Tuesday, Sept. 4
LAS VEGAS – The sports books here were crowded with college football fans (and bettors) over the Labor Day Weekend, but that was just an opening act for the NFL taking over the headlining spot this weekend.
In this space every week, I’ll take a look back at the past weekend with an eye toward the upcoming games. While we’ll usually also include college football, with the NFL starting this weekend that’ll be our focus. While we don’t have any games to recap (since Week 4 of the preseason is the least important of them all), we have a full slate of 16 games that have been up since mid-April at the LVH SuperBook, even before the draft (the LVH was the first book in Vegas to post Week 1 lines).
Let’s take a look game-by-game to see how the current lines got where they are (not only here in Vegas but in the market overall) and find the bets you could have made, but more importantly where there might be value this weekend:
Cowboys-Giants (Wednesday): The LVH opened the Giants -3 (-120) and it was bet up to 3.5 and it sat there most of the summer until last week when it was looking like the Cowboys would be missing TE Jason Witten (Tony Romo’s main target) because of an injured spleen and the line was moved to 4. Witten keeps saying he’ll play if cleared by doctors and even though he's listed as "doubtful" the line inched back down to 3.5 on Tuesday morning.
Colts-Bears: This opened Bears -9.5 at LVH (after opening as low as 7.5 offshore) and had been bet up to 10, but then Andrew Luck played well in the preseason and the market moved back to 9.5. The handicap of this game comes down to whether you think Luck is for real, and if the Colts’ defense can slow down what is looking like an improved Bears offense (which I don’t think they can).
Eagles-Browns: Offshore opened this Eagles -6.5 and the LVH went with -6.5. It has since climbed past the “key number” of 7 all the way to 8. It’s always tempting to take a home dog getting more than a touchdown, but this is another case where underdog bettors are being asked to trust a rookie quarterback in Brandon Weeden.
Bills-Jets: Offshore and the LVH both opened this Jets -6 and immediately saw it bet down to 5 and there was a gradual move down to the current line of Jets -3 EV, with bettors wanting the Bills now having to lay around -120 to get that +3. The early moves were based on wise guys seeing the Bills as an up-and-coming team and betting over their season win total of 7.5, and the public also jumped on board with the circus-type atmosphere in New York and the Jets failing to score a TD until the last preseason game. If you like the Bills here, you missed out on the best numbers and it’s probably best to pass. If you agree the preseason is meaningless and the Jets are still better than the Bills, the -3 EV should be seen as a bargain.
Redskins-Saints: This line drew the most attention back in April as offshore made the Saints only -6 and it got bet up to -9 pretty quickly and the LVH opened at 11. The markets pretty much met at 10, and then the hype around Robert Griffin III started (remember: the openers came out before the draft) and we’ve seen a slight dip in the line as it now stands at a consensus Saints -9. If you’re like me and love big dogs in the NFL, this is tempting but the problem is we’re bucking the Saints who were 9-0 SU & ATS at home last year in the regular season and playoffs.
Patriots-Titans: This opened Pats -6.5 at the LVH and has come down to 6. A lot of people have jumped on the Titans, not because they like them but because it’s been widely reported that the Super Bowl loser has failed to cover the past 12 years. Still, a lot of people haven’t heard that trend and more than 80% of the bets on this game continue to come in on the Patriots. However, with all the big bets on the Titans the line has still drifted downward. Lay the points with the Pats only if you want to buck that trend.
Jaguars-Vikings: This was pretty solid at Vikes -3.5 everywhere for the longest time. Then, when Maurice-Jones Drew was a holdout it went to 4.5 and now has dipped back to 4. This might be the least-bet game of the weekend.
Dolphins-Texans: Offshore and LVH both opened the Texans -6 and money hasn’t stopped coming in on the favorite (even before the Dolphins were seen as a train wreck on “Hard Knocks"). The line is up to 12 and still climbing and I wish I had a ticket on Texans -6 just for the shot at a middle with the 7 and 10 working for me. I love double-digit dogs probably more than anyone, but I can’t back this one as I’m not sure the Dolphins will score.
Rams-Lions: This opened Lions -7.5 offshore and Lions -9.5 at LVH and met in the middle at 8.5. The line started dropping on Tuesday morning and we’ll see where it settles. The Lions could be a play at -7 (especially for those who grabbed Rams +8.5).
Falcons-Chiefs: Offshore opened the Falcons -1 and the LVH went with pick-em and we saw some Chiefs -1 available, but while many think the Chiefs will be competitive in the AFC, the money has pushed the Falcons to a 3-point favorite.
49ers-Packers: This game could be the tiebreaker for NFC playoff seeding by the end of the year. The LVH opened the Packers -6.5 after offshore had it at 5 and it’s pretty much stayed right there in the middle. I like the 49ers, but I still can’t fade the Packers in the opener at Lambeau.
Panthers-Buccaneers: This has been Panthers -2.5 pretty much since LVH hung that number. Tampa’s home field is the only thing keeping this from being at least a field goal. Though I rarely lay points and even more rare on the road, the value looks like it’s on the Panthers here.
Seahawks-Cardinals: The change of favorites in the Falcons-Chiefs game is nothing compared to this. LVH opened the Cards -2 after offshore had them -1.5, but as the preseason progressed and Russell Wilson won the starting QB battle over Kevin Kolb, it has flipped all the way to Seahawks -2.5. Several books have even gone to Seahawks -3 EV with the Cardinals +3 -120, and that might be the play now, especially if you believe John Skelton can get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald (which I do).
Steelers-Broncos: Denver was +8.5 with Tim Tebow back in January when they beat the Steelers in OT. Now, with Peyton Manning replacing Tebow, the Broncos opened -2 at LVH after opening 1.5 offshore. .The line drifted down to 1 at most books, but we’ve seen it rise to 2 early Tuesday. This is Steelers or pass for me on the perceived overadjustment alone.
Bengals-Ravens (Monday): Offshore opened this at Ravens -6 and LVH went with -7. It settled at 6 and looks pretty solid. The Bengals took a big step forward last year, but still not sure I’m willing to fade Ravens in this spot.
Chargers-Raiders (Monday): Offshore opened Chargers -2 and LVH went with pick-em. It’s pretty much been around settled at Chargers -1. The obvious popular side would be the Chargers laying such a short price, but it appears too many people have been burned by the Chargers in recent years (especially with their slow starts) that they’re not as willing to back them anymore.
Good luck this weekend, and we’ll recap all the highlights and trends from Week 1 next Tuesday with an early look at Week 2.
Dave Tuley is an award-winning journalist who has covered the Las Vegas race & sports beat since 1998, first for the GamingToday newspaper in Vegas and has written for Daily Racing Form since 2000. Tuley started his own website,ViewFromVegas.com, in 2007 and has written for other websites, including ESPN.com. In 2006, he won "Best News Story" by the Professional Football Writers of America, the only time a gambling story has won a PFWA award. Tuley, 45, grew up in the Chicago suburbs and is married with children in Vegas. His roots can be seen in the names of his three children: daughters Jordyn and Peyton (named for Walter Payton, not Peyton Manning) and son Maddux. Dave can be followed on Twitter @ViewFromVegas