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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, January 13, 2012 at 11:45 AM

Time once again to review what the sharps (professional wagerers) are thinking in this week’s NFL action. Early smart money did very well last week in the Wildcard games, with the exception of Pittsburgh-Denver. Early reads on the sides and totals came through in the other games. We’ve had some very clear line moves already in this week’s action. So, let’s jump right in. As always, games are presented in rotation order…

NEW ORLEANS AT SAN FRANCISCO: Very clear support for New Orleans, who opened at -3 on the road despite visiting a rested by team…and immediately got bet up to -3.5 and -4. We’ve told you in the past it takes a lot of money to move off the three in NFL betting. And, when a game moves off the three and STAYS there…you’re talking about very strong support. The sharps absolutely loved New Orleans at -3, and the money kept coming in at -3.5.

Not much interest in the total yet, as an opener of 47 hasn’t budged much. Maybe game day weather will change that. Any weather that favors the host will likely inspire Under money to come in. Should conditions be ideal, then sharps have already put their money on the team best suited to perfect weather.

DENVER AT NEW ENGLAND: New England opened at -13, and was bet up to -13.5. Some of that could have been position-taking rather than support though given New England’s blowout win at Denver just a few weeks ago. Sharps figured the public would come in over the weekend at any number below -14. They wanted to be in position to exploit that knowledge with split action at key numbers. Given the lack of movement up to the full 14, you get the impression that sharp Denver money would come in at that line.

The total is up a point from 49.5 to 50.5. Over bets last week did well, with early support for a high scoring game in New Orleans coming through, as well as the early Over money in Houston. A one-point move isn’t exactly a flood of money. But, given the general tendency for sharps to prefer Unders in playoff-style football, it is telling that this game moved up and didn’t come back down.

HOUSTON AT BALTIMORE: Baltimore opened at -7, and got bet up to -7.5. The seven isn’t quite as big as the three in terms of what it takes to move off the number. But, it is the second most important line…and we did see strong support for Baltimore at -7 that wasn’t counteracted when the line moved up. It’s going to take at least +8 to get Houston money involved, with tells you that sharps liked Baltimore a lot at the opener  of -7.

Big move on the total, as an opener of 38 fell to 36. There was market support for Houston’s offense last week in the betting, and that unit did put some points on the board. We have the exact opposite here, with smart money on the opponent and Under. That tells us the sharps don’t believe Houston’s offense is well-suited to thrive on the road against a top defense. If weather is an issue, that only hurts Houston’s productivity potential more.

NY GIANTS AT GREEN BAY: Our only move to the underdog this week was in the last game on the schedule. The NY Giants opened at +9, but were bet down to +7.5. This puts Vegas sportsbooks in an awkward position. If they move the line all the way down to -7, surely the public will come in hard on Green Bay at that key number. But, a line of Green Bay -7.5 already invites a lot of two-team teaser play that would move the Packers down to -1.5 and cross both the 3 and the 7. And, with Baltimore also sitting at -7.5 as we go to press, the whole world could be on that basic strategy teaser of Baltimore and Green Bay on Sunday. Rested home favorites at very cheap prices!

We can tell you that sharps were happy to get dangerous New York at +9 against the vulnerable Green Bay defense, and they liked +8.5 and +8 as well. They will also be happy to get Green Bay should it drop to -7 to shoot some middles…and will very likely be involved in basic strategy teasers.

The total is up two points from 51 to 53. That’s possibly an early bird alert that weather isn’t going to be a problem. Sharps tend NOT to bet Overs on games in the 50’s…yet they really loaded up here…just as they did in Detroit/New Orleans at a higher total last week. Sharps are expecting shootouts in the games involving similar sides New England and Green Bay (great offenses, vulnerable defenses).

That wraps up this week’s look at what sharps are thinking in the NFL Divisional Round. Back with you next week to look at Championship Sunday in both the AFC and NFC

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