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All Las Vegas sports books wanted for Christmas was a winning day and Santa obliged.

And why not? After determining whether the books had been naughty or nice to the public this season, there was an overwhelming feeling throughout the North Pole that they deserved a winning day in the final pro football week of 2011.

Last Saturday, the books had eight underdogs gift wrapped to help give them one of the few winning NFL weeks of the season.

However, the timing of the games falling on Christmas Eve hurt handle.

“Handle was down a little from last season,” said South Point sports book director Bert Osborne. “This was one of the first pro football weeks where numbers were down from the same weekend of the previous year.”

Usually there’s a mad rush to the bet windows on holidays in the same manner that occurs at the malls, but the push never came. Action was down at most books by an estimated 10 to 15% from the previous year, but you won’t find any of the books complaining.

This was exactly what they needed in an attempt to close 2011 out strong.

Helping the cause were four outright underdog winners last Saturday, in addition to having the Colts win outright on Thursday night as 6-point home underdogs to the Texans. The sports books also had a couple gift backdoor covers from the Dolphins and Browns.

The Patriots opened as 10-point favorites last week and were quickly bet against down to -9½, which is where the number stayed most of the week. On Saturday morning, sharp money was buying all they could on the Dolphins and within a half hour, the line had moved 2½ points down to Patriots -7.

The sports books were in a position where they wanted to beat the sharp money, but the risk from all the public money on the Patriots far exceeded those dollars. The Dolphins jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead, but before we could anticipate an upset, New England had tied the game and eventually took a 27-17 lead.

With less than two minutes remaining, the Dolphins scored a back-door touchdown off an 80-yard drive to cover the spread.

The Ravens had opened as 13½-point home favorites against the Browns and by kickoff the game spread was -11. Just like the Patriots game, sharp money was on the dog while most of the public was on the Ravens.

Baltimore jumped out to a 20-0 lead and then Cleveland marched back with 14 unanswered points to get the double backdoor cover.

Things got even better for the books when Tim Tebow and the Broncos imploded in the fourth-quarter at Buffalo. Denver was a 3-point favorite against the Bills who were in the midst of a seven-game losing streak. Public money found themselves siding with the Broncos at a 9-to-5 ratio in ticket counts, but the Bills steam-rolled the Broncos 40-14.

Other than sharp money, the sports books were rolling with positive decisions throughout the early games. The roll continued in the afternoon and they were helped even more by not having an isolated game to close out the day.

Usually, the late Sunday nighter is the most highly volatile game of the day just because every live parlay remaining on the day has a side to be decided – compounding the book’s risk. But on Christmas Eve it was three afternoon games and then the store was closed. Good night, happy holidays.

The late games also saw the books fare well despite the Eagles moving from being a 2½-point underdog to the 2½ favorite by kickoff. Tony Romo got hurt early and the Eagles won 20-7.

The Chargers were bet upon in their matchup at Detroit and the line moved three full points by kickoff. The Chargers had been almost unbeatable in Philip Rivers career during December going 23-2. They also had the dangling carrot of Denver collapsing to keep them alive for a playoff birth, but Detroit smacked them early and often to win 38-10.

Sports books got middled in the 49ers 19-17 win at Seattle, but it turned out to be a much better decision than the 49ers winning by three or more points. Despite most sports books having the 49ers -2 on the ties-win parlay cards, the action over the counter was far greater on San Francisco.

The books welcomed the minimal losses on paying both sides as the bulk of the action was on the 49ers -2½.

The final tally had the favorites going 6-9 ATS in Week 16 making the season mark 113-118-6.


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