The biggest Wild Card favorites on the NFL odds board are the world-famous Dallas Cowboys, but the sharps might not be particularly interested in supporting the Detroit Lions. It’s a brave new world.
Jason’s record after Week 17: 40-52-1 ATS, 19-28-1 Totals
Things are not the way they used to be. Well, some things are. Our expanded consensus reports for Wild Card Weekend are out, and predictably enough, we’re seeing thin action for the two games involving AFC North teams. The big draw is Sunday’s matchup (4:40 p.m. ET, FOX) between the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys – also predictable. But are the sharps on the Lions as 7-point road dogs? The defensively-stout, small-market Lions?
Nope. At least, not as we go to press. Our reports do show nearly 55 percent of bettors on Detroit, but in terms of raw dollars, Dallas is pulling in 83.7 percent of the action, with an average bet of $371. That’s over six times as big as the $59 average bet size for the Lions. We’re always preaching that big money is sharp money. So are the Cowboys a sharp NFL pick?
Through the Looking-Glass
Before we get into that, let’s acknowledge the special dynamic with the NFL odds for this game. If we assume the Cowboys are going to get loads of public action this weekend, then there’s a very good chance the line will move from Detroit +7 to Detroit +7.5 before kick-off. That’s a valuable half-point right there. In theory, if you’re a sharp bettor with an eye on the Lions, you’re waiting to place your bet.
Except that’s not the way the football odds are moving at press time. Despite all the action that’s already come down on the Cowboys, Detroit has moved to +6.5 at several of our featured online sportsbooks. Others are tweaking the vigorish to +7 (–120) instead. Curiouser and curiouser. How is this going to balance the books?
If we may speculate for a moment, there is one possible scenario where all this makes sense: It’s a trap. Perhaps the books want you to unload on the Cowboys, so they can keep all that extra money after paying out the minority of Lions supporters when Detroit covers. But this doesn’t exactly qualify as sound business practice. The books would be risking major exposure should the Cowboys beat the spread.
Perhaps now would be a good time to step away from the numbers and look at where some of my colleagues are making their NFL picks. LT Profits Sports Group is on the Lions for the traditionally sharp reasons. Nikki Adams prefers the Cowboys, based on Matthew Stafford’s inconsistency and Tony Romo’s awesomeness. A tour of the interwebs shows that these are the two most common narratives being floated, but our completely unscientific survey shows more touts on the Lions. Speaking of which, the “Pay Touts” column on our expanded consensus reports shows an even split at 5-5.
In the end, our recommendation for Sunday’s game is to stick to the traditional handicapping concepts. We happen to like the Lions, and we suspect they’ll be available at a better price closer to kick-off. If you’d rather bet on the Cowboys and they’re still out there at –6.5 (The Greek Sportsbooks) as you read this, then by all means snap them up pronto before they hit –7 again (-7.5 at Bovada/Bodog Sportsbook). You’re leaving money on the table otherwise.
We’re also going to suggest keeping your bet size small in this instance, no matter which team you’re supporting. The betting patterns for this game should be setting off your “hinky” alarm. Where there is confusion and chaos, there is variance, and the best/only way to combat variance is to tread lightly. Save your big bets for when you’re convinced that you’ve got a sufficiently wide profit margin. And may the prolate spheroid be with you.