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Opening Line Report - Week 17

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LAS VEGAS – Usually making NFL pointspreads isn’t a hard task for professional oddsmakers.

But it gets real tricky for them in Week 17, the final Sunday of the regular-season.

Oddsmakers don’t have the luxury of waiting until all the playoff data and situations are in order. They have to get their opening numbers out Sunday night.

“In past years we waited until Monday morning,” said Mike Seba, a senior linesmaker for Las Vegas Sports Consultants. “But we changed that last year. They demand them. So we have to do them Sunday.

“It can get tricky with weather. But the big thing is knowing what players are going to play and for how long. These numbers will be adjusted throughout the week.”

Aside from Tennessee, Indianapolis and the New York Giants, playoff seeding is undetermined. This can set up some potential thorny spots. It also sets up some value for teams playing an opponent in a must-win spot.

New England, for instance, was as high as minus seven at division rival Buffalo. The Patriots would capture the AFC East if they defeat the Bills and the New York Jets beat Miami at home.

LVSC’s recommended opener was Patriots minus 5 ½. Seba made the Patriots just four-point favorites.

“I don’t understand how you can ask New England to lay six, 6 ½, seven points on the road against a team that still is trying,” Seba said. “Buffalo is still playing hard and they have Trent Edwards back.

“It’s probably going to be a blowing snow storm where points will be at a premium. A field goal will be huge. I just don’t get it. I know the Patriots are playing well, but look at who they’ve played (Seattle, Oakland and Arizona the past three weeks).

“As a bettor, I would be all over Buffalo.”

Some lines were easy to make. The LVSC oddsmakers were in agreement that Philadelphia should be pick or minus one hosting Dallas.

“Dallas is the better team, but the Cowboys won’t be the favorite,” Seba said. “A lot of people think the wheels are coming off in Dallas.”

The Jets came the favorite at home against the Dolphins even though Miami has won eight of its last nine, while the slumping Jets have dropped three of their last four with their only win coming in gift-wrapped fashion against Buffalo.

LVSC’s send-out on the Dolphins-Jets was Jets minus 3. Most of the books had New York minus 2 1/2.

“I can see people taking three with the Dolphins,” Seba said. “They’re certainly playing well and the Jets aren’t. But the Jets are home so they have to be favored.”

Seba was surprised the Carolina Panthers were being listed as three-point road favorites over New Orleans at a number of sportsbooks on Monday. LVSC’s opening line was pick.

The Panthers are in the playoffs, but could enter the post-season as a wild-card team rather than NFC South Division champion depending on how things shake out with Atlanta, which hosts the St. Louis Rams. The Rams have lost nine straight games.

Carolina could be in rough shape physically after its Sunday night overtime war with the New York Giants. The Panthers could have clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but blew an eight-point fourth quarter lead.

“I think the number on Carolina is way too high,” Seba said.

The Saints are out of playoff contention. Drew Brees, though, is trying to break Dan Marino’s single-season passing yardage mark. He needs 402 yards.

LVSC anticipates the public to be all over San Diego when the Chargers host Denver on Sunday night with the AFC West Division title at stake.

Seba said the LVSC crew was thinking of making the Chargers minus seven but opted to send out minus 8 ½. Some books on Monday had the Chargers at minus nine.

“I don’t see it (the number) coming down,” Seba said about the Broncos-Chargers pointspread. “I only see it going up. We’ll be rooting for Denver.”

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