In sports betting, it’s all about the lines. And if you study the lines early and often, you can resemble those fabled insiders of yesteryear who once prowled Las Vegas during football season. These sophisticated bettors cavorted from from sports book to sports book all over the desert, looking for a half-point difference in the line. It was worth the effort for big bettors, especially if a 3-point favorite could be wagered for 2.5 points. Or if they could get the extra half-point, a “hook” to make a 3-point underdog a 3.5 point pick.
Much of this stopped when services began providing lines to multiple casino operators, who did not have the staff or expertise to create their own point spreads. The action became more streamlined. But the influx of sports betting in New Jersey opened one in the middle of this week.
The Oakland Raiders are 3-point favorites against the Cleveland Browns on most books, but William Hill had them at 2.5 on Thursday. If you love the Raiders, what a time to jump on that half-point. Ocean Resort Casino has William Hill lines and the app-betting world will eventually be made easy enough for everyone to take advantage of a line change in no time.
THE GAMES: Here are the midweek lines. Over-unders are in parentheses. The Chargers moved from 10.5 to 10-point favorites against San Francisco, Jacksonville moved from 8 to -7.5 against the Jets, Atlanta changed from 5.5 to a 5-point pick against the Cincinnati Bengals and Dallas-Detroit finally got a line.
Philadelphia -3.5 at Tennessee (42)
Oakland 3 Cleveland (44.5)
Seattle -3 at Arizona (39)
New Orleans -3.5 New York Giants (50)
Los Angeles Chargers -10 San Francisco (47)
Kansas City -4.5 at Denver (55)
Green Bay -9.5 Buffalo (44.5)
Atlanta -5.5 Cincinnati
Indianapolis -2.5 Houston (47)
New England -6.5 Miami (47.5)
Jacksonville -7.5 New York Jets (38.5)
Chicago -3 Tampa Bay (46.5)
Pittsburgh -3.5 Baltimore (51)
Picks: Excerpts from our panel on Beat the Degenerates, hosted by Scott Cronick and myself on his Off the Press daily radio show on 1400 AM WOND.
My pick: I like the Colts -1.5 against the Texans. The philosophy is that Indy played tough in two road games, spanking the Redskins and losing a heartbreaker to the Eagles. Andrew Luck looks at least good enough to keep finding T.Y. Hilton. The Texans are 0-3, in disarray and look off, even with Deshaun Watson back. You know he's due for a breakout game, but I'm hedging that it won't be here.
And no, I don't care that road dogs are presumably 11-4 since 2009 after an 0-3 start. The individual who championed this idea and thus picked the Texans went 0-3 last week.
Scott: He's in a charitable mood. Went the Santa Claus route and selected the KC Chiefs giving 4.5 points to Denver on the road on Monday Night. Gutsy call, but the Chiefs have looked unstoppable for the first three weeks, scoring 118 points. That's 39 a game. The over-under on how many wagers he'll make on his phone or in the book is eight.
Kip Russell (The Kipster): Our “guest degenerate” of the week picked New Orleans to cover 3.5 points against the New York Giants at home. Drew Brees looked great again versus Atlanta and, because of the Saints' Swiss cheese defense, will usually throw a lot. This is four straight indoor games for him. Could be a track meet.
Last week: My Seahawks came through against the Dallas Cowboys and the listener on Beat the Degenerates correctly took the Rams against the Chargers. Press of Atlantic City Eagles writer David Weinberg, who said the Eagles would win but not cover, also nailed it.
Looking downfield: Center stage is the quarterback spot. What does Tampa Bay do? Ryan Fitzpatrick led them to a 2-1 record during the suspension era of Jameis Winston, who has returned. Giving the reins right back to Winston may send the wrong message to the team. For San Francisco, the loss of Jimmy Garappolo for the entire season is a killer. They traded for the New England backup and won their last five games last year. They went 1-2 in stiff competition early this year. Garappolo looked good, but now he's out and his guaranteed contract for five years is $74 million. That's a big hit to the organization. CJ Beatherd is the new QB.
Cleveland got a scorching start from Baker Mayfield last Thursday. He led them to 18 second-half points and their first victory in two years. He looks like the real deal and now he faces a winless Oakland team.
Desperation time: The Oakland Raiders are winless and coach Jon Gruden may wish he was still in the broadcast booth. The New England Patriots, drubbed 26-10 by the Lions last week, must defeat Miami at home or fall three games behind them in September. The Patriots? Do-or-die in September? Too many miracles needed, too few skilled-position athletes is what it looks like for New England. Their running game isn't respected, making Tom Brady's job even tougher.
And that's the preview for this week. Good luck on the games.