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Early NFL line shopping pays off for pro bettors

Updated December 23, 2018 - 9:57 pm

Whether Christmas shopping or line shopping, it pays to get done early.

Just ask any bettor who placed a wager Sunday on the Eagles, Browns or Patriots. All three teams won but didn’t cover the closing line as favorites. However, all three teams covered the opening number and other lines that were available during the week.

Some sharp bettors cashed wagers on both sides of each game.

“The guys that do it professionally, they’re going to win on those kind of games all the time. That’s why they’re professionals,” Westgate sports book manager Ed Salmons said. “You’re betting numbers essentially. You’re not really betting teams. It’s just numbers.”

The Westgate posts the opening lines for the next week’s NFL games every Sunday night. Philadelphia opened as a 3½-point underdog to Houston, closed as a 2½-point favorite and won by two (32-30).

Cleveland opened as a 7-point favorite over Cincinnati, closed at 9½ and won by eight (26-18). New England opened as a 10½-point favorite over Buffalo, closed at 14 and won by 12 (24-12).

Backdoor Bills

The Bills burned most Patriots bettors with a backdoor cover when quarterback Josh Allen threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Zay Jones with 1:08 left to make it 24-12. But a Westgate bettor who wagered $20,000 on New England minus 12 escaped with a push when Buffalo made a bad snap and botched the extra point.

“That was the kind of week it was for us,” Salmons said before the Sunday night game. “Pretty much every decision we had we lost. There were 12 NFL games and one underdog won straight up — Jacksonville over Miami — and I don’t think we wrote a bet on either side of that game.”

Favorites won 11 of 13 games after the Seahawks outlasted the Chiefs 38-31 Sunday night as 1-point underdogs. But favorites went only 5-7-1 ATS.

Christmas effect

The saving grace for Las Vegas sports books was the fact that it was the most lightly wagered week of the NFL season.

“The handle is down a lot. It’s the Christmas effect,” Salmons said. “If this was September or October, it would’ve been a lot worse.”

The Eagles led 29-16 with 5:30 left when Josh Adams fumbled at midfield. Deshaun Watson then threw two TD passes in 2:37, putting the Texans ahead 30-29.

Jake Elliott kicked a winning 35-yard FG as time expired to atone for a missed extra point in the fourth quarter that proved costly late for Eagles bettors. It also allowed an MGM Resorts gambler to win a $50,000 wager on Houston plus 2½.

“We got middled on that game,” The Mirage sports book director Jeff Stoneback said.

The Bengals were losing 26-3 with less than five minutes left before Jeff Driskel threw two TD passes and a two-point conversion pass for the backdoor cover.

Not Jackson Browns

The Browns improved to 7-7-1 with the win to top their win total of 6. A Westgate bettor placed a $70,000 wager to win $50,000 on Cleveland to go over 5½ wins. The Westgate moved the number to 6 after that to attract money on the under. The move paid off Sunday when Baker Mayfield threw three TD passes and stared down former Browns coach Hue Jackson on the Cincinnati sideline.

“It just shows you the great job Hue Jackson did,” Salmons said. “He won three games in three years and now they’ve won five games in seven weeks without him.

“Our big thing now is we need the Vikings not to make the playoffs.”

Big bets

A Westgate bettor has a $240,000 wager to make $120,000 on Minnesota to make the playoffs.

An MGM bettor lost a $150,000 teaser to win $100,000 on the Ravens (+11) and Colts (-2½), who rallied for a 28-27 comeback win over the Giants.

A Caesars Entertainment bettor won a six-figure wager on the Steelers, who lost 31-28 to the Saints but covered as 6½-point underdogs.

Another Caesars bettor lost a $100,000 wager on the Panthers, who lost 24-10 to the Falcons as 2½-point home ‘dogs.

SuperContest consensus

The Seahawks were the top consensus play in the Westgate SuperContest and SuperContest Gold.

The Supercontest top five went 3-2 (winners on Seahawks, Bears, Vikings, losers on Chargers and Eagles) to improve to 41-39. The Gold five went 3-2 (winners on Seahawks, Ravens, Texans, losers on Saints, Panthers) to improve to 44-32-5.

SuperContest leaders

@Pigskin_Junkies went 2-3 but took sole possession of first place in the SuperContest with a 57-23 record with one week left. Rush YYZ 2112 went 1-4 to fall to 56-24.

There Can Be Only 1 went 3-2 to maintain a one-point lead in the Gold contest with a 51-26-3 mark.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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