The final Sunday of a National Football League season offers a totally unique set of circumstances to determine point spread winners. The books fear this week as much as any, that is why the gambling houses in Las Vegas who are open to accept wagers of up to a million dollars on games for the first 16 weeks of an NFL season, will set limits half that for the final week.
If the books what to limit their action, one can deduce their are opportunities for the wise guys this week. Their actions are often in direct conflict with public opinion.
For example, this week the public is backing the home standing Houston Texans by a 60% margin, but the point spread on this game has shifted from the Titans favored by 3½ points to 6 points over the past 24 hours. More than 75% of all wagers are on the Minnesota Vikings when they host the Chicago Bears, but the point spread over the past day has shifted from Minnesota favored by a point to the Bears a three point road favorite.
Clear examples of the public liking one side, and the wise guys and books loading up and protecting themselves from action on the opposite side.
What the wise guys and books see is that the Houston Texans and Minnesota Vikings are in that rare spot where they are headed into the postseason and a win or loss can not affect their seed in the playoffs.
Contrast that with the New England Patriots and a handful of other playoff bound teams who can dramatically affect their postseason seed with a win or loss.
The Patriots host the Miami Dolphins, and with a win, the Patriots secure a first round bye in the playoffs. How often have we seen Bill Belichick and Tom Brady miss on an opportunity like this? Never. What does that mean? It means the Patriots are a lead pipe cinch to beat the Dolphins and that is why the point spread on this game had them favored first by 16 points and more recently a line that has swelled to 16½ points.
Who does the public like in this game?
The Dolphins, by a 64% margin.
That is a side the books are inviting with the expanding line.
Then there are the Dallas Cowboys at home against the Washington Redskins. Dallas, losers last week when they had an opportunity to secure the NFC East Division title with a win over the Philadelphia Eagles on the road, a game they lost as a road favorite, 17-9, now need both a win and the Eagles to lose to the New York Giants to gain a playoff berth.
The line on this game opened with the Cowboys favored by seven points, a line the wise guys had driven up to 10½ points before most books even posted the spread. The public jumped at the 10½, thinking if Dallas couldn’t win as a favorite in a game they needed to clinch a championship last week, how are they going to cover a double-digit spread this week?
Sixty-three percent of the public action backed the road Redskins with the points, and what did the books do? They tacked another point on the line making Dallas an 11½ point favorite.
Last week, and this week, are as different as two situations can be for the Cowboys. Last Sunday, they were a bet-on road favorite against a division rival they had crushed earlier this year in Dallas, 37-10. This week, they are up against a team they completely outclass talentwise with a need to win and then only hope the Eagles get upset to advance to the postseason.
They go from horrible motivation to a perfect spot for a blowout.
The wise guys know it, the books know it, and now you know it.
Qoxhi Picks: Dallas Cowboys (-11½) over Washington Redskins