LAS VEGAS — Before moving on to NFL Week 11, we need to revisit a peculiar Week 10 game whose spread opened as high as 9 points, at some Vegas books, got knocked down to 3.5, and ended somewhere in that maw.
In certain circumstances, had that favored team won by 4 to 7 points, one Vegas veteran told me, some shops would have faced a middling disaster.
With 4½ minutes remaining Sunday in Buffalo, the Vikings’ CJ Ham scored on a short run, and the ensuing kick failed, giving the favored Bills a 27-23 advantage — smack in that danger zone.
Panic time in the Sin City risk rooms?
With 41 ticks left, Eric Kendricks of Minnesota recovered a fumble in the end zone, the PAT was good, the Bills booted a field goal to tie it. The Vikings won, 33-30, in overtime in probably the season’s most exciting game.
Many outlets had Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen missing that game. The line got shaved. When he was seen at practice, no sleeve on the injured elbow, the probability of him playing appeared to improve. The line rose.
“It was weird, because we made a big adjustment on the line,” says Rampart Casino race and sports manager Duane Colucci. “We felt the elbow injury looked serious. At the end of that Jets game, he was clutching it. You don’t know what to make of it.
“We have to go by what the NFL is reporting. Thank god they do have an injury report; most sports don’t. Josh Allen is a gamer, but early reports after that Jets game said they wouldn’t risk it, they’d save him for a potential playoff run.”
What kind of mind games might the Bills have played, maybe getting Minnesota to believe Allen wouldn’t play? And how much liability was at stake when Buffalo took that four-point lead late in the game?
“I think they were to trying to play a little deception,” Colucci says. “It didn’t look like the Josh Allen from the first five weeks. But they were playing a little deception because Minnesota is synonymous with a team that you can easily get into their heads.
“They never perform on the big stage. You know Kirk Cousins, who he is … he feels pressure, a lot of pressure. But this team is a little different. They’re starting to wear their emotions on their sleeves.”
Regarding that sweet spot between 4 and 7 points — a middler’s dream scenario by taking the high points and giving the low — Colucci says it did not materialize that way at the South Point or Rampart, sister sportsbook properties.
Sharp bettors, according to Colucci, had as much information as he and his colleagues possessed.
“You didn’t have these guys stepping out. That wasn’t one of the games where [we] had a massive handle. We started to get a sense [of what was happening], and we started to raise the line, thinking he’d play.
“[South Point bookmaker] Chris [Andrews] is real sharp with that, and Vinny [Magliulo], Jimmy [Vaccaro], and myself. We stay on top of that. We have conversations on when we need to start adjusting ‘this’ line.”
Ultimately, had Buffalo won that game by 4 to 7 points, the South Point and Rampart would have felt a pinch.
“It would have definitely hurt if it landed in between there,” Colucci says. “But it wouldn’t have destroyed us. We did make the adjustments properly. The public, also, was leery of the game. Definitely, it was a test. Such a marquee matchup.
“But you have to take into account there are 10 other games on the board. Why gamble on something that’s a crapshoot? That’s how the sharps think. They want an advantage.”
Onto Week 11 action, where sharp play has come in on the Cowboys and Chargers in early wagering in Las Vegas.
Cleveland Browns (3-6, 4-5 ATS) vs Buffalo Bills (6-3, 4-4-1 ATS)
The largest snowfall in the history of mankind, as some news outlets seemed to hyperventilate, coaxed NFL commish Roger Goodell to move this one to the Motor City, where the Bills play four days later on Thanksgiving.
Many bet shops voided tickets, meaning refunds to bettors, for the venue switch. Per house rules at the Westgate SuperBook, however, they’re still live.
After generally opening at Bills -8.5 and 47.5, the total got knocked down to 42 with several feet of snow in the forecast. Within an hour of the announcement of the change of venue, DraftKings listed 8.5 and 48.5.
NFL · Sun (11/20) @ 1:02pm ET
|Ford Field, Detroit, MI|
A Queens native, Colucci says, “It’s brutal up there during winter.” So he approved of the move to Detroit. He’s certain, however, that Bills Mafia didn’t take the switch so kindly.
In dome games this season, the Browns lost at Atlanta, 23-20, and the Bills won, 31-10, at the L.A. Rams.
Dallas Cowboys (6-3, 6-3 ATS) at Minnesota Vikings (8-1, 4-4-1 ATS)
The two largest early-week wagers that were fielded at the South Point and Rampart were on the Chargers and Cowboys, who lost at Green Bay last weekend.
Cowboys-Vikings opened a pick’em, but the sharp action helped bump it to Dallas -1.5.
NFL · Sun (11/20) @ 4:25pm ET
|U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota|
“And rightfully so,” Colucci says of the sharp money. “It’s a nice bounce-back position for the Cowboys. We’ll see how they react against this Minnesota team that’s flying high right now.”
Analysis & Pick: Cowboys vs. Vikings odds and prediction
Kansas City Chiefs (7-2, 3-5-1 ATS) at Los Angeles Chargers (5-4, 6-3 ATS)
A big early-week wager on the Chargers helped cut this down from an opener of Chiefs -7, and Colucci has seen tickets, as well as the money, favor the Chargers. More interest Thursday sliced it from 6.5 to 5.5.
NFL · Sun (11/20) @ 8:20pm ET
|SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, California|
Away from home, however, the Chiefs sport an NFL-best PPP margin of 0.198.
“As long as [tight end Travis] Kelce is healthy and they’ve got that running game going,” Colucci says, “the Chiefs are still the front runner in the AFC, especially if [Josh] Allen is hurt. Who would have thought they’d [go off as] about a touchdown favorite in L.A.?
“I think the Chiefs will put up enough points to where they’ll outscore the Chargers.”
Colucci calls the positions on Dallas and the Chargers sharp.
“Definitely sharp,” he says, “without a doubt. Two of our sharper customers.”
Philadelphia Eagles (8-1, 5-4 ATS) at Indianapolis Colts (4-5-1, 4-6 ATS)
Sun (11/20) @ 1 p.m. ET
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
Betting lines: Eagles -7, Total 45
Colucci expresses caution with the Colts, whose new wunderkind coach, Jeff Saturday, made headlines last week with his first victory in his first game as an NFL boss.
Yes, it was on the road. But, Colucci warns, it was against the Raiders.
“A terrible team. Last week, it was all Raiders money. Now, all of a sudden, Saturday — a high school coach, basically — is the flashy head coach. Philly will be hungry in this game. We’ll check the injury reports, but early money has come in on the Colts.
“You could see it. We don’t move games on air. We opened 9, it’s now 6.5. I think it has to go back to a touchdown, or more. I like Philly’s chances on a bounce back.”
It did just that by Thursday evening, hitting 7.
In points-per-play (PPP) margin, the Eagles are tops in the past three games (at 0.227) and fourth in the league away from home, at 0.117. The Colts’ -0.032 at home is in the bottom quarter of the league.
New York Jets (6-3, 6-3 ATS) at New England Patriots (5-4, 5-3-1 ATS)
Sun (11/20) @ 1 p.m. ET
Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA
Betting lines: Patriots -3.5, Total 38
It’s expected to be 37 degrees, under partly cloudy skies, at kickoff, with no precipitation during the game, winds of about 17 mph decreasing slightly as it goes along.
Bill Belichick after a bye week? Cool those jets about how the Pats play so well in such a scenario. Straight up, they’re 15-7, but have dropped two of their past three.
They’ve beaten the spread 13 of those times, a 59.1 winning percentage. But it doesn’t touch Denver games finishing Under (50-24, .676) since 2018.
Plus, away from home, the Jets own a stellar PPP margin of 0.152, No. 2 in the NFL. At home, New England is a fifth-best 0.126. At the South Point and Rampart, early Under action budged this down from 39.
Colucci laughs about the quarterbacks, Zach Wilson for the Jets and Mac Jones for the Patriots.
“Wilson and Mac Jones are NOT synonymous with flashy, down-field throws. This is another game where it becomes a running game.”
And that would have to favor the Pats’ duo of Rhamondre Stevenson (618 yards, 4 TDs) and Damien Harris (302, 3), since Iowa State rookie Breece Hall got shelved for the season with an ACL tear. He had run for 285 yards in a three-game stretch, including 116 at Green Bay, before suffering the setback.
Also read: Jets vs. Patriots odds and prediction
Detroit Lions (3-6, 5-4 ATS) at New York Giants (7-2, 7-2 ATS)
Sun (11/20) @ 1 p.m. ET
MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
Betting lines: Giants -3, Total 44.5
An initial wave of Detroit cash moved this down from Giants -4 at the South Point and Rampart.
The Lions had a big win in Chicago last weekend, but quarterback Jared Goff has four TDs and four interceptions in his past five games, in which Detroit went 2-3. Also, Detroit is the NFL’s least-efficient away team, with a PPP margin of -0.223.
Since the 1980s, the Lions are 1-4 at New England, their lone victory a 19-16 decision in 1993.
Cincinnati Bengals (5-4, 6-3 ATS) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-6, 4-4-1 ATS)
Sun (11/20) @ 4:25 p.m. ET
Acrisure Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA
Betting lines: Bengals -4, Total 41
This got nudged from the prime-time Sunday night spot, and the forecast is for 28 degrees at kickoff, with no precipitation and about a 12-mph wind decreasing into the evening.
Money came in on Pittsburgh early in the week, driving it down from 5.
“I think it’s an overreaction,” Colucci says. “I think Cincinnati is definitely the better team, although they’re still playing without Chase. I don’t think he’s coming back this week, but I love Cincinnati in this spot.”
A hip injury has sidelined receiver Ja’Marr Chase from the Bengals’ past two games, a loss at Cleveland and a home victory over Carolina. In his last two games in uniform, Chase caught 15 passes for 262 yards and four TDs.
Tailback Joe Mixon, a fourth-year pro out of Oklahoma, paced the Bengals against the Panthers with 153 yards and four TDs on 22 carries. It was his 14th triple-figure-yardage game. He also had a receiving TD.
His career rushing yardage high? Late last November at home against the Steelers, against whom he rattled off 165 yards on 28 carries, scoring twice in a 41-10 rout.
San Francisco 49ers (5-4, 4-5 ATS) vs. Arizona Cardinals (4-6, 5-5 ATS)
Mon (11/21) @ 8:15 p.m. ET
Azteca Stadium, Mexico City, Mexico
Betting lines: Niners -8, Total 43.5
Last week’s Niners game is one that could have stung, according to Colucci. At the end, the Chargers fizzled backed up inside their own 10, but San Francisco couldn’t punch it, settling for a short field goal and a 22-16 triumph.
The Niners were giving 7.
“Tripped over their own feet,” Colucci says. “That was good for us, as bookmakers.” He laughs. “We needed the Chargers BIG time there. It worked out, but the Chargers have to get that offense going.”
It’s déjà vu this week. Niners cash has moved this up from 7.
“We’re taking a lot of 49ers money,” Colucci says. “And I can’t even look for a reason to bet on Arizona, which has a lot of problems. They’re definitely one of the train-wreck teams.
“Many thought [quarterback Kyler] Murray would be able to lead this team, and now he’s just screaming at guys on the sidelines.”
So the problem, for Colucci and every Vegas book, is that many punters will be tying their parlays and teasers to San Francisco, as the last game of Week 11. Do the Niners trip over themselves again?
“I think we’ll definitely have to inflate the spread as the money comes in, to create buyback on Arizona. The sharps will always buy it back, when they feel that enough is enough.”
Analysis: 49ers vs. Cardinals odds and prediction