFL Network): Moving now to a busy Saturday. We may have a tug-of-war developing between Buffalo -2.5 and Pittsburgh +3. My read is that Pittsburgh +3 gets the much stronger tug. So...sportsbooks have to decide how they’re going to be one-sided in this one. Sharps are focused on line value here, even if the “3” is less of a factor in the Preseason generally, and may lose some impact overall after the rules change that made extra points more difficult to convert.
NY JETS VS. NY GIANTS: Nothing happening yet in this one. The Giants are -1.5 and 42 in this neutral field meeting. Keep an eye on game day line movements. It’s very common for “New York money” to work its way toward Vegas if there’s an important move based on local information.
ATLANTA AT MIAMI: There’s been interest on the Over, as an opener of 43 has been bet up to 44. Atlanta’s defense hasn’t looked very good at all yet this month. That creates potential for a shootout. The Falcons have played to 55 and 52 so far. Nothing yet on the team side, with Miami still sitting at the opener of -3.5. The fact that there WASN’T interest on the dog at that price is telling you something. We’ve talked about that often in the past. Sharps didn’t bet the key number for value…which means they’re pessimistic about the Falcons this week (and probably this season).
MINNESOTA AT DALLAS: A lot of early action here, as the opener of Dallas -3 in its home opener was bet down to Dallas -1. I’ve been hearing buzz all summer about the sharps being high on the Vikings. That’s as clear as can be in the dress rehearsal. Though, some of that move is based on Dallas showing so little interest in Preseason results lately.
CLEVELAND AT TAMPA BAY: Another tug-of-war near the key number of 3. As a composite, sharps like Tampa Bay at -2.5, but Cleveland at +3. What that really means is that the groups preferring the Bucs get their money in at -2.5…then support for the Browns waits until it sees the full three. Note that Johnny Manziel will miss this game and the rest of Preseason with an ailing throwing arm. We do have a move of a point on the Over/Under, with an opener of 42.5 being bet down to 41.5.
WASHINGTON AT BALTIMORE: Very stable game so far with Baltimore -4 and 43.5 holding firm through the week. Washington’s a tricky team for Preseason handicapping. They have the kind of QB rotation that can work very well in August…but then none of their guys are likely to win consistently once the regular season starts. I’m hearing a lot of skepticism about this team from local sharps…but that may show up more on the board in a couple of weeks.
CHICAGO AT CINCINNATI: Cincinnati’s generally been at -3.5 all week…though some stores have tested -4. Another example where the lack of support for a dog at +3.5 is telling you a lot. Some old school guys are betting the reversal…meaning they think Cincinnati will bounce back from a horrible Monday Night game…while Chicago falls back off a misleading road victory at Indianapolis. Of course, sharps have mostly given up on Jay Cutler…and he’s going to play a lot.
PHILADELPHIA AT GREEN BAY: This is the only line this week that “doesn’t make sense” based on what a regular season meeting would look like. Oddsmakers opened the game at Green Bay -3. Philadelphia has been pounded so hard that the Eagles are now a -3 point favorite with a legitimate chance to go even higher. Clearly that’s telling you that sharps expect Philadelphia to keep playing very aggressively with all of its quarterbacks…while Green Bay will probably call it a night after Aaron Rodgers gets a couple of scores on the board. Wise Guys who got in early are very happy with their positions.
INDIANAPOLIS AT ST. LOUIS: Nothing happening yet here with St. Louis still sitting on -2 and 42.5. Both teams have looked awful in both games each has played! Nobody wants a piece of either one. It is interesting to me that the stock of Nick Foles has dropped in the eyes of many sharps. They believe his stats in Philadelphia were a product of the system…and that he may struggle for awhile making an adjustment to the Rams’ approach.
SEATTLE AT SAN DIEGO (CBS): Only a few nibbles here and there at the openers of Seattle -1 and 42. A lot of sharps took a big hit last week when Seattle covered the +3 at Kansas City. Well, early buyers of the Chiefs cashed at +1 and pick-em, then pushed at -1. Late arrivers to the anti-Seattle bandwagon lost with the Chiefs on game day. That’s probably affecting the thinking of those planning to fade Seattle this week.
SAN FRANCISCO AT DENVER: We’re starting to see support for Denver, as an opener of -5 is now up to -5.5 in most places. I’ve seen the six get tested. Generally speaking…sharps are very skeptical of San Francisco playing well this season for their new head coach. There would be a lot of love for the Broncos in this spot if Peyton Manning had looked sharper last week in Houston. The backups were sharp enough to get the win and cover. Monitor this one on game day…I could see a bandwagon effect starting up for a public team like the Broncos.
HOUSTON AT NEW ORLEANS (FOX): We’re pretty far in advance of this kickoff by Preseason standards…meaning that sharps usually aren’t acting this early unless something fairly obvious is in play. The Saints are -3.5 and 44. It might be Sunday morning before the Wise Guys get involved, if they’re going to get involved.
ARIZONA AT OAKLAND (NBC): Some dancing around pick-em early in the week in our finale. I’ve seen both teams listed at -1 at one time or another. Surprised sharps are expressing respect for the Raiders winning stats in both of their first two games (they hadn’t expected that vs. the Rams and Vikings). While quite a few Wise guys lost with Arizona either in their opener vs. Kansas City or their follow-up with San Diego. And, both of those games were at home! It will be interesting to see how game-day money comes in.
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That wraps up my “sharps” coverage for the NFL Preseason. There’s so little betting interest in the Week Four finales historically that I’m going to focus next week on the college football openers. I’ll have a report Thursday that covers the full college card for Thursday and Friday. Then, on Friday, a special report that covers all the marquee TV matchups on Saturday (like Alabama-Wisconsin, Notre Dame-Texas, and Texas A&M-Arizona State). After Labor Day, we’ll settle into our regular schedule for both the NFL and marquee college action.
Thanks to all of you who were with me last season. YOU made this one of the most widely read features in handicapping history! I look forward to serving you again through the 2015 campaign. See you next week.
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