NFL: Bettors starting to believe in Baltimore Ravens

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It may have taken a few days, but many bettors finally thought logically after results of last week’s games had sunk in. The Patriots initial line posted was somewhat inflated, a number that began perhaps a point too high.

Las Vegas sports books –some reluctantly –opened the Patriots as 7-point favorites over the Ravens. That caused an immediate reaction by bettors sparking the move to -7½, caused a little bit by what we saw last out of each team.

The Patriots steamrolled the Broncos, covering easily, while the Ravens appeared to struggle against the T.J. Yates led Texans and didn’t cover.

“We went over all the ratings and came up with Patriots -6 initially,” said LVH Super Book executive director Jay Kornegay who was one of the first to post the line in town. “We felt we’d test the waters a little bit with a key number and see where it drove us early on and posted it -7.

“Our first few bets came in on the Patriots and pushed the number quickly to -7½, so we were somewhat justified by the starting number,” he added.

But Kornegay’s initial thought is proving to be correct as the proper price. Large Ravens money is starting to come in and has pushed almost every book back to -7 flat.

What we saw last is starting to wear off in most bettors minds as they go back to the basics of looking at the straight facts of each team. What are each team’s strengths and weaknesses?

The Patriots have one of the league’s worst defenses and have blown away mediocre teams all season. Their two toughest opponents, the Giants and Steelers, both beat the Patriots and are the only teams they faced that ended up with winning records.

We just saw Green Bay, a team equal to the Patriots in offensive dominance and similar defensive weaknesses get manhandled at home by the Giants. Defense is proving to be a key cog in football again, despite being proved wrong all season by dominant offenses rolling through the season with ease.

Tom Brady is one of the elite quarterbacks in the league, but teams that can get pressure on him fare very well. The Ravens put pressure on every quarterback they face.

The big question with your Ravens bet is how much Joe Flacco you can stomach. In most of Baltimore’s winning occasions, Flacco has been taken out of the equation.

It was only two years ago that the Ravens beat the Patriots 33-14 in a playoff game at Foxboro where Flacco only completed four passes for 34 yards. Ray Rice jumped out big early on and carried the Ravens to a 24-0 lead and the game was history.

For the Ravens to have success this week, Rice again will have to be the driving force offensively and you’ll have to hope you’re not relying on Flacco to make big third-down conversions.

Flacco’s own teammate, Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed, even said Flacco gets rattled when pressured which isn’t the type of headline material your supposed leader needs to be reading the week before his biggest game of the year.

Ticket counts that include mostly parlays still have the Patriots being bet at a 3-to-2 ratio. However, the straight bet wagers, those that decide when the line will be moved, currently has a slight lean towards Baltimore which means we could be seeing -6½ very soon and eventually -6, which was Kornegay’s initial rating.

You may ask why Kornegay didn’t post his initial thought and it’s a pretty simple answer: you have to adjust and adapt to what’s going on. No matter how strong a personal rating may be, the bookmaker has to know his betting public, what the market will dictate and also respect the key numbers.

Had Kornegay opened the game -6, it would have been rapidly bet up to -7½ without getting any Ravens money. When and if the line comes down, then he’ll have the majority of his bets on the underdog at +6½ with most of the favorite money at -7.

Figure 90% of the action on this game will come Saturday and Sunday. If the game lands Patriots winning by 7, LVH won’t be stung as much had he opened with his first inkling.

Weather doesn’t figure to play a factor in Foxboro on Sunday with minimal winds and temperatures expected in the mid-30’s. It’s a much different story in San Francisco where we can expect rain all weekend.

49ers coach Jim Harbaugh likes that his team gets to practice in the conditions prior to Sunday. San Francisco opened Pick ’em last Sunday against the Giants and was immediately bet all the way up to -2 ½ at LVH within an hour. The line hasn’t changed all week, despite most of the small money overwhelmingly coming in on the Giants.

Wynn Resort opened the 49ers -1, just a little after the LVH did, and were bet up to -2 ½ over the same span, but on Thursday they dropped the game down to -2.

The two teams met in Week 10 at San Francisco with the 49ers winning 27-20 as 4-point favorites. Much like this week, the Giants were coming off their biggest win of the year after knocking off the Patriots in Week 9 at Foxboro and then had to travel cross country. That Week 10 loss sent the Giants into a four game tailspin.

Bettors have to ask themselves this week what they believe in more, the 49ers model of consistency throughout the year or the current form of the Giants that has essentially won four straight playoff-type games coming in.

Eli Manning has never looked better in his career, while the 49ers continue to manufacture easy scoring opportunities with aide from a +32 turnover margin on the season, including +4 last week against the Saints.

Historically, the two teams have been intertwined throughout the playoffs over the last three decades with the 49ers holding a 4-3 mark over the Giants. Some of the all-time great playoff moments have occurred between these two franchises.

Unforgettable images such as Jim Burt and Leonard Marshall pounding Joe Montana with vicious hits are routinely replayed. The Giants are 4-0 all-time in conference championship games, including a victory over the 49ers in 1990.

History doesn’t mean much in this game, but seeing those two historically rich teams facing off once again with all the marbles on the line is enough to get any casual fan excited that has watched a football game over the last 30 years.

The players change, but the uniforms, cities and fans remain the same.

Perhaps the best value play of the game if liking the 49ers is laying the -125 on the money-line Wynn has offered. For a chance to lay such a small price on a team that has covered the spread in every home game this season, you have extreme value.

The value is there, but the hard part is getting the Giants to follow the plan.

Enjoy the games!

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