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Raiders-Browns betting line moves dramatically with Baker Mayfield, others out with COVID (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

Many bettors believed they were getting a deal last week, when the Arizona Cardinals moved from a 2- to a 3-point favorite, 3.5 points at some sportsbooks, at home Monday night against the Los Angeles Rams.

The visitors were experiencing COVID issues and would be shorthanded. Some on social media even used that verboten four-letter l-word in describing their loyalties and money destination.

Alas, yet one more reminder that a “lock” is hot air in the gambling community.

“If you’re betting the NFL this time of year and think you’ll get a great number Monday or Tuesday, that could be a terrible number come Sunday,” says Jeff Stoneback, who oversees BetMGM’s sportsbook operations in Las Vegas.

“Not only for us is it tough, but for the bettors, too,” Stoneback said of COVID’s impact on handicapping. “You make that bet early in the week, and you might not have the quarterback playing Sunday. And it won’t be due to injury — it’ll be due to COVID.”

He expected his shop to institute more limited maximum wagers, which it did at the start of last season as the world started emerging from that coronavirus hiatus.

“We’ll cut them back for our protection,” says Stoneback, “maybe even have every game circled.”

A circled game on a betting sheet indicates such a limited maximum, usually $500. He recommends being careful, with money wagered and information learned.

“COVID obviously is the big story of this week,” he says. “It’s not going to get any better. The COVID is with us, and it’s probably going to get a bit worse.”

Here’s a look at the Week 15 slate.

(Each team’s records, overall and ATS, are in parenthesis.)

Raiders (6-7, 5-8 ATS) at Browns (7-6, 5-8 ATS)

PointsBet Line: Raiders -3.5, Total 39 

Update: This game has reportedly been moved from Saturday to Monday, and Circa Sports adjusted the line to pick ’em upon Friday’s news.

Cleveland had been as much as a 6-point favorite, but the Browns’ COVID issues that include quarterback Baker Mayfield have flipped the game, making Las Vegas the favorite .

“Sharp money started coming in Tuesday on the Raiders,” says Stoneback. “Then, maybe five minutes later, the COVID news came out (regarding the Browns).”

“Five minutes earlier we didn’t know about it, but the bettors did. That’s always the problem; they seem to get the information quicker than we do. We always find out about five minutes after they find out.”

With Mayfield ruled out, Case Keenum—28-35 as a starter in nine seasons as a pro—had been next in line. Thursday, Keenum tested positive, meaning Nick Mullens is next up for the Browns.

The Raiders were bumped to -3.5.

Again, however, it remains to be seen if that is the proper move in relation to a Raiders team that has dropped five of its past six, overall and ATS. In Kansas City last weekend, Las Vegas was belted, 48-9.

This is a Browns squad that has dropped four of its past five home games.

Las Vegas has allowed 27.7 points a game this season, second-worst in the league. Over its past three games, it’s yielded 32.7, worst in the NFL.

Mullens, a Southern Miss product, is 5-11 as an NFL starter, all with San Francisco, and has played in three other games for the Niners.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is 53-70 in eight pro seasons.

NE Patriots vs IND Colts Odds NFL Odds

NFL · Sat (12/18) @ 8:15pm ET

NE Patriots at IND Colts
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana

Patriots (9-4, 9-4 ATS) at Colts (7-6, 8-5 ATS)

Line: Colts -2.5, Total 45.5

Indianapolis will be looking to upend New England’s current status as the AFC’s top team, which gives it a first-round bye and home-field advantage through the conference title game.

Colts tailback Jonathan Taylor is the league’s No. 1 runner, with 1,348 yards and 16 touchdowns. His average of 5.6 yards ties him, at second, with Tony Pollard of the Cowboys.

Washington  (6-7, 5-8 ATS) at Eagles (6-7, 7-6 ATS)

Line: Eagles -9.5, Total 44

Update: This line reached as high as 11 but was knocked down to -8 after Friday’s news that the game will be played Tuesday.

WFT’s COVID issues jumped to 18 players on Wednesday.

At 1 p.m. ET that day, sharp money moved the BetMGM line from 5 to 5.5. Ninety minutes later, it was 7. Thursday, it hit 9.5. BetMGM has written five times as many tickets on Philly as it had on WFT.

“If we take more money on the favorite,” says Stoneback, “that could go even higher.”

NY Jets vs MIA Dolphins Odds NFL Odds

NFL · Sun (12/19) @ 1:00pm ET

NY Jets at MIA Dolphins
Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida

Jets (3-10, 3-10 ATS) at Dolphins (6-7, 7-5-1 ATS)

Line: Dolphins -9.5, Total 41.5

Stoneback has seen 10 in some shops. His opened at 8.5, and both sharps and the public — always against the Jets — bumped it up a point, a situation Stoneback rues. In Miami’s favor, tickets are 5-to-1 and money 10-to-1.

“Every week is like groundhog day,” says Stoneback. “We’ll probably be rooting for the Jets here in the office, which is tough to do and doesn’t work out too well for us quite often.”

CIN Bengals vs DEN Broncos Odds NFL Odds

NFL · Sun (12/19) @ 4:05pm ET

CIN Bengals at DEN Broncos
Empower Field at Mile High, Denver, Colorado

Bengals (7-6, 6-7 ATS) at Broncos (7-6, 7-6 ATS)

Caesars Sportsbook Line: Broncos -2.5 (-120), Total 44

This has moved up a point, from Denver -1.5, and Stoneback scans a market that has settled at -2.5 (-120). Stoneback reports that twice as many tickets have been written on Cincinnati, but more than twice the money is on Denver.

“One of the Pros vs. Joes games,” he says. “We, obviously, respect the professional money.”

It doesn’t take much money, from a source the book respects, to alter a line. Stoneback defines a “casino player” as a high-roller at table games who might not be as sharp in the sportsbook.

“A casino player could come in and bet six figures,” he says, “and we don’t even touch the line. It’s more who’s betting rather than how much they’re betting.”

GB Packers vs BAL Ravens Odds NFL Odds

NFL · Sun (12/19) @ 4:25pm ET

GB Packers at BAL Ravens
M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland

Packers (10-3, 11-2 ATS) at (8-5, 6-7 ATS)

Line: Packers -5.5, Total 43.5

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers leads the league with a 108.8 passer rating. Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson (ankle), meanwhile, is questionable, and the Ravens have virus questions.

BetMGM is 9-to-1 in Green Bay tickets, 3-to-1 in money on the Packers.

“Every week, the public is on the Packers,” says Stoneback. “The Ravens have been struggling, and now Jackson might be out. That’s a big game for us.”

Money has bumped the total up from 42.5, and BetMGM hadn’t taken a single ‘under’ wager by midweek.

Seahawks (5-8, 7-6 ATS) at Rams (9-4, 6-7 ATS)

Line: Rams -4.5, Total 45

Update: Rams are back up to -6 with the NFL’s decision to push the game to Tuesday.

By midweek, many books had this one off their boards as continued COVID issues with the Rams drew action toward Seattle. BetMGM opened Rams -7, but Seattle attention has cut it to 4.5.

“COVID is the main reason that line went down,” says Stoneback. “Obviously, once again, the sharp money came in before we got some of that information.”

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is second in the league with a 108.4 passer rating.

 Saints (6-7, 6-7 ATS) at Buccaneers (10-3, 7-6 ATS)

DraftKings Line: Buccaneers -11, Total 46.5

Driving into work one day this week, Stoneback heard on the radio that Tampa Bay leads the league, at +19, in average home scoring margin. Green Bay (+13.7), Dallas (+12.5), and New England (+11.1) are the other double-digit squads.

Over the years, he says, taking a double-digit underdog in the NFL has been a safe money-making tack. Tampa Bay, though, debunks that play since it’s 6-0 at home, 5-1 ATS against some big numbers, the lone ATS loss coming in Week 1 against the Cowboys.

Interest in New Orleans has nudged this down from 11.5.

“We’ve taken some sharp money on the Saints,” says Stoneback. “Being the Sunday night game, I’m sure the public will be all over the Bucs. We’ll probably be rooting for the same side as the sharps.”

Also read: NFL Week 15 Totals: Raiders-Browns Over/Under Drops On Covid News | NFL Week 16 Look-Ahead Lines | Saints at Bucs Betting Odds, Pick


About the Author
Rob Miech

Rob Miech

Rob Miech is a writer and contributor for Gaming Today, covering soccer and producing sports betting features. He has written about college hoops for the Las Vegas Sun, CBS SportsLine and the Pasadena Star-News. He is the author of four books, including Sports Betting for Winners.

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