Vegas Money Moves – Week 18

We get our first-ever NFL Week 18 this week, but it’s really the same situation as Week 17 has always been to end the season with a treacherous schedule of teams having differing agendas.

Some teams will rest players for the playoffs bringing up the old argument of rest vs. rest.

The Packers have clinched everything as the No. 1 seed in the NFC, so why play Aaron Rodgers in a meaningless game at Detroit with a chance he could get hurt. If he’s gonna get hurt, make it a meaningful game just so the press and fans don't second-guess after the fact.

But at the same time that rest is good, sitting the star QB for essentially two weeks including the bye might take away some of his flow and rhythm. We’ve seen good teams in the past rest a lot of players in the final week going into a bye that come out flat on gameday.

The public has already thrust their support for the Packers and I would guess that at least half of them don’t know that the Packers will be resting players. The spread moved from Packers -1 to -3 at Circa Sports in a game they would probably be a 9-point road favorite. The Lions are expected to have starting QB Jared Goff back this week. The South Point and Caesars have the high numbers in Las Vegas at -3.5. The Packers (12-4 ATS) and Lions (10-6 ATS) are two of the top-3 cover teams in the NFL.

Then you have teams that need to win like the Patriots and Bills looking for the AFC East crown. The public is loving the Patriots laying -6 at Miami but the big number on the Bills -16 at home against the Jets has scared off the public, but sharp money took the +17 and +16.5 at the South Point and Station Casinos.

For other teams, they’ve been eliminated from playoff contention for weeks and just want to end the season on a positive note. The Browns sent Baker Mayfield to get surgery on his shoulder that has been hurting him all season which means that Case Keenum will start at QB. But because Joe Burrow is among a few Bengals starters that will be rested after clinching the AFC North, the Browns went from 3-point home favorites to -6.5.

Brandon Allen will the Bengals QB in Week 18. The underdog has covered the last four meetings and the over has gone 7-0-1 in their last eight meetings.

Then you have the situation where two teams have had an awful season and are simply closing out the process. The Giants certainly want to bury an awful season and they’re getting +6.5 at home against Washington.

The Giants will give former Georgia QB Jake Fromm another shot at starting, but this game turned into a bet automatically for some when Giants head coach Joe Judge referenced Washington as a “clown show” after Washington had teammates arguing on the sidelines last week.

Judge later walked back the comment as not directed at Washington and Washington coach Ron Rivera didn’t respond, but rather said some blah-blah about maybe trying some new players but not to the point of irritating the fans. He said his goal is to always win.

Rivera said it all so calmly and really acted like the Judge comment didn’t bother him. But this is Riverboat Ron. He doesn’t take any guff. This guy was a linebacker on the 1985 Bears defense, you think he’s going to let Joe Judge get a pass on talking about his team?

It’s not hard to envision Rivera behind the scenes drilling it into his crew to humiliate the Giants on the field.

The public’s top choice this week is the Chiefs Saturday at Denver, a number that has moved from the Chiefs -9.5 to -10.5. The Broncos have given up and head coach Vic Fangio should be axed after the game. What would the price be on the number of head coaches fired in the next week? Is it 5.5 over -150?

The Chiefs can still get the No. 1 seed and the first step is winning on Saturday. They’re 7-0 ATS in the last seven meetings at Denver and 10-2 ATS in the last 12 meetings overall. And the Broncos will again be starting Drew Lock with a skeleton WR group, banged up offensive line, and a bunch of new guys in the secondary (Patrick Surtain out). The Chiefs come off a loss at Cincinnati after eight straight wins and six straight covers.

If they win, the Chiefs will need a bit of help on Sunday in the chase for No. 1 from the Texans who host the Titans. The spread has dropped from Titans -10.5 to -10 because sharp money sees value in the situation with a Texans team getting better, their rookie QB Davis Mills showing weekly improvements at home, and all the pressure of the Titans being the No. 1 seed by just having to win.

The motivation for the Texans is to finish the crummy year up with wins in three of their last four games.

Then we have the Cowboys at Philadelphia where a win doesn’t mean much for either team already in the playoffs. There’s been some interesting action on this game across Las Vegas.

“Sharp action early this week was on the Cowboys, and they came back on the Eagles yesterday, and also the Chiefs,” said BetMGM’s Jeff Stoneback. “That’s really the only sharp play we’ve had this week.”

Sharp bettors are skeptical of the week just as bookmakers are. Station Casinos has six of the games this week circled meaning lower limits. BetMGM also has public money riding the Cowboys mostly because they’re 12-4 ATS tied with the Packers for the best cover teams of 2021.

Cowboys coach Mike McCartney said his starters will play but didn’t say how long while the Eagles plan to start back QB Gardner Minshew and rest Jalen Hurts. The spread got as high as Cowboys -6.5 and -7 until being walked back down to -4.5 on Thursday and then a steady -4 on Friday.

The final two public sides are the Chargers and Buccaneers. The Buccaneers can move to the No. 2 seed if they beat the Panthers and the Rams beat the 49ers. I’ve seen more teams rest in this situation than play the starters, but just be cautious and alert before betting so you get all the information. The Bucs have gone from -7.5 to -9.

The Chargers have gone from -1 to -3 at Las Vegas in a loser leaves town match. The winner goes to the playoffs. The biggest question to me is what Charger team will show up? It’s the Sunday night game and the Raiders have John Madden’s family scheduled to be at the game.

The Raiders have won their last three to make this playoff dream a possibility, the last coming at Indianapolis as an 8.5-point underdog. WR Zay Jones is stretching the field the way Henry Ruggs used to. The Chiefs beat up the Broncos last week after losing 41-29 at Houston in Week 16. The Chargers have won and covered the last two meetings.

The NFC West will be decided at the same time in two locations. The Rams can clinch by beating the 49ers, but if they lose and the Cardinals win, the Cardinals win the west. The Cardinals need to build some momentum after ending a three-game losing streak last week with a strong win at Dallas. But if the Rams are winning big before halftime, do we see Colt McCoy take over for Kyler Murray at QB?

And is this Seahawks head coach Pete Carrol and QB Russell Wilson last game as a Seahawk? Wilson came back too soon he admits but they have a running game now with Rashaad Penny crushing it the last four weeks and Wilson has been getting Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf the ball more lately. The Cards have been a steady -6.5 and 48 all week.

The Rams have dropped from -5.5 to -4 with news of 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo practicing on Wednesday and Thursday. The urgency for the 49ers to have Jimmy G playing, besides being a machine when he and TE George Kittle are working together, is that they have to win to make the playoffs or if they don’t win hope the Saints (-3.5) lose at Atlanta. If the 49ers lose and the Saints win, the Saints are in.

Just to be sure I didn’t forget any of the sharp bets taken in Las Vegas, here they go: Texans. Eagles, Jets, Lions, and Chiefs. That’s it, early Cowboys bet but they got off the game. Treacherous Week 18 where the books and bettors are both cautious. But on game day, let it fly anchored by the knowledge and not speculation.

Happy New Year to all my friends out there that have been reading this weekly. I hope the information helps build a weekly plan and hopefully has been helping you win.

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