Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Wednesday, August 23, 2017 at 2:54 PM
The dress rehearsal games are finally here. Las Vegas is really looking forward to these because the public loves getting a chance to bet games where starters are going to play into the second half. It will be the biggest football week of the Preseason by far in terms of handle, and attendance in the showrooms with all the big screen TV's.
Normally, I'd run through each game to talk about sharp action. But, we have a very unique circumstance this week where oddsmakers have settled many matchups on "Favorite -3" or "Favorite -3.5." It takes a lot for the Wise Guys to lay a field goal or more in the Preseason, even when starters go into the third quarter. There's still a lot of randomness. And, in many games what the starters do just cancels out anyway.
So, instead of repeating myself over and over, I'm going to deal with those by groups.
FAVORITES OF -3.5 AS OF MIDWEEK
Thursday: Miami at Philadelphia (-3.5)
Friday: Kansas City at Seattle (-3.5)
Saturday: Buffalo at Baltimore (-3.5)
Saturday: Arizona at Atlanta (-3.5)
Whenever a line solidly settles on -3.5, you know that the sharps DON'T like the underdog or they would have taken out the hook right away. Three is the most important number in football. If a live dog is getting +3.5, it won't be for long! So, we know that sharps aren't interested in taking any shots on lame dogs like Miami or Buffalo, or fading the powerful AFC favorites Seattle and Atlanta. I don't expect a tug-of-war to start in these games because squares (the public) tend to bet favorites anyway. Maybe we'll see a move to -4 by kickoff. It would take new information about personnel decisions to change those lines in my view.
FAVORITES OF -3 AS OF MIDWEEK
Saturday: Houston at New Orleans (-3)
Saturday: Oakland at Dallas (-3)
Saturday: Green Bay at Denver (-3)
Sunday: Chicago at Tennessee (-3)
Sunday: Cincinnati at Washington (-3)
We're not seeing signs of any tugs-of-war yet in those games. Once the public starts betting more actively, those will develop because sharps will bring the game back to the key number. If squares decided they want any of those favorites in such a way that the line rises to -3.5...you would expect the Wise Guys to jump on the dog as soon as the hook is in play. Again, any of those lines could change from announcements about personnel moves. If a starting QB is only going to play a quarter instead of a half...or if a coach announces he'll play his starters into the fourth quarter...THAT would cause a shift off the field goal that might stick.
That's nine of the week's 16 games. Let's look at the rest in Nevada Rotation order...
Carolina at Jacksonville: An opener of pick-em has moved up to Carolina -1.5 on the news that Cam Newton is going to play and see significant action. Jacksonville has looked awful so far this month, so there's no constituency around to cause a pull back. The arm of Blake Bortles looks to be getting worse with each passing week. Those who want to bet are on the visitor.
New England at Detroit: Another road favorite garnering respect. Getting the Patriots starters cheap is always going to feel like a bargain. This one rose from pick-em to New England -2.5 on a mix of sharp and square action. Old school sharps will take Detroit if +3 comes into play on principle. There's time for the public to drive this to and through the field goal.
NY Jets at NY Giants: This has been late hitting the board because the Giants suffered some injuries in the Monday Night game at Cleveland. Looks like Odell Beckham will be out for a few weeks, possibly missing the regular season opener vs. the Cowboys. The first numbers up offshore were NYG -5. Las Vegas is just now getting around to putting up numbers. Both teams have played poorly this month. The Giants have much better talent. Old school sharps will consider the Jets because they like any big dog in August.
Cleveland at Tampa Bay: Another game that's been delayed because of the Monday Nighter and injury issues. First numbers up offshore were Tampa Bay -3. I didn't include that on the earlier list though because there hasn't been time for money to have any influence. We could have a rise to -3.5 or more because Tampa Bay has become a sharp team (guys watching "Hard Knocks" on HBO are impressed with Jameis Winston as a team leader), and because Cleveland's quarterback situation is so shaky.
Indianapolis at Pittsburgh: An opener of Pittsburgh -4.5 has been bet up to -6 even though the Steelers head coach doesn't prioritize Preseason games. Ben Roethlisberger is going to play, which is influencing the line. Plus, Indianapolis was much worse last week than the score at Dallas indicated. They're going to be in huge trouble if Andrew Luck can't come back soon at anything near 100%. Look for a sharp move on the Rams in the season opener vs. the Colts if Luck can't make it back in time for that one. Figured I'd give you an early heads up.
LA Chargers at LA Rams: Not much happening yet at the opener of -2.5. You regulars know that we'd have seen an immediate move to Rams -3 if sharps liked the favorite. The public may hit the Rams by kickoff because so many watched last week's win over the Raiders on TV here in Las Vegas. The Chargers have looked horrible, while the Rams are 2-0. I wouldn't be surprised if the three comes into play off square action. Sharps would probably take the dog at plus three...but I'm not hearing much enthusiasm from respected money about the Chargers given their first two poor efforts.
San Francisco at Minnesota: The Vikings are a respected Preseason team because this coach usually gets results. He's undefeated straight up and ATS in dress rehearsals too. Minnesota lost last week at Seattle...but the Seahawks really hit the ground running this month. An opener of Minnesota -4 was bet up to -4.5. This Sunday Nighter is the last game of dress rehearsal weekend. Plenty of time for the public to drive that line even higher.
I'm not the type to release "Game of the Year" selections. I will have my strongest opinions so far of the Preseason going this weekend though. So, it's a great time for you to try out my low-key personal service.
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Next week, we'll change gears to focus on marquee matchups in COLLEGE football. Week Four of the NFL Preseason is such a non-event that it's not worth writing up. Las Vegas will be buzzing for the colleges, particularly with big games like Alabama-Florida State and Michigan-Florida to talk about and bet. Once September arrives, we'll go to our usual multi-report weekly schedule that covers Thursday and Friday action in a midweek update...college marquee games the next day...and then sharp action in the NFL.
I'm looking forward to serving you once again through the season. Thanks for reading today.