Navy defeated Army 31-7 yesterday to win the Commander In Chief's Trophy. It was a win for the public as just under two-thirds of bets laid the points with the Midshipmen (opened -10.5 and closed at -11). The total opened at 43, closed at 41.5 and landed on 38, handing sharps a big under win. Military Academy unders are now 35-9 (79.5%) since 2005 according to Bet Labs Sports.
Now we turn our attention to the 15th Sunday of the NFL regular season. 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.
Until then, let's discuss where smart money is flowing for five of today's biggest matchups along with several others receiving sharp action.
1 p.m. ET: Chicago Bears (7-6) at Green Bay Packers (10-3)
This NFC North divisional showdown features one playoff shoo-in and another living on a postseason prayer. The Bears started the season 3-1 but then dropped four straight and were left for dead with a 3-5 record. But Mitchell Trubisky has turned it around and Chicago has bounced back, winning three in a row and four of their last five, most recently upsetting the Cowboys 31-24 as 3-point home dogs last Thursday night. Chicago is plus 11 in point differential, averaging 18.69 PPG on offense and allowing 17.85 PPG on defense. The Packers lead the division and are tied for the 2nd-best record in the NFL. Green Bay is riding a two-game winning streak, most recently defeating the Redskins 20-15 but failing to cover as 13-point favorites. The Packers are plus 39 in point differential, averaging 23.77 PPG on offense and allowing 20.77 PPG on defense.
This line opened with Green Bay listed as a 5-point home favorite (some books opened closer to Packers -7). Sharps immediately pounced on Chicago getting the points, driving this line down to 4.5 or even 4. The Bears have value as a road divisional dog (22-15 ATS, 59% this season), a short road dog plus 6 or less (49-35 ATS, 58%) and a dog with a low total. Chicago also enjoy extra rest, having last played on Dec 5th while the Packers played Dec 8th. The Bears are 4-9 ATS while the Packers are 8-5 ATS. Historically, it's been profitable to back "bad" ATS teams against "good" ATS teams as they are undervalued and recipients of heavy public bias and shaded lines. Scott Novak, the head official, favors road teams (59.2% ATS). The total opened at 41 and has fallen slightly to 40.5. December divisional unders are 7-4 (64%) this season and 57% since 2005. The forecast calls for frigid temperatures in the 10-15 degree range with 8-10 MPH winds. The under is 8-5 in Bears games this season and 7-6 in Packers games.
4:05 p.m. ET: Minnesota Vikings (9-4) at Los Angeles Chargers (5-8)
One of these teams is fighting for playoff positioning while the other is out of it and playing for pride. Minnesota trails the Packers by 1-game in the NFC North and currently occupies a Wild Card spot. The Vikings rebounded from a 37-30 loss to the Seahawks two weeks ago as 3-point dogs with a 20-7 win over the Lions last week as 12-point favorites. Minnesota is plus 90 in point differential, averaging 26.08 PPG on offense and giving up 19.15 PPG on defense. The Chargers snapped a three-game losing skid last week by throttling the Jaguars 45-10 as 3.5-point road favorites. Los Angeles is plus 38 in point differential, averaging 22.23 PPG on offense and giving up 19.31 PPG on defense. Minnesota is 7-6 ATS while Los Angeles is 4-8-1 ATS.
This non-conference showdown opened with the Vikings listed as 3-point road favorites. Despite more than 80% of bets laying the points with Minnesota, this line has plummeted down to 1.5 or even 1. This sharp reverse line movement was caused by pros getting down hard on the Chargers. Wiseguys have also leaned on the under. The total has dipped from 45.5 to 45 since opening. The forecast calls for 15 MPH winds. The under is 29-18 (62%) this season and 56% since 2003 when the wind blows 10 MPH or more. The Vikings are 7-6 to the over this season but the Chargers are 8-5 to the under.
4:05 p.m. ET: Cleveland Browns (6-7) at Arizona Cardinals (3-9-1)
This non-conference showdown means much more to the Browns, who are technically still in the hunt for the playoffs. After starting the season 2-6, Cleveland has gone 4-1 in their last five games, including last week's 27-19 victory over the Bengals as 6.5-point favorites. The Browns are -18 in point differential, averaging 21 PPG on offense and giving up 22.38 PPG on defense. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have lost six games in a row, most recently falling to the Steelers 23-17 at home as 2.5-point dogs. Arizona is out of it and looking for a high pick in the draft. The Cardinals are -102 in point differential, averaging 20.92 PPG on offense and giving up 28.77 PPG on defense. However, Cleveland is 5-7-1 ATS while the Cards are 7-5-1 ATS.
The Browns opened as short 2.5-point road favorites. Pros and Joes have both sided with Cleveland, pushing this line up to 3. Sharps have gotten down on the over. The total opened at 46.5 and has been bet up to 49.5. Historically, favorites with high totals have been a smart bet, especially with low spreads, as the more expected points scored makes it easier for the favorite to cover. Non-conference road favorites with high totals (47 or higher) are 59% ATS since 2003. Cleveland is 6-7 to the over and the Cardinals are 7-6 to the over.
4:25 p.m. ET: Los Angeles Rams (8-5) at Dallas Cowboys (6-7)
Talk about two teams trending in opposite directions. The Rams have won two in a row, including last week's clutch 28-12 win over the divisional rival Seahawks as 1-point favorites. Los Angeles remains in playoff contention but must win out in order to secure a spot in the postseason (currently the 7th seed). The Rams are plus 49 in point differential, averaging 23.92 PPG on offense and allowing 20.15 PPG on defense. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are imploding. Dallas has lost three in a row and four of their last five, most recently falling to the Bears 31-24 as 3-point favorites. The Cowboys are plus 67 in point differential, averaging 25.69 PPG on offense and allowing 20.54 PPG on defense. Luckily for Dallas they play in the putrid NFC East. If the playoffs started today, the Cowboys would be in as the divisional winners. However, Dallas must continue to win in order to stave off the Eagles (both 6-7 but Dallas holds the head-to-head tiebreaker).
This line opened with the Cowboys listed as 3-point home favorites. Pros and Joes have pounded the Rams getting the points, which has flipped this line all the way to Rams -1 or -1.5. Road teams receiving at least 3-points of line movement in their direction have gone 57.1% ATS since 2003. The total opened at 48 and got bet up to 49. Then sharp under buyback dropped it back down to 48.5. The Rams are 9-4 to the under this season but the Cowboys are 8-5 to the over.
8:20 p.m. ET: Buffalo Bills (9-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5)
This Sunday Night Football showdown shaping up to be a classic Pros vs Joes showdown. If the playoffs started today both of these teams would be in the Big Dance. Buffalo fell to the Ravens 24-17 last week as 6.5-point dogs, snapping a three-game winning streak. The Bills are plus 62 in point differential, averaging 21.08 PPG on offense while giving up only 16.31 PPG on defense. Pittsburgh's turnaround has been nothing short or remarkable. The Steelers lost Ben Roethlisberger in Week 2 and started the season 1-4. But now Pittsburgh has won seven of their last eight games, including the last three in a row. Last week the Steelers beat the Cardinals 23-17 as 2.5-point favorites. Pittsburgh is plus 17 in point differential, averaging 19.92 PPG on offense while giving up 18.62 PPG on defense.
The line opened with Pittsburgh listed as a short 1.5-point home favorite. The public can't believe the Steelers are favored and more than three-out-of-four bets are grabbing the points with Buffalo. However, sharps have been fading the trendy dog, pushing this line up to 2 or even 2.5 before it fell back down to 1. Essentially, we are looking at a sharp line freeze on Pittsburgh as a contrarian favorite in the most heavily bet game of the day. The total opened at 37 and has fallen slightly to 36.5. Primetime unders are 27-16 (63%) this season. Both teams have been incredibly profitable to the under (10-3). Running back James Conner is expected to return from injury for the Steelers.
More sharp action
Texans-Titans Over 48.5 to 51.5
Falcons-49ers Over 46.5 to 48.5
49ers plus 11 to plus 10.5
Eagles-Redskins Under 40 to 39
Patriots-Bengals Over 40.5 to 41.5
Raiders -5.5 to -6.5
Buccaneers-Lions Under 47.5 to 46
Bucs -3.5 to -5.5
Dolphins-Giants Under 46.5 to 45.5
Dolphins plus 3.5 to plus 3
Seahawks-Panthers Over 48.5 to 50
Broncos plus 11 to plus 9.5