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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:51 PM

Vegas Money Moves - Week 17

End of the Road

Welcome to 2021 - which gives us an immediate end to the NFL regular season with Week 17 offering all kinds of drama. Division titles, Wild Card spots, and playoff seeding are all on the line. Some teams have nothing to play while some teams are already locked in and will sit their best players to avoid injury.

This entire exercise each season might be the most difficult week of the year for oddsmakers and bookmakers who both trust their information in other sports to rest easy 51 weeks a year, but Week 17 is dangerous in their minds because no one really knows all the answers. They’re on constant alert for any type of information regarding a player, coach, or team.

“You gotta watch the news constantly,” said veteran South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews.

No oddsmaker or bookmaker wants to make an error in the number, but the wise guys will let them know with action. They usually get information first, somehow.

“Who is playing and how much playing time will they get,” said BetMGM’s Jason Scott. “It’s a nightmare.”

Who’s playing and what is their value in or out to the number, relative of course to who the back-up is? Did the coach or team make a statement on a player or is it possibly a false rumor? But they’re always listening to all information, checking out Twitter frequently.

“Just not knowing who is going to play and for how long is (frustrating),” said Atlantis-Reno sportsbook director Marc Nelson. “How motivated are the teams, are they playing for just pride? It’s more like booking preseason for a lot of the games.”

Westgate SuperBook VP Jay Kornegay has been going through the Week 17 process for 30 years and has a regular process he’s gotten used to.

“The key is to monitor how much rest certain starters will receive and the quality of the back-ups,” he said.

Beast of the East?

All the Washington Football Team has to do Sunday night at Philadelphia is win the game and they win the NFC East which comes with a home game in next week’s wild-card round. QB Alex Smith was limited in practice this week and is questionable, so is top WR Terry McLaurin and top RB Antonio Gibson.

What is that trio worth to the number? But let’s also factor in that the Eagles have six key players ruled out, including their top RB Miles Sanders and top DE Fletcher Cox.

The SuperBook opened the Eagles -4 last week and re-opened them -2.5 on Sunday night and within an hour it was down to -1. On Monday, it was pick 'em and after a slow crawl up the ladder, it was Washington -3 -120. Smith is still questionable, but the move on Washington was more about the Eagles players being out.

BetMGM sportsbooks and the South Point have both taken sharp money on Washington while the shine and infatuation of the Eagles and their new QB Jalen Hurts has worn off with the public.

Swimming Up North

There’s a sharp-public divide in the Dolphins/Bills game where the Bills opened -4 and dropped all the way to pick ‘em on Tuesday. All the Dolphins have to do is win and they’re in the playoffs. Lose and they need some help to make it. But then the number went back up the Bills way gradually getting to Bills -3 on Thursday. I asked Las Vegas oddsmaker, Kenny White, what the reason for the Bills move was.

“There’s snow in Buffalo but the winds are only 5-10 mph,” White said. “The Bills need to win to clinch the No. 2 spot which gives them a second home game if they win their first home playoff game so I expect Josh Allen to play the entire game. Allen is used to this type of weather coming from Wyoming. Miami is in a whole new climate. The turf should be fast for the offense but slippery for the defense.”

The public and some sharp money have bet the Dolphins while the public has played the Bills at the South Point and the Atlantis.

Steel Money

BetMGM’s Scott said the Steelers are their second biggest risk after Washington. The Browns got as high as 10-point home favorites until dropping to -8.5 after two key players tested for COVID-19 and will miss the game.

The Steelers are resting Ben Roethlisberger since they can’t gain anything while the Browns can make the playoffs for the first time since 2002 with a win. Mason Rudolph will start for the Steelers. The SuperBook opened the Browns -4 for this game last week.

Cowboy Way

The Cowboys opened as 2.5-point road favorites at the NY Giants and was bet up to -3, but Giants money forced the move down to -1.5. Whoever wins this game will then be rooting for the Eagles Sunday night so they can win the division.

Daniel Jones will be the Giants starting QB. The public loves the Cowboys again after an impressive win last week against the Eagles. But sharp money at the South Point and Station Casinos are on the Giants.

Win and In

Sharp money also loves the Cardinals this week at the L.A. Rams who will be playing without QB Jared Goff and WR Cooper Kupp. The winner of the game will get a wild card berth. The lookahead number last week was Rams -4.5 with Goff playing.

The SuperBook re-opened Cardinals -1.5 on Wednesday after news of Goff’s injury. It’s moved slowly up to -3 (-120) at most books, except the South Point that uses only flat numbers (-110). They were pushed to -3.5 setting up the dreaded middle opportunity. No one wants to crossover 3, but Rams money isn’t backing Rams back-up QB John Wolford who makes his NFL debut. Arizona has lost five of its last eight games.

March to Top Seed

The Saints are -6 at Carolina after being -6.5 before news that Saints RB Alvin Kamara is out due to COVID-19. The Saints have a shot at winning the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Just a half-point for Kamara, who is basically the Saints recipe to always winning? Seems light. But the Saints still need to win, just as the Packers and Seahawks do vying for the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

This article could go on forever, but I only have so much space. There’s still a ton going on in Week 17 and the bookmakers have to babysit these delicate numbers and protect the house against a wise guy attack on soft numbers. COVID-19 adds another added element to the mix that makes this year's Week 17 probably the most hectic ever.

WEEK 17 - PUBLIC VS. SHARP LEANS

Here’s a recap of the sharp-public divide:

Sharp

  • Cardinals
  • Dolphins
  • Bears
  • Giants
  • Steelers
  • Washington

Public

  • Cowboys
  • Steelers
  • Texans
  • Bills
  • Packers
  • Saints
  • Buccaneers
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