When the 49ers opened as six-point favorites for their Week 6 home game against the Giants, Coast Resorts sports book director Bob Scucci wasn't surprised that the first few bets came on the Giants, but he was skeptical of a possible false move because of what he's seen over the first weeks of this season.
"I thought plus-6 was a lot of points, but it's the type of activity I'm seeing early from a few bettors that has me believing some might be attempting to drive the number down in order to bet the other side larger later in the week," said Scucci. "I saw the same type of pattern in last night's Steelers-Titans game and also last week between the Vikings and Titans."
The same thing also happened a few weeks ago when the Vikings beat the 49ers. The thought process for a sports book director is, 'why else would sharp money take the points early in the week when they know if they wait, the large conglomeration of public money accumulated might force the move to a better number.' The answer is simple, they want to lay the favorite later at many other betting outs for more money that follow moves from other books.
Scucci has no problem playing the cat and mouse game with the betting groups. He's been one of the best in the city at sniffing out schemes. From his early days running the Stardust to now, Scucci has seen just about every type of sharp money strategy and every few years, they seem to cycle back around.
"After we went to 5 ½ with the 49ers, we just continued to get 49ers action, pushing us to 6 and then to 6 ½ on Thursday," Scucci said. "But not much of it came from sharp money. It was all public money driving the number."
So if it was a scheme to influence the market, the sharps missed their opportunity which sets up for their zig-zag play. It's one of those things like a pitcher does in baseball where he sets up a hitter throughout a game with certain pitches, never showing him his ace pitch until maybe his second or third at-bat.
Sharps took +6 early knowing books would respect the move based on their movements in their first couple of at-bats. Now comes the curve ball where sharps wait for the best number on the Giants -- hopefully +7 -- and bet it again for larger money. It's just a theory, but one to watch that may play out over the weekend.
As a reference to show just how inflated Sunday's line already is, we can look back at last season's NFC Championship game in San Francisco where the 49ers were two-point favorites.
Cantor Gaming had the 49ers set at -3.5 in this game back in August, Now, we're looking at 6.5. Perhaps a little overreaction by the betting public?
"The public has seen the Giants appear to struggle a little while watching the 49ers not only win, but win big over the last two weeks, and easily covering the number," Scucci said.
Here's a look at how some of the other Week 6 games have moved during the week:
-- Bad weather is expected in Cleveland Sunday with a 60% chance of rain and some gusting winds that may make it difficult for the teams to score. The Browns have already been a great UNDER team at home, staying UNDER the number in their past seven home games. The total opened 44 ½ and has been bet down to 43 ½. The Bengals opened at -3 (EVEN) and have been bet against, down to 2 ½, just because of the key number and the underdog presenting great value this season.
-- The Buccaneers opened -3 ½ (EVEN) against the Chiefs and are now -4 ½ due to quarterback Matt Cassel (head) 'out' and Brady Quinn in for the Chiefs. Quinn has looked like a deer in headlights every chance he's got to play whether in preseason with Denver or his flop in Cleveland as starting QB, but there still isn't much of a fall-off from the two. The best thing Cassel has done all season is hand the ball off to Jamal Charles, which Quinn should be able to handle.
-- The Falcons opened as 8 ½-point home favorites against the Raiders and have been bet up to -9. This game has an eerily similar tone to it that the Panthers-Falcons game from Week 4 did. Bettors jumped all over the Falcons at home and it took a late snafu by Cam Newton for Atlanta to win, but the Panthers still got the money.
-- The Ravens opened as four-point home favorites, but Cowboys money has dropped the game to 3 ½. The Cowboys come off a bye with all kinds of offensive issues, but the Ravens hurry-up offense has been slowed somewhat over the past two weeks.
-- There is an on-going thought process by bettors in Las Vegas that this is the week the Lions finally show up with their 'A' game after a week off. The Eagles opened as five-point favorites and have been bet down to 3 ½. The Lions haven't covered a game all season and have been one of the bigger disappointments of 2012.
-- The Dolphins opened as five-point home favorites against the Rams, but bettors are buying into Jeff Fisher's Rams, who have covered four of their five games. The Rams offense is still a work in progress, but their defense has been very opportunistic with a strong pass rush.
-- The Patriots opened as five-point favorites at Seattle and Seahawks money has pushed the number down to 3 ½. Seattle has a huge home field advantage, but wow, the Pats have given Tom Brady two straight 200 yard rushing performances coming in.
-- The Texans opened as four-point favorites prior to their Monday night game against the Jets. After losing linebacker Brian Cushing, their defensive maestro, the line was adjusted to 3 ½, which may not be enough. Cushing is one of the more valuable defensive players in the league as far as ratings go. And for as sluggish as the Packers offense looks, they'd be 4-1 without two miracles going against them. Should be a great matchup under the lights on SNF!
-- The Chargers opened as three-point home favorites over the Broncos before their Sunday night game at New Orleans. Nothing changed when the line was reposted Monday morning, but bettors quickly ran with the Broncos dropping the number to 1 ½.