Brian Spurlock, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Andrew Luck
- Week 17 in the NFL Is oftentimes a crapshoot, as certain teams will be resting many of their starting players.
- With that in mind, the betting market is a little bit harder to read for this Sunday's action.
LAS VEGAS — Week 17 is one of the most difficult cards to bet every season, as so many games feature at least one team with nothing to play for.
With so much on the line and up in the air, it’s no wonder that the betting market is a little murkier than usual for the regular season finale.
Philadelphia (-7) at Washington | Over/Under: 41.5
It’s pretty simple math on this game.
The Eagles have to win against Josh Johnson and the Redskins and then hope Chicago cares enough to try to eliminate the Vikings in Minnesota. Nobody is sure what the Bears plan will be in that game so the Eagles can only try to win the game and hope.
The Eagles are one of the hottest teams in the league right now and have it all to play for against a lame duck, so it’s no wonder that bettors around town have been hammering the Eagles.
So far, the line has held fast at -6.5 or -7 around town, but that may not be the case for much longer.
“We’re currently at -7 on Philly but there’s a possibility we could go to -7.5 by Sunday. I’m still surprised to see some -6.5’s out there,” Tony Miller, executive director of the Golden Nugget sportsbook said. “I really thought I’d be getting some Redskins money by now but that doesn’t seem to be the case and I don’t think that will change one bit come kickoff time Sunday. I think this line could definitely get bumped to -7.5”
“Our line opened at Philly -6.5 and it’s been -6.5 the entire way. We really haven’t had to move it at all as the volume of bets just hasn’t justified it yet,” Jason Simbal, vice president of risk management at CG Technology, said. “Most of the small players are on Philly and the ticket count is 7-to-1 for the Eagles, so that kind of gives you an indication that the public really likes Philly. If we do push this line to -7 I can see the sharps jumping in on the dog.”
Respected money has already come in on the +7 at the Westgate SuperBook.
“We took some sharp action on the Redskins at +7,” Derek Wilkinson, a supervisor at the SuperBook, explained. “Right now we need the Eagles and I like our position. The Eagles are going to need more than just a win to get into the playoffs, but I think Nick Foles is going to do his part on Sunday. We’re definitely getting more volume on Philly but the bigger bets seem to be on Washington at +7.”
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-5.5) | Over/Under: 40.5
The Baltimore Ravens have also been streaking down the stretch, but there’s been plenty of buzz around Vegas that the Browns aren’t too far behind the Birds.
Even when the Browns were terrible, they still attracted a lot of betting support from sharp bettors. Now that they’ve hit their stride, the public is getting on the action and this line has dropped to -5.5 at most sportsbooks.
“We have a large, five-figure liability on the Ravens,” Wilkinson said. “I’m anticipating more money to come in on the Ravens as Sunday approaches. We’ll definitely be needing the Browns.”
Things are different at the Golden Nugget.
“Right now we’re sitting at Baltimore -5.5. We’ve been getting Cleveland public money all season and they’re still betting them,” Miller explained. “I do expect some Baltimore money this weekend and we’re beginning to get some already. It’s almost balanced two-way action now and I think that will continue to game time.”
“This game opened here at -6 and the public jumped on the Browns right away knocking the line down to -5.5,” Simbal noted. “Bettors saw the move coming so we tried to get ahead of the momentum and put the line at Ravens -5 which is where it is now and I think we’re the only house in town at that number. But we’re not seeing many people lay the -5 with the Ravens so Cleveland looks to be getting the sharp action here. I think the Ravens could be a little worried in this spot and if I were them I’d be worried too.”
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-5) | Over/Under: 40.5
The big question everyone is asking around the sportsbooks is whether the Bears are going to rest some of their key players.
If the Vikings win, there’s a decent chance these two teams will play again next week in Chicago.
Will the Bears really want to reveal their game plan in what could be a pointless game for them? Many bettors and bookmakers are skeptical, which is why we’re seeing so many different lines all over town.
“Our line is currently -5.5 for Minnesota.” Wilkinson said. “It hasn’t fluctuated much since a lot of people were waiting to see what the Bears are going to do with their starters. I know John doesn’t believe Chicago is going to put in much effort and likes Minnesota. I think the public will continue to be split on this.”
Meanwhile, the CG Technology sportsbooks are seeing a lot of support for the Bears as bettors are taking head coach Matt Nagy at his word that he will be going for the win.
“This game opened Vikings -6 here and immediately dropped to -4.5 which certainly suggests the Bears are a go here with most of their starters playing big minutes,” Simbal explained. “What’s interesting here is, even though the Vikings opened at -6 and the Vikings need this game, nobody has been real excited to lay the 4.5 on Minnesota so if I’m the Vikings here I’m a little nervous that the Bears are really going to bring it. I do think the Bears are a better team and you’re getting +4.5 with the Bears and if they really are playing their starters how can you pass that number up?”
At The Nugget, Miller says his house attracts both fan bases of these teams which makes it doubly interesting. “This is a massive game here as far as our Midwest crowd goes. We’re a big, big Minnesota house here and we’re sitting at Vikings -4.5,” he said. “But we’re getting split action so far. Solid Bears action too. They’re a very public team. But I anticipate more Vikings money here especially as things get clarified as to whether the Bears are really going to play their starters or not. I’m genuinely not sure.”
Indianapolis Colts (-3) at Tennessee Titans | Over/Under: 43.5
This is the game of the week as the winner will go to the playoffs and the loser will go home for the offseason. There’s some uncertainty over whether or not Titans’ quarterback Marcus Mariota will play. If he’s unable to go, Blaine Gabbert will be under center.
“We opened at -2.5 here and we do figure Mariota will play,” Simbal said. “But the line got bet on the Colts up to -3 -120 which is where it is now. We were at -3.5 for a second and we got some heavy Titans money at that number so we dropped it back down. It’s weird. The sharps bet -2.5 on the Colts and then bet +3.5 on the Titans. This will definitely settle in as a perfect -3 here but in terms of quality as a fan, you get basically a playoff game with a 3-point spread. You can’t ask for much better than that.”
While Simbal believes that Mariota will be good to go, Miller disagrees and thinks the difference between Mariota and Gabbert is worth about a point to the spread.
“Right now we have the line at -3.5. If we’re sure Mariota is going to play I can see this line going back down to -2.5,” Miller said. “Right now I honestly don’t think he’ll play. Obviously I’m not sure like everyone else. But it’s showing in the numbers. The bettors believe in Andrew Luck, the public has been playing the Colts quite a bit with us lately throughout the month of December. We expect the money to continue to come in on the Colts unless some major announcement is made regarding Mariota’s status.”
Even though bettors haven’t made their move at the Westgate yet, Wilkinson thinks they’ll also be rooting on the underdog come Sunday night.
“We haven’t seen a lot of action on this game yet, which is surprising to me because it’s the one I’m looking forward to the most,” he explained. “I think we’ll need the Titans pretty badly come Sunday and I’m hoping that will work out in our favor. I do expect the action to come in pretty heavy late Sunday given the significance of this game.”