NFL Week 16 & Bowls
Tuesday December 18
LAS VEGAS – The bowl season kicked off last Saturday with two games, but that was nothing compared to the bowl bonanza that we have coming up over the better part of the next three weeks.
In the opener, the New Mexico Bowl, Arizona rallied to beat Nevada 49-48 but failed to cover the 8.5-point spread while sailing over the total of 80. In the nightcap, Utah St. pulled away from Toledo in the second half of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl to win 41-15 and cover the 10.5-point spread. That game stayed under the total of 60, though it was looking like a stone-cold under through three quarters until Utah St. started scoring left and right.
As it was, the books got the split results they also hope for with 1 favorite, 1 underdog, 1 over and 1 under, and only the Utah St.-Toledo total stayed within a teaser of the posted line. Who knows how those trends will look after we start rolling through the bowls on almost a daily basis.
In fact, starting Saturday, there are bowl games on 16 of the next 19 days with the only exceptions being the NFL Sundays in Weeks 16 and 17 on Dec. 23 and 30, respectively, and Christmas Day, Dec. 25.
The sports books here are reporting a decent amount of early action on the rest of the bowl schedule, though we haven’t seen many games really steam one way or the other. But we’ll run through some notable moves:
Dec. 20, Poinsettia Bowl: BYU opened -2.5 here in Vegas against San Diego St. and has been bet up to 3 and some books have even gone to 3.5.
Dec. 22, Maaco Las Vegas Bowl: This game is in our own backyard. The line opened as high as Boise St. -7.5 at the Wynn Las Vegas back when the lines were first posted on Dec. 3. It opened at 5.5 at a lot of other books and continued to attract money on Washington as it went as low as 4.5 at the LVH and the MGN, but now seems to be trending back up as of early Tuesday morning.
Dec. 27, Belk Bowl: Cincinnati opened around a 10.5 to 11-point favorite over Duke in this matchup but early bettors pounded it down to 7.5 right away. Since then, it’s been wavering between 7.5 and some books dipping to 7, where is where we see some buyback on the favorite.
Jan. 1, Capital One Bowl: Most of the marquee games have had spreads sitting pretty stagnant – even my Northern Illinois Huskies as 13.5-point underdogs to Florida St. in the Orange Bowl – but Georgia opened -8 at the Wynn on this game against Nebraska and while others opened at 9.5 it’s been bet to Georgia -10. We’ve also seen “over” money push this from the opener of 57 up to 60 (and even higher at some books).
Jan. 3, Fiesta Bowl: Oregon opened -8 over Kansas St. at the Wynn and most books went with 8.5. After many dipped to 8 in the first 24 hours of betting back on Dec. 3, the line mostly drifted up to 8.5 but now we’re seeing several Vegas books going to 9 with even some at 9.5 as the money continues to come in on the Ducks.
Jan. 4, Cotton Bowl: People are backing Heisman winner Johnny Manziel and his Texas A&M team as the Aggies opened -3 at Wynn and -3.5 at most other books but have been bet to -4.5 over Oklahoma.
Jan. 7, BCS Championship Game: As we wrote on “Vegas Beat” two weeks ago, the title game opened between Alabama -7.5 and -10.5 over Notre Dame. It first settled at 9 but has since adjusted to Alabama -9.5 with even some books going to 10, including the MGM books and the Treasure Island here in Vegas and several books offshore.
We’re certainly not forgetting the NFL. And oh what a difference a week makes.
At this time last week, we were talking about how the Patriots had blown out the Texans on Monday Night Football and had been lowered to the 9-4 favorite to win the Super Bowl. Just six days later, the Patriots lost 41-34 to the 49ers on Sunday Night Football and now the 49ers are the 7-2 favorite at the LVH SuperBook after initially being lowered to 3-1. The Broncos are now the second choice at 4-1 with the Patriots at 9-2 and the Packers and Falcons at 6-1.
This weekend, we’re seeing several big spreads with the Packers -11.5 vs. the Titans, Patriots -14 vs. the Jaguars, and Broncos -13 vs. the Browns. We also have the Texans -7.5 vs. the Vikings, who are also fighting for a playoff spot.
There are also several competitive matchups with serious playoff implications including the 49ers-Seahawks game right around pick-em (with each favored by 1 at different books) and the Giants -2 against the Ravens. Of course we saw this past Sunday that just because a game is assumed to be closely matched that it doesn’t always work out that way (Falcons 34-0 over Giants as 1-point favorite, Saints 41-0 over Buccaneers as 3.5-point favorite, and on and on).
Good luck this weekend (and every weekend).
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