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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 10:17 PM

The regular season may be over, but our market reports certainly aren’t! We’ll continue running these throughout the NFL playoffs. And, we’re trying to develop ways to include them for basketball in the coming days and weeks as well. Today, it’s time to run through sharp preferences in this weekend’s four WILDARD matchups. As always, we take the games in schedule order.

CINCINNATI AT HOUSTON: Support has been growing for Houston through the week on the news that Andy Dalton of Cincinnati was suffering from the flu. The line was a pretty solid -3 at regular vigorish for a substantial time. The vig has now moved to -120, even -125 as we write this. We’ve told you in the past it takes a lot of money to move a game off a three. Vegas sportsbooks REALLY don’t want to do that in a low totaled game because Houston by 3 would be a common final result. You move off the three…and bettors either push or win for the most part. Sportsbooks like it best when bettors LOSE!

Were Houston to go all the way to -3.5, and Dalton starts feeling great Friday Night or early Saturday, you’ll see a lot of game day money from the sharps.

The total opened at -38, and is now up to 38.5. Any rare excursions up to 39 have immediately come back to 38.5. We’re looking at a tightly defined game here because of quality defenses and inexperienced quarterbacks. Sharps do whatever they can regarding point value in scenarios like this.

DETROIT AT NEW ORLEANS: An opener of New Orleans -10 was bet up to -10.5 fairly quickly, and then to -11 for awhile. Detroit money came in at +11 and brought it back down to New Orleans -10.5. That fairly states sharp preferences. The New Orleans supports loved -10, and some liked -10.5. Detroit money believes +11 offers them value. Should the public move the line on game day (which would more likely be on the favorites based on games involving these teams over the last several weeks), we may see more sharp action come in again. You have to figure the early position-takers were happy with their number.

The earliest totals went up at 58, but Over support was clear from the outset. Later openers showed 58.5, but the Over money kept coming in. Things have settled at 59. There’s a longterm bias for UNDERS at high totals like this amongst sharps. So, it’s telling that the Over money came in anyway. Some of the old school guys stepped in to stabilize at 59.

ATLANTA AT NY GIANTS: We have another game sitting on the most important key number in football. So, we have another game where sportsbooks would rather adjust vigorish than move a half a point. Late in the week, the money came in on Atlanta, meaning it was more expensive to take the Falcons at +3 (usually -120 or so), but cheaper to take the Giants (even money). Generally though, Giants money does start to come in when it gets cheap. Basically, the market is saying this line is so tight that sharps are focusing on pennies rather than points.

The total opened at 49, and has been bet down to 47 or 47.5. Weekend weather might influence that even more. There was a lot of interest in the Over in New Orleans. It’s telling that there just wasn’t any all week in this one.

PITTSBURGH AT DENVER: Oddsmakers anticipated betting interest on Pittsburgh from sharps, so they opened the game at -7.5, a half point above a critical number. No way they wanted to risk getting pounded on a seven. Well, sharps kept hitting the Steelers anyway! The line rose to 8, 8.5, and to 9. As we were writing this, there were both 9’s and 8.5’s out there. So, it looks like the nine is the number that brings in Denver interest. Though, you have to wonder if reports about Roethlisberger’s “setback’ with his ankle was behind what put the brakes on the line movement.

On the total, the earliest opener was 35.5…but Under money hit that quick. Later openers at 35 also went down. Most places are currently showing 34…though we did see the stray 33.5 at press time. Sharps like the Under, needless to say. A lack of mobility for Roethlisberger only plays into that preference.

That wraps up this week’s look at what sharps are thinking in the NFL Wildcard games. Back with you a week from now to look at the four Divisional Round games that will bring Green Bay, San Francisco, New England, and Baltimore to the field for the first time in the postseason.

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