FOX Sports Betting Analyst
Sure, the NFL Week 17 odds board has a bunch of notable games, which is to be expected. But the College Football Playoff semifinal odds are also front and center this weekend.
Top-ranked Georgia aims to stay on track for a second straight national championship when it takes on No. 4 Ohio State in the Peach Bowl on Saturday night. Prior to that, No. 2 Michigan and No. 3 TCU square off in the Fiesta Bowl.
More on both of those games, and plenty of NFL Week 17 betting nuggets, coming your way. Let’s jump into this week’s gambling nuggets and intel.
Big Ten Non-Believer
Rex Beyers, a veteran oddsmaker and current head of wagering at PlayUp US, has thoughts on both CFP semifinals. And those thoughts don’t favor the conference that sent two schools to the four-team playoff.
“I don’t ever want to need a Big Ten team,” Beyers said of a position he looks to avoid in his bookmaking process.
For much of the past four weeks, Georgia has been a consensus 6.5-point favorite against Ohio State after opening -7 at most sportsbooks. Beyers isn’t sold on that half-point move toward the Buckeyes and, in fact, expects it to go back up before the 8 p.m. ET kickoff on New Year’s Eve.
“These Big Ten teams, when you put them in the deepest of waters with an SEC team, I don’t want to need them,” Beyers reiterated. “Just from talking to people, and also my opinion about SEC teams when they’re actually trying, the line has a better chance of going to 7 rather than 6.”
Whether it goes to Georgia -7 or not, count on Beyers and his risk team to make the Ohio State price as attractive as possible, to draw as much Buckeyes money as possible and have the book needing the Bulldogs.
As for the opening semifinal, a 4 p.m. ET New Year’s Eve start, Michigan was a consensus -9 on the opening line and touched -9.5 at some books. Again, Beyers isn’t buying it.
“I could never justify the number being that high,” he said.
And indeed, it didn’t last long. This matchup has been painted to Michigan -7.5 much of this month, including at PlayUp, where the Wolverines are -7.5 (-111).
“TCU lost to Kansas State,” Beyers said, alluding to the 31-28 overtime setback in the Big 12 title game. “I didn’t dock TCU at all for that. All they did was find ways to beat teams all year.”
Indeed, the Horned Frogs went 12-0 straight up (SU) and an impressive 9-2-1 against the spread (ATS) in the regular season. Behind QB Max Duggan, TCU literally fell about a yard short of being 13-0 SU in rallying late to force OT vs. K-State.
“Michigan hasn’t seen any QB who resembles Duggan,” Beyers said. “You start giving TCU 7.5 points, that’s still worth a shot, in my opinion. I give the Horned Frogs a good chance to win the game.”
More on the CFP semis later in this article.
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Is The Pack Back?
The Minnesota Vikings are 12-3 SU – though a much-less-notable 6-8-1 ATS – while the Green Bay Packers had to win their last three games just to reach 7-8 SU and ATS.
Minnesota still has a shot at the NFC’s No. 1 seed in the playoffs and is trying to keep the No. 2 seed, with San Francisco surging.
But the Vikes are underdogs this week at Lambeau Field. WynnBet opened the Packers -3.5 Sunday night, dipped to -3 Monday, then returned to -3.5 Wednesday.
“This is a game that has taken on new meaning for the Packers, as they stayed alive in the playoff race by beating the Dolphins last week,” WynnBet senior trader John Manica said. “We have received two-way sharp action on this game. Respectable sources have bet the +3.5 with the Vikings. When we move the line to -3, someone quickly snaps up the Packers.
“I have said before that I fear backing Minnesota on the road outdoors, but that angle comes to fruition when facing teams with a winning record. The Packers sit at 7-8, in the hunt. A true toss-up game. I highly doubt we see a major move in either direction, with the game getting batted around the key number of 3 all week.”
The Sharp Side
In the weekly check-in with one professional bettor here in Las Vegas, three games have his attention on the NFL Week 17 odds board. First up, he got ahead of the Cowboys-Titans game, taking Dallas on last week’s look-ahead line – before the Ryan Tannehill injury news broke – at -3.5/-4.
That number is all the way up to Cowboys -12 for the Thursday night game. More on that matchup later.
The bettor also got ahead of the Tua Tagovailoa news, betting New England at pick ‘em for Sunday’s game against Miami. The Patriots are up to -3. And he’s got one more matchup he anticipates firing on: Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots, with Buffalo a 1/1.5-point favorite at the moment.
“I’ll be on Buffalo, as well. Best team with the best player,” he said, alluding to Bills QB Josh Allen. “Joe Burrow struggles with teams that can pass-rush, and Buffalo is right at the top of that list. And the injury to La’el Collins is enormous.”
The Bengals right tackle suffered a torn ACL/MCL at New England in Week 16, so Collins’ season is over.
Bills-Bengals is definitely this week’s marquee matchup, hopefully providing an entertaining Monday Night Football matchup. A Buffalo win keeps it atop the AFC playoff chase, while a Cincy victory keeps the Bengals in the hunt for the top seed.
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Is White’s Side the Right Side?
On Sunday evening, the Seattle Seahawks (7-8 SU, 6-9 ATS) opened as consensus 1.5-point favorites for their home game against the New York Jets (7-8 SU, 8-7 ATS). Then on Monday, the Jets announced that Mike White would return as starter after missing two games with fractured ribs.
The NFL Week 17 odds board reacted swiftly, with New York moving to a short road favorite, initially -1 or -1.5, depending on the sportsbook. The Jets then stretched to -2.5 at a few places, but as of Wednesday night, the consensus seems to be -1.5.
And PlayUp’s Beyers isn’t seeing it. Like, at all.
“I believe the QB change has led to an extreme overreaction. To think White is a vast upgrade is foolhardy, at best,” Beyers said. “Jacksonville bludgeoned the Jets up front on both sides of the ball last week. It’s not all on the quarterback’s shoulder.
“We need the Jets for now, which is unfortunate. We’re gonna be the best number available on the Jets until we get flipped, and we need the Seahawks.”
Beyers is confident in working toward his book needing Seattle.
“J-E-T-S – Just End The Season. Teams have figured out the Jets. They’ve reached their peak and are going the other way,” Beyers said. “QB is absolutely the reason for the Jets to be favored, regardless of how it plays out on the field. But I believe the Seahawks still have fight. For a team like the Jets, they don’t go to Seattle often. They haven’t experienced that atmosphere.
“I can’t for the life of me see how the Jets are the favorite.”
No Tua, Big Problem?
On another key injury note this week, it was announced that Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa is again in concussion protocol. He won’t play in Sunday’s key AFC matchup against the New England Patriots.
Miami (8-7 SU, 7-8 ATS) is on a four-game losing skid, going from a potential playoff darling to now on the brink of missing the postseason. New England (7-8 SU, 7-7-1 ATS) is also struggling, losing four of its last five. Both are desperate for a win.
“New England greatly damaged its playoffs hopes two weeks ago with the debacle against the Raiders. They followed up that effort with a clueless three quarters against the Bengals, only to fumble the game away late in the fourth after a ferocious rally. How much is left in the tank?” WynnBet’s Manica wondered. “Teddy Bridgewater will have to bridge the gap to the playoffs for Miami, as Tua has now been ruled out.”
WynnBet’s customers don’t think Bridgewater has the goods.
“The major bets have all come in on New England at different levels,” Manica said. “The first pop was at New England +2. We quickly went to pick. Then, we were hit a few more times before reaching the key number of 3, moving through zero to find New England now the betting favorite. There was finally a taker on the Dolphins at +3. The book will surely need Teddy B. and the Dolphins, as the Patriots fight for their playoff lives.”
At PlayUp, Beyers is excited to need the underdog Dolphins.
“I have zero issues with running that game low [on New England] and letting bettors drown us on the Patriots,” Beyers said, noting Wednesday night his book is at Patriots -3 (+101). “I don’t know what the Patriots have got left. I didn’t really downgrade the Dolphins for the loss to Green Bay.”
Even with Miami on a four-game slide, Beyers said he believes the Patriots are the worst team the Dolphins have seen in the last month. Miami’s losses were at San Fran, at the Chargers, at the Bills and home against Green Bay.
“The Patriots are the worst of those five, no momentum, no confidence,” Beyers said. “All Bridgewater does as a ‘dog is get the money. We’ll need Miami, and that’s fine with me.”
As FOX Sports Sam Panayotovich noted, Bridgewater is a superb 19-4 ATS as a road underdog.
The Las Vegas Raiders shook things up Wednesday by benching QB Derek Carr for the final two games, replacing him with Jarrett Stidham. Of course, that led to big odds movement for the Raiders’ Sunday game against the San Francisco 49ers.
“In a surprise move, [Josh] McDaniels decided to bench Carr and go with Stidham at quarterback and a youth movement at other positions,” WynnBet’s Manica said. “We took a respected wager as the news of Carr’s benching was taking place. The game was sitting at [49ers] -6. We quickly got bet up to -7, then further, making it all the way to -10 before the market settled.”
Manica added that the situation in the AFC South also led to some interesting line movement in Thursday’s Cowboys-Titans game.
“In a fairly bizarre sequence of events, the Titans-Cowboys game and the Jaguars-Texans game cannot impact the AFC South race in any way,” Manica said. “Tennessee has decided to rest several starters. The look-ahead number [last week] on this game was somewhere in the vicinity of Dallas -3, but opened -9.5 [Sunday] at many sportsbooks, anticipating the disinterest of the Titans.
“Derrick Henry was ruled out [Wednesday]. We took a respected bet on the Cowboys when we were at -10, driving us up to where the market currently sits at -12. The Titans have received no interest.”
More on the CFP
With just a couple more sleeps until the semifinals, WynnBet junior trader Caden Wickwire offered a few insights on the College Football Playoff odds.
First up, Ohio State vs. Georgia:
“We’ve seen good action to this point,” Wickwire said. “We’ve taken a decent amount on the Bulldogs at -6.5. I would imagine there are a lot of other books that are in the same boat and will do what they can to avoid writing Buckeyes money at +7, as UGA by [exactly] 7 would be a tough pill to swallow. As for the total, we’ve really only seen Over bets.”
To clarify Wickwire’s point regarding the spread: If the book moves the line to Georgia -7, and the Bulldogs win by 7, all the Georgia -6.5 bettors get paid, and everyone who bet the Bulldogs or Buckeyes at 7 gets a refund. Not an ideal result for bookmakers.
And on TCU vs. Michigan:
“The action has been a little slower,” Wickwire said. “Nothing substantial on the side, as the market has seemed to settle on [Michigan] -7.5. We have taken a few decent bets on the Under, with hardly any buyback, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the total a little lower as we get closer to kickoff.”
It’s an absolute smorgasbord of football these next few days. Don’t get carried away at the betting window or on your mobile app. You know, enjoy responsibly. Happy New Year!
Patrick Everson is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and senior reporter for VegasInsider.com. He is a distinguished journalist in the national sports betting space. He’s based in Las Vegas, where he enjoys golfing in 110-degree heat. Follow him on Twitter: @PatrickE_Vegas.
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