The final week of an NFL season always creates headaches for bookmakers. It’s one long migraine. Teams often aren’t clear about which key stars are going to play and which are going to sit. You never know for sure which eliminated teams will show up with intensity, or which are already thinking about next week’s tee times. And, we have to put up numbers for every single game while sharps can pick their spots.
I have to say, over the years, we’ve come out okay. I do my best to stay on top of developments and react quickly. The public has the same problems we have in terms of information access. It’s also been true in recent years that recreational bettors have overrated “need to win” teams in a way that’s helped our bottom line.
This weekend, sportsbooks are hoping to tread water before the playoff storm arrives. Here’s what’s been happening behind the counter so far…
Saturday, Jan. 8
Kansas City (-11, 45) at Denver
I’m going in kickoff order for Saturday’s games. Chiefs/Broncos starts at 4:30 p.m. ET (1:30 here in Las Vegas) on ABC and ESPN. My opener of Kansas City -9.5 was bet up to -10, and then -11. I’m still getting Chiefs money at -11. I see some 11.5’s out there. Kansas City needs to win and hope Tennessee loses in Houston to claim the No. 1 seed in the AFC. A win locks in the No. 2 seed. Is that enough to inspire a blowout? I moved my opening total of 44 straight to 45 on early sharp action. Weather isn’t supposed to be a factor, but keep an eye on forecasts just in case.
Dallas (-4, 43) at Philadelphia
This is the prime time game Saturday, kicking off at 8:15 p.m. ET (5:15 in Vegas) on ABC and ESPN. Nothing at stake beyond seeding. Dallas has already clinched the NFC East and both teams are in the playoffs. My opener of Dallas -7 has come way down to -4 on a mix of personnel news and sharp bets on the Eagles. The public is still betting “America’s Team.” But, I know how important Tyron Smith is to the Cowboys’ offensive line. He’ll be out after re-injuring his ankle vs. Washington. Sharps loved the Eagles at + 6 or better, and still liked them at + 5 and + 4.5. I also took a big early moneyline bet on Philadelphia + 255. I’m down to Cowboys -190/Eagles + 170 currently. Sharps bet Over my opening total of 42.5. I’m up to 43. Weather should be clear and cold (in the 20’s after sunset).
Sunday, Jan. 9
Green Bay (-3.5, 44.5) at Detroit
All games are listed in Nevada rotation order from this point. A lot of Packers money so far even though Green Bay has already clinched the NFC’s No. 1 seed. My opener of Green Bay -2 was bet up to -2.5, -3 and now -3.5. But, I did take a sharp bet Friday morning on Detroit + 3.5 as news was released that Lions’ quarterback Jared Goff had been upgraded to probable. Interesting that “first half” lines are also Green Bay -3.5 right now. A lot of stores are preparing for the possibility that the Packers will pull their starters in the second half. Their coaches may not want two bye weeks in a row, but don’t want to get any stars hurt either. I opened the total at 42.5. Sharps bet Over hard, so I went straight to 43.5. They kept betting Over, so I went straight to 44.5. I skipped a lot of numbers this week trying to anticipate the market and what was most likely to happen on the field.
Chicago at Minnesota (-5.5, 44)
Nothing at stake, with both teams missing the playoffs. But, we had a big line move after Kirk Cousins was confirmed as the Vikings starting QB this week. He missed last week’s game at Green Bay. My opener of Minnesota -2.5 was bet up to -3, then -3.5 for about a minute, then -4 for another minute. I went straight to Minnesota -5.5 after that. Andy Dalton will start at QB again for Chicago after Justin Fields went on the covid list earlier this week. Not a heavily bet game because I moved the line so quickly. Very limited interest so far in my opening total of 44.
New England (-6.5, 40) at Miami
Sharps liked Miami at my opener of + 7. I dropped to + 6.5. The public is still betting the Patriots. But, I respect the sharp sentiment on a home divisional dog in a game with a low total. Points will be at a premium if both defenses show up. Limited betting thus far on my opening total of 40.
Indianapolis (-15.5, 44), at Jacksonville
This game becomes very important if Indianapolis loses. But, the Colts are expected to coast. Sharps did like the big ugly underdog at my opener of + 16. I’m down to 15.5. Likely a perception that Indianapolis will focus on grinding clock with a lead rather than getting reckless trying to run up the score. Lightly bet game so far. Total hasn’t moved off my opener of 44.
NY Jets at Buffalo (-16.5, 40.5)
A good chance for more bad weather in Buffalo. Currently a 70% chance of precipitation with winds above 20 mph. Sharps bet the Jets + 17 and Under 45.5, 44.5, 44, 43.5, 42.5 and 41.5. I’m down to Buffalo -16.5 and 40.5. Buffalo needs to win to clinch the AFC North (or have New England lose at Miami). Might be hard to run up the score in these conditions. Recreational bettors are still betting Buffalo. Easier for the public to ask Buffalo to win a home blowout, than Indy to win a road blowout.
Carolina at Tampa Bay (-8, 42)
Haven’t moved off my opener of Tampa Bay -8. Lightly bet game. The public is on the Bucs in dribs and drabs. But, I am seeing a lot of six-point teaser interest in Tampa Bay, dropping the number through 7 and 3 down to -2. Opening total of 42 is still on the board.
Tennessee (-10, 43) at Houston
Tennessee clinches the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a win. The public is betting “need” with the Titans. But, sharps carry a lot more weight in the marketplace. Wiseguys bet Houston at my opener of + 11, and reloaded at + 10.5. I’m down to Tennessee -10. I’m not taking many moneyline parlays yet on playoff contending favorites. I would expect Tennessee to be a popular choice on game day “just” to win straight up. Parlay players haven’t had a reason to visit sportsbooks so far this week. They’ll be here all weekend. Tennessee’s going to strike them as an auto-bet to win in Houston. No interest yet on my opening total of 43.
Washington (-7, 38) at NY Giants
Washington is my second-most popular teaser leg this week. A lot of Tampa Bay/Washington two-team teasers on the board already. My opener of Washington -6.5 was bet up to -7. That swims against the tide, with sharps mostly focusing on dog value so far. Jake Fromm will start at QB for the G-men. Remember, they preferred Mike Glennon to Fromm the past few weeks. Glennon was terrible! I can see why sharps wanted Washington. My opening total of 38.5 was bet down to 38. Might be due to weather. Currently a 70% chance of precipitation with strong breezes in the 10-15 range at a site already known for swirling winds.
New Orleans (-3.5, 40) at Atlanta
It’s interesting that New Orleans ISN’T drawing much market support in this must-win situation. To reach the playoffs, the Saints must win here and hope San Francisco loses as an underdog at the LA Rams. Far from impossible. But, my opener of New Orleans -4.5 was bet down to -4, then -3.5. Obviously the offense has been struggling of late, leading to six straight Unders. My opening total of 40 hasn’t moved. Some Under interest. Just not enough to move the line yet.
Pittsburgh at Baltimore (-3.5 41)
Both teams are technically still alive in the playoff hunt. But, both need Indianapolis to lose at Jacksonville to have a chance. This line has hopped around a bit as we waited for definitive word on whether QB Lamar Jackson would be able to return for the Ravens. My opener of Baltimore -5 was bet up to -5.5 and -6. Pittsburgh money brought that back to + 5.5 and + 5. Friday morning, it was announced Jackson wouldn’t start. I dropped to Baltimore -4 on the news. That was soon bet down to -3.5. I lowered my opening total of 42 to 41 on that same report.
Cincinnati at Cleveland (-6, 38)
This might be my biggest NFL line move ever with limited betting action. I opened Cincinnati -3. Then Bengals’ head coach Zac Taylor announced that he’ll be resting many of his starters. I moved all the way to Cleveland -6. I know Baker Mayfield is out for the Browns. But, Case Keenum knows what he’s doing. He won’t perform any worse than Mayfield was already playing. You might be thinking “what a huge middle!” I only took a few bets on Cleveland + 3 before the move. Hardly anyone is positioned to try for a middle. I’ve got more important things to worry about. I dropped my opening total of 42 down to 38 on Cincinnati’s personnel announcement. Weather could get nasty. Another spot with a 70 percent chance of precipitation and windy, too (20+ mph).
Seattle at Arizona (-6.5, 48)
No move off my opener of Arizona -6.5. But, if the public jumps on the “need to win” teams this weekend, this number will go higher. Arizona would win the NFC West with a victory here and a loss by the Rams. That could happen because LA's opponent probably needs a win to make the playoffs. I’ve taken some Over bets on my opening total of 48, but not enough to move the number.
San Francisco at LA Rams (-4, 44.5)
You already know what’s at stake here. The Rams are in the playoffs, but need to win to claim the NFC West crown and a home game next week. San Francisco must spring the upset to qualify for the postseason, or hope that New Orleans loses as a favorite in Atlanta. A lot of betting action in this one already. Wise Guys have been betting San Francisco at my opener of + 5.5, and then again at + 4.5. I’m down to + 4. I’ve taken some Rams money, with more expected through the weekend. Both teams have good betting constituencies in Nevada. (You’d probably be surprised at how many bets I’ve taken this week on the Niners to win the NFC at 20/1, and the Super Bowl at 40/1.) Split interest at my opening total of 44.5. We’re going to have a very high handle come Sunday afternoon.
LA Chargers (-3, 50) at Las Vegas
This will be one of our biggest Sunday Night games of the season. Big betting interest for both teams locally. And, it’s going to be a virtual playoff game unless Indianapolis got shocked at Jacksonville earlier in the day. Winner qualifies, loser doesn’t. It’s shaping up as a classic “South Point game.” I opened Chargers -3. Sharps took the dog. I dropped to -2.5. Sharps laid the favorite. You regulars know all NFL team side bets are 11/10 at my shop. Other stores adjust their vigorish around key numbers. Depending on where we are in the back-and-forth, you’re going to find the best price on your preferred side at one time or another with us. Along with heavy point spread betting, we have even action on the moneyline (currently Chargers -160/Raiders + 140). My opening total of 48.5 was bet up to 49.5 and 50.
Good luck with your NFL bets this weekend. I’ll be back Monday for an in-depth market breakdown of college football’s National Championship battle featuring Georgia and Alabama. My next NFL report will be a week from right now to look at what’s shaping up as the most exciting Wildcard Weekend ever.
Chris Andrews is the Sportsbook Director at the South Point in Las Vegas, and has been a Nevada bookmaker for 30 years.