The biggest game of the week is the New England Patriots at the Baltimore Ravens, a rematch from last year's AFC Championship game the Patriots won, but didn't cover. It also should be the biggest betting game of the week for all the Las Vegas sports books, but if it isn't showing that way on their screens -- in particular, the large straight bet action -- they can thank South Point sports book director Bert Osborne for stealing most of the large money there was to be had on the game.
The ticket volume on the game is still through the roof everywhere in town. The small money, from locals and out-of-town visitors, don't care what the line is. While some of the novices may be confused a bit by all the +3 (-120) or -3 (EVEN) they have been seeing everywhere, the two sides are still generating tons of action, albeit small.
The South Point is the only sports book in Nevada that deals exclusively in flat numbers. You'll never see them ponder over moving off a key number, even if the money says "it's go time." Whenever dealing with the number "3", it can be tricky because 14.2 percent of all NFL games have landed on the number over the last five seasons. Including Thursday's outcome between the Giants and Panthers, only three out of 33 games (9%) have been decided by three points in 2012.
But for Osborne and the South Point, their rewards from the juice on the game -- by getting all the large bets -- far outweighs the negative of getting occasionally sided.
When a player looking for the best number sees money attached to a game, it's essentially telling them that the book is closed, and they move on. This week, all the large money has been waiting for the move at the South Point. The book has gone back and forth from their opening number of Ravens -2 ½ to Patriots +3 on four occasions this week, each time taking 2 ½ to 3 times the limit bet on the move. Meanwhile, everyone else in town has essentially been closed and won't see the type of money the South Point has.
Even if the other books join Osborne -- which they will -- at Ravens -2 ½-flat, the demand is gone because the supply is no longer limited due to Osborne already satisfying their needs early on.
If the game ends with the Ravens winning by "3', well, then I guess every other betting shop was smarter. But I love the gambling mentality of their unique process, because its old school bookmaking mixed in with some new statistical analytics and proven win over the long haul that prove their strategy right.
The last two meeting between these two teams have been identical 23-20 Patriots wins, which shouldn't help ease Osborne's Sunday as he hopes for any results but a Ravens win by three.
Here's a look at some of the other moves this week:
-- The Bears opened as early 9-point home favorites and Rams money quickly pushed the game to -7 ½ where most books sit now. The Mirage currently has the Bears -7 (-120).
-- The Cowboys opened as 7-point home favorites against the Bucs and have been bet up to -8.
-- The 49ers opened as 6 ½-point road favorites, the first of seven road favorites this week. The 49ers went up -7 and then Vikings money pushed it back down. I found it odd that large money, knowing the public will drive this game -- 10-to-1 ticket counts on 49ers, would take the +7 on a Tuesday knowing that if they wait until Sunday, they could get +7 ½ or maybe even +8. This leads me to suspect it was a smoke screen with the intention of setting the market at a price, with hopes of other books following on air, and then the 49ers -6 ½ becomes a play for a several times more than they seeded the scheme with. I've been wrong before, but it smells like a perfectly legal scheme sharp money occasionally plays to get their desired number.
-- The Lions opened early Sunday night as only 1-point road favorites at Tennessee and were quickly bet up -2 ½. The number now sits at -3 ½ against a team nobody in Vegas wants to touch.
-- The Bengals have found support in Robert Griffin III's home opener in Washington, taking +4 and +3 ½ to where it sits now at 3.
-- The Cardinals have been getting action as a home 'dog against the Eagles. The line went from +4 down to +3.
-- The Texans went from being an early line opener of +1 at Denver to being -2 ½ after the football nation witnessed Manning's lack of arm strength and three interceptions at Atlanta Monday night.
-- Despite the Raiders looking terrible the first two weeks, sharp money feels good about them this week as the Steelers visit. The Steelers were 6-point early favorites and the number has been pushed all the way down to -3 ½.
-- The Seahawks have been getting all kinds of love after their win over the Cowboys last week and ironically, the spread for the Monday night game against the Packers is about the same. The Packers were early 4-point favorites, but have now been bet against, down as low as -3 (-120).