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After getting pummeled all year by the sports books, bettors picked a fine time to ease the reins on their betting strategies and unit plays.

Sure it was Christmas weekend, family was in town, or you had to be out of town, a portion of the betting funds had to be used to buy gifts, but when Week 16 of the NFL came and passed, many were left off the gravy train.

The favorites went 8-4 on Sunday with five of the six most weighted games coming in for the public. Unfortunately, about 25 percent of the regular weekly handle was missing.

“If it had been a normal NFL weekend, it would have been a very tough day,” said Las Vegas Hilton Super Book Executive Director Jay Kornegay. “Because of the holiday season, we were slow for most of the week until a major rush on Sunday morning.”

Kornegay reported that his sports book “broke about even,” as was the case for many other books near the Strip. Local sports books took a much harder blow due to the high propensity of players playing parlays off the board and on cards.

Even so, all the books combined were very fortunate that many of the regulars were busy with other matters. Much of the lodged clientele that target Christmas as their vacation destination aren’t traditional sports bettors either. Had this week of results occurred in Week 10, it had the potential of being the worst day of the season for the sports books.

The only weighted public choice that faltered was the Chargers as 8-point favorites losing straight up to the Bengals. The Patriots, Ravens and Chiefs all came through for bettors in the early games. In the late games, the Colts and Buccaneers led the way to more profits.

Those wins, combined with the six college bowl favorites that covered earlier in the week, led to some serious risk and high payouts on multi-legged parlays. Even the Sharps took somewhat of a hiatus because of the holidays.

“We saw a few limit plays, but nothing like we normally see,” said Kornegay. “It was more like half-limit plays mixed in with not many showing their plans until late Saturday night and Sunday morning.”

On a typical week, there usually is a surge of Sharp action when the line is first released on Mondays. A little more of the Sharps’ plan is revealed on Thursday or Friday, with the final piece on game day.

The Sharp plays of the week had the Bears and Raiders, with smaller movement on the Packers and Bills. The Bears opened as 1½-point home favorites against the Jets, were bet down to -1 and then bet everywhere Sunday morning pushing the game up to -3 even. The Raiders saw the same type of movement the other way, opening 3-point home underdogs to the Colts. By kickoff the Colts were only -1½.

However, the public didn’t care. They had seen enough in Indy’s win over Jacksonville to feel their good old reliable team was back and that laying a field goal was easy. Same story with the Chiefs as the line was dropping on game day from -5 to -4 because of a few respected large plays. The 6-0 home record had the average Joe taking Kansas City regardless of the line.

The one saving grace for the sports books over the weekend, beyond the Chargers losing, was the Cowboys losing Saturday night as 6½-point favorites at Arizona.

For those who missed out last week after a tough year, be thankful that we throw the entire year in the trash can, where it belongs, as week 17 begins a new year. Let’s make it a good one and hope that the tables turn for the bettor.

Eagles-Vikings: Tuesday night football debuts this week as the NFL treated one of its home games in Philadelphia like a baseball rainout. What’s funny is that NBC made the switch to that game from their originally scheduled San Diego-Cincinnati.

The game climbed to Eagles -14 when the initially hoped for Michael Vick-Brett Favre ratings winner came apart with the Favre injury. Everyone who bet the game prior to the blizzard and subsequent date change has no action with all wagers refunded. If looking to bet the game, you’ll have to use the new betting numbers of 133-134.

Bengals shed dead skin: One week after ridding themselves of Terrell Owens and a 10-game losing streak, the Bengals played the Chargers without the other half of the Bozo-Ocho show. The Bengals played smart and loose in their 34-20 shocker over the Chargers, a team who had to win to stay alive for the playoffs. I wonder what the duo will have to say on their show about the sudden wins correlating with their absence.

Tebow-rific: The public liked the Texans as a short -2½-point favorite against the Tim Tebow-led Broncos and it appeared that everyone would cruise as Houston rolled to a 17-0 halftime lead. Even though the Texans have the worst pass-defense in football, Tebow showed all the skills and grit that made him the scrutinized early pick by former Broncos coach Josh McDaniels. The lefty threw for 308 yards and ran for the winning score in a 24-23 win. His two fourth quarter TD drives may give the faithful something to look forward to in 2011 after suffering through one of the worst seasons in Broncos history.

Free-Wheelin’ Freeman: Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman threw 5 TD passes with no interceptions in a 38-15 rout over the Seahawks, giving him a 23-6 ratio in those categories. The win keeps the door to the playoffs still somewhat open with what could be a pivotal game next week at New Orleans. It’s hard to believe that Josh is only 22, with almost two full seasons as an NFL quarterback.

Playoff picture clearing: The AFC is pretty simple. If the Colts (9-6) win at home against the Titans, they’re in. A loss and Jaguars (8-7) win and Jacksonville is in. Should both lose, the Colts advance.

In the NFC, the winner of the Rams-Seahawks game advances. If the Packers (9-6) and Saints (10-4) win, they are in. Should they lose, the door opens for the Giants (9-6) and Bucs (9-6).

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