Public bettors swept the board and sportsbooks took a huge hit on Saturday as popular favorites went 4-0 ATS. Notre Dame (-3.5) crushed Iowa State 33-9, Penn State (-6.5) handled Memphis 53-39, LSU (-12) demolished Oklahoma 63-28 and Clemson (-2.5) edged Ohio State 29-23. Favorites are now 12-10 ATS (54.5%) this Bowl Season.
Now we turn our attention to the final Sunday of the NFL regular season. Week 17 is unlike any other week. Many teams have given up while others are resting starters. Historically, this has provided an edge to favorites. Since 2003, Week 17 favorites have gone 116-103 ATS (53%) according to Bet Labs sports. In weeks 1 to 16, favorites have gone 49.2% ATS. The cover rate for favorites is nearly 4% higher in Week 17 compared to all other weeks.
Another spot to look out for today is December Divisional unders. So far this season, they've gone 15-8 (65%) and are 57% since 2003. All 16 games today match the under trend.
For gameday analysis and betting updates, be sure to join Michael Lombardi, Patrick Meagher and myself this morning from 9 a.m. ET to 12-noon on The Lombardi Line. We'll be breaking down all the late sharp action leading up to kickoff.
Let's examine where the sharp money is flowing today.
1 p.m. ET: Chicago Bears (7-8) at Minnesota Vikings (10-5)
The Bears were eliminated from the playoffs two week ago when they lost to the Packers 21-13 as 4.5-point dogs. Based on last week's 26-3 drubbing at the hands of the Chiefs at home in primetime as 7-point dogs it looks like Chicago has packed it in the rest of the way. Minnesota is coming off a disappointing 23-10 loss to the Packers as 4.5-point favorites. Luckily for the Vikings they've already clinched the playoffs and are locked into the 6th seed as the final NFC Wild Card teams. The Vikings are 8-7 ATS this season while the Bears are an ugly 4-11 ATS.
This NFC North divisional clash opened with Minnesota listed as a 7-point favorite. Some books opened closer to Minnesota -1. The line has completely flipped to Bears -3.5. This massive move was a result of Minnesota resting their key starters, including quarterback Kirk Cousins (Sean Mannion is expected to start in Cousins' place). The total fell from 41 to 37. December divisional unders are 15-8 (65%) this season and 57% since 2003. The Vikings are 8-7 to the over but the Bears are 10-5 to the under. Chicago beat Minnesota 16-6 as 1-point dogs in Week 4.
1 p.m. ET: Cleveland Browns (6-9) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-14)
Both of these AFC North rivals have been eliminated from playoff contention. The Browns have dropped two straight, including last week's 31-15 loss to the Ravens as 10-point dogs. Cincinnati has dropped three straight, most recently falling to the Dolphins 38-35 as 1.5-point favorites. The Bengals have the worst record in football and have locked up the number one overall pick in the NFL Draft. Both teams are 5-9-1 ATS on the season.
This line opened with Cleveland listed as a short 3-point road favorite. The public is hammering the Browns (more than three-out-of-four bets), yet the line has fallen to 2.5. This sharp reverse line movement signals pro action buying low on the Bengals at the key number of 3. Cincinnati has value as a home divisional dog. The total has fallen from 45 to 43.5, indicating smart money taking the under. The forecast calls for 8-10 MPH winds. December divisional unders are 15-8 (65%) this season and 57% since 2003. The Browns are 8-7 to the under and the Bengals are 8-6-1. Cleveland beat Cincinnati 27-19 as 6.5-point favorites three weeks ago.
4:25 p.m. ET: Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) at New York Giants (4-11)
The Eagles came up with a huge win over the Cowboys last week, edging Dallas 17-9 as 2-point dogs. The win put Philadelphia in first place in the NFC East and marked their third straight victory. The Eagles can clinch the division and punch their ticket to the playoffs with a win in Week 17. The Giants are tied for the 4th-worst record in the NFL but have actually won straight, including last week's 41-35 victory over the Redskins as 1-point favorites. Philadelphia is 6-9 ATS while New York is 7-8 ATS.
This divisional showdown opened with the Eagles listed as 5-point road favorites. More than two-thirds of bets are laying the points with Philly, yet the line has dropped to 3.5. This signals some sharp reverse line movement on the Giants at home getting the points. New York has value as a contrarian home divisional dog. Eagles star TE Zach Ertz will miss this game with a rib injury. The total has dropped from 45.5 to 45. December divisional unders are 15-8 (65%) this season and 57% since 2003. The forecast calls for 8-10 MPH winds. The Eagles beat the Giants 23-17 three weeks ago but failed to cover as 9-point favorites.
4:25 p.m. ET: Tennessee Titans (8-7) at Houston Texans (10-5)
This AFC South grudge match features two teams with differing motivations. The Titans can clinch the final playoff spot in the AFC with a win. Tennessee is coming off a 38-28 loss to the Saints as 3-point dogs, but is expected to have star RB Derrick Henry back for the regular season finale. The Texans just beat the Buccaneers 23-20 as 3-point favorites last week and have already clinched the division and punched their ticket to the postseason.
This line opened with Tennessee listed as a 6-point road favorite. Houston Head Coach Bill O'Brien said he planned on playing all of his starters in this game even though the outcome doesn't matter playoff-wise. As a result, sharp money has grabbed the Texans plus the points, dropping the line down to 4.5 or even 4 at some shops. However, late Saturday night news broke that O'Brien changed his mind and will rest Watson and several other starters. As a result, the line has risen back up to Titans -6. Houston has value as a divisional home dog and enjoys one extra day of rest having played last Saturday. The total has fallen from 47 to 44. December divisional unders are 15-8 (65%) this season and 57% since 2003. The Texans beat the Titans 24-21 as 3-point dogs two weeks ago.
4:25 p.m. ET: Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7) at Baltimore Ravens (13-2)
This AFC North matchup means much more to the Steelers than it does for the Ravens. Pittsburgh is still alive in the playoff hunt but needs a win and a lot of other breaks in the final week in order to make the playoffs. The Steelers have dropped two straight, including last week's disappointing 16-10 defeat to the lowly Jets as 3-point favorites. Meanwhile, the Ravens have wrapped up the number 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout. As a result, Head Coach Jim Harbaugh has decided to rest many of his starters. Robert Griffin III will start at quarterback over Lamar Jackson.
The Ravens opened as 3-point home favorites. As soon as the news broke that Jackson and others were sitting, wiseguys crushed Pittsburgh and flipped the line to Steelers -2. Then some sharp Ravens buyback hit the market, dropping the line down to Steelers -1.5. Week 17 favorites are 53% ATS since 2003. Baltimore has value as a home divisional dog. Sharps have crushed the under, dropping it down from 40 to 37. The forecast calls for 5-7 MPH winds. December divisional unders are 15-8 (65%) this season and 57% since 2003. The lead ref, Bill Vinovich, historically favors the road team (56.2% ATS) and the under 58.2%. These two teams met in early October and Baltimore won 26-23 but failed to cover as 3.5-point favorites. The over is 8-7 in Ravens games but the under is 12-3 in Steelers games.