Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:55 AM

Vegas Money Moves - Week 17

Bookmakers have a lot on their holiday plates during NFL Week 17 regular season action where they’re booking games without all the information needed, unlike the first 16 weeks. 

What team is resting starters as the playoffs approach? Who needs the game more? 
While every bookmaker tries to stay ahead of the information flow by any means necessary, which includes Twitter feeds of team beat writers, the sharp money is a little apprehensive about the Week 17 card as well.
“I don’t know that there any ‘sharp’ plays besides guys just seeing who is or who isn’t playing and betting accordingly,” said Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook VP Jay Kornegay. “Like all those people who bet Chicago today.”
The Vikings can’t gain much with a win Sunday at home against the Bears. Regardless of what happens, they’ll still be playing a division winner on the road next weekend in the Wild Card round. Why risk quarterback Kirk Cousins of running back Dalvin Cook, or just about any key starter on both sides of the ball?
Before a terrible home performance last Monday against the Packers, the Vikings were -7.5 in the early line against the Bears with a total set at 41.5. On Tuesday, they reopened the Vikings -1 and the total at 37 with expectations that the Vikings might rest some players this week due to being locked into the No. 6 seed. But then reports came out Friday morning that the Vikings would indeed rest several starters and the SuperBook adjusted three points to Bears -2 and bettors still kept betting the Bears with the SuperBook eventually being pushed to -3 -120.
The Vikings back-up QB is Sean Mannion. The Bears starting QB is Mitch Trubisky, who led the Bears to a disappointing 7-8 season and produced the worst against-the-spread mark in the NFL at 4-11 ATS. To suggest the Bears will be motivated to get to 8-8 is a stretch. However, the Bears did beat the Vikings and their starters in late September, 16-6, to giving them five straight covers against the Vikings -- four of them stayed under the total as well. The total is down to 36 as of Friday afternoon.    
The Ravens have home field throughout the AFC Playoffs clinched so what would be the reason to start the league’s likely Most Valuable Player in QB Lamar Jackson? The SuperBook opened the Ravens as 1.5-point home favorites over the Steelers on Monday with expectations of Jackson resting and within a few hours, it was bet up to Steelers -2.
Robert Griffin III will start for Baltimore against the Steelers and starting RB Mark Ingram is expected to sit as well. The Ravens defense is expected to sit at least two defensive starters and with the way the Steelers awful QB play has been the last two weeks -- both Steelers losses, it still seems like a tough sell on Pittsburgh. The Ravens have won 11 straight games, and they've gone 8-2-1 ATS during this run. The Steelers had to have wins the last two games and failed, now they need to win and also have the Titans lose to make the playoffs. 
South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews has sharp action on both the Steelers and Bears as well as two different groups hitting the Texans and Titans depending on the number -- taking +5, +4.5, +4, +3.5 with the Texans while laying -3 with the Titans. 
If the Titans win at Houston, they’re in the postseason while the Texans have already clinched the AFC South and the automatic playoff berth. Texans head coach Bill O’Brien says the starters will play but didn’t say for how long and it’s important to note that QB DeShaun Watson appeared to hurt his ankle last week, so rest would seem appropriate. The Texans (+3) won at Tennessee 24-21 in Week 15 to put them in the driver’s seat in the AFC South. The Titans and Steelers will be both playing in the late window (4:25 p.m. ET) and scoreboard watching is expected.  
Kornegay says the public is betting the Colts (-3.5 at Jacksonville), Chiefs (-9 vs. Chargers), and Raiders (+3.5 at Denver) the most while Station Casinos sportsbook director Jason McCormick said handle has been limited this week (holiday norm), but the public loves the Chiefs and what sharp action they do have has been on the 49ers (-3.5 EVEN Seattle).
With the exception of the Colts, the other three teams all have something to play for. The Chiefs can clinch a first-round bye with a win at Arrowhead but it will also need New England to lose at home to Miami, which isn't expected since the Patriots are laying 16 points at Foxboro. Both KC and New England will be playing in the early session at 1:00 p.m. ET.
It’s hard to believe the Raiders (7-8) are still alive in the playoff hunt for the final AFC seed, but if four things all align and happen, they’re in. The need to win, get the Steelers to lose, the Titans to lose, and the Colts to win. I could see three of those scenarios happening with the Raiders winning being the most unlikely.
The game of the week takes place on Sunday Night Football as San Francisco and Seattle will be playing for the NFC West, and home-field throughout the NFC Playoffs is at stake for the 49ers with a win. The Seahawks can get home-field with a win plus a Saints (-13 at Carolina) and Packers (-12.5 at Detroit) loss.

NFC future prices will be adjusted slightly on all four teams based on who gets home-field advantage and who has to play the extra-game in the Wild Card round. So if you have a premonition on who gets two possible home games in the playoffs, I'd suggest you bet it now. And if believing one of the Wild Card teams can win the NFC, wait until Monday to bet them.

Roberts is a former Las Vegas sports book director that has been covering the sports betting industry for the last 15 years.

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