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Line movement, early action and bookmaker insights

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Here is our weekly look at how the NFL and college football betting markets are shaping up leading into the weekend.

For consistency, lines, totals and betting percentages are from Caesars Sportsbook, unless otherwise noted. The betting percentages are not specific to the current line or total and are designed to provide a snapshot of the early action. The look-ahead lines were offered in advance of the previous week’s games. Most numbers were re-opened Sunday night.


NFL market watch

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia Eagles (Thursday)

Last week’s look-ahead line: Bucs -6.5, 52.5
Sunday line: Bucs -7, 53
Wednesday line: Bucs -7, 52.4
Spread action: 87% of the bets and 78% of the money wagered is on the Buccaneers.
Total action: 70% of the bets and 51% of the money wagered is on the over.

Notes: Buccaneers QB Tom Brady said Tuesday that his sore thumb on his throwing hand is not seriously injured and he expects any discomfort to dissipate before Thursday’s game.

Miami Dolphins at Jacksonville Jaguars

Last week’s look-ahead line: Dolphins -3, 43.5
Sunday line: Dolphins -3, 45
Wednesday line: Dolphins -3.5 (-105), 47
Spread action: 54% of the bets were on the Jaguars, but 72% of the money wagered was on the Dolphins.
Total action: 52% of the bets and 80% of the money wagered was on the over.

Kansas City Chiefs at Washington Football Team

Last week’s look-ahead line: Chiefs -6, 54
Sunday line: Chiefs -6.5, 55.5
Wednesday line: Chiefs -7, 55.5
Spread action: 95% of the bets and 95% of the money wagered was on the Chiefs.
Total action: 70% of the bets and 75% of the money wagered was on the over.

Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens

Last week’s look-ahead line: Ravens -3, 48
Sunday line: Ravens -3, 51.5
Wednesday line: Ravens -3 (-105), 52
Spread action: 91% of the bets and 96% of the money wagered was on the Chargers.
Total action: 93% of the bets and 99% of the money wagered was on the over.

Notes: The betting public sided with the underdog Chargers early in the week at BetRivers’ sportsbooks, where Los Angeles had attracted 91% of the money wagered on the point spread. “The Chargers will be a public underdog this week; they’ve got quality wins,” Craig Mucklow, vice president of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, said in a company release. “The Ravens were lucky to beat the Lions and Colts, and lost to the Raiders. I’m not convinced Baltimore is everything they’re made out to be right now.”

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears

Last week’s look-ahead line: Packers -4.5, 46
Sunday line: Packers -4, 46
Wednesday line: Packers -4.5, 45
Spread action: 85% of the bets and 80% of the money wagered was on the Packers.
Total action: 71% of the bets were on the over, but 95% of the money wagered was on the under.

Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts

Last week’s look-ahead line: Colts -7.5, 43.5
Sunday line: Colts -10, 43.5
Wednesday line: Colts -9.5, 42.5
Spread action: 58% of the bets and 51% of the money wagered was on the Texans.
Total action: 82% of the bets were on the over, but 81% of the money wagered was on the under.

Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants

Last week’s look-ahead line: Rams -6.5, 50
Sunday line: Rams -10, 48
Wednesday line: Rams -9.5, 49
Spread action: 94% of the bets and 94% of the money wagered was on the Rams.
Total action: 56% of the bets were on the over, but 76% of the money wagered was on the Giants.

Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers

Last week’s look-ahead line: Panthers -1, 47
Sunday line: Pick ’em, 47
Wednesday line: Vikings -1, 46
Spread action: 52% of the bets and 56% of the money wagered was on the Vikings.
Total action: 65% of the bets were on the over, but 85% of the money wagered was on the under.

Notes: The early action on the game at Caesars Sportsbook included a $500,000 money-line bet on the Vikings at even money.

Cincinnati Bengals at Detroit Lions

Last week’s look-ahead line: Bengals -3, 49
Sunday line: Bengals -3.5, 48.5
Wednesday line: Bengals -3.5, 47.5
Spread action: 78% of the bets and 95% of the money wagered was on the Bengals.
Total action: 56% of the bets were on the over, but 95% of the money wagered was on the under.

Notes: The lopsided action on the Bengals at Caesars Sportsbook included a $500,000 bet on Cincinnati -3.

Arizona Cardinals at Cleveland Browns

Last week’s look-ahead line: Browns -3, 52.5
Sunday line: Browns -3, 54
Wednesday line: Browns -3 (-105,) 49.5
Spread action: 71% of the bets were on the Cardinals, but 58% of the money wagered was on the Browns.
Total action: 83% of the bets were on the over, but 67% of the money wagered was on the under.

Notes: Early weather forecasts in Cleveland were calling for heavy winds, ranging from 17-19 mph during Sunday’s game.

Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots

Last week’s look-ahead line: Cowboys -1, 48
Sunday line: Cowboys -3, 48
Wednesday line: Cowboys -3.5, 51
Spread action: 93% of the bets and 79% of the money wagered was on the Cowboys.
Total action: 62% of the bets and 99% of the money was on the over.

Notes: Books are going to need the home underdog Patriots, potentially for a big decision. As of Wednesday at BetRivers sportsbooks, more money had bet on Cowboys minus the points than had been bet on any other market on the board.

Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos

Last week’s look-ahead line: Broncos -2.5, 44
Sunday line: Broncos -3, 44.5
Wednesday line: Broncos -3.5, 44
Spread action: 60% of the bets and 85% of the money wagered was on the Broncos.
Total action: 65% of the bets were on the over, but 71% of the money wagered was on the under.

Notes: Books took different approaches to ex-Raider coach Jon Gruden’s resignation this week. Some sportsbooks halted betting on the game; other books, including Caesars, kept the game on the board and tweaked the line slightly. Caesars moved the Broncos from -3 to -3.5 on the news of Gruden’s resignation. “Bill Belichick is the only coach where the spread would move significantly if he wasn’t on the sidelines,” Mucklow said. “In this instance, you have a Super Bowl-winning coach being replaced by someone who’s never been a head coach. With how the Raiders have looked recently and all the distractions that are going on, it’s not a surprise that this number moved off 3. We’ll see how the players respond to the new coach, but obviously this is a different case compared to coaches that get fired midseason for poor records.”

Seattle Seahawks at Pittsburgh Steelers

Last week’s look-ahead line: Seahawks -2.5, 48
Sunday line: Steelers -4, 43
Wednesday line: -5, 42.5
Spread action: 69% of the bets and 75% of the money wagered was on the Steelers.
Total action: 68% of the bets were on the over, but 88% of the money wagered was on the under.

Notes: The line flipped from Seattle -2.5 to Steelers -3 after Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson suffered an injured finger in a loss to the Rams last Thursday. The total dropped from 48 to 42.5 on the news of Wilson’s injury, which is expected to keep him out several weeks, although not specific timetable has been given for his return.

Buffalo Bills at Tennessee Titans (Monday)

Last week’s look-ahead line: Bills -3, 52.5
Sunday line: Bills -4.5, 53.5
Wednesday line: Bills -5.5, 54
Spread action: 94% of the bets and 96% of the money wagered was on the Bills.
Total action: 81% of the bets and 73% of the money was on the over.


A bookmaker’s approach to college football lines

Circa Sports is responsible for the first college football lines to hit the betting market each week. The book posts its opening lines at 11 a.m. PT on Sundays and offers $3,000 betting limits to all comers, including professional bettors. Within the industry, Circa Sports is what’s considered a “sharp book.” Their limits grow rapidly through the week and, by the time kickoff approaches, will be among the largest in the betting market.

Matt Metcalf, sportsbook director for Circa Sports in Las Vegas, is sharing his bookmaking approach with ESPN this football season.

Handicapping the Sooners’ QB situation

Metcalf moved Oklahoma up three points in his power ratings based on the offense he saw against Texas in the second half. The Sooners inserted freshman quarterback Caleb Williams in place of starter Spencer Rattler against Texas and rallied from 18 points down in the second half to knock off the Longhorns 55-48.

“I’m assuming they’ll do what it takes to have that offense. If that involves not playing Rattler, I think they’ll go that route,” Metcalf said. Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley has declined to name a starting quarterback for Saturday’s game against TCU.

The Sooners opened as 12-point favorites over TCU at Circa. Metcalf initially wanted to use Oklahoma -14, but, without knowing for sure whether Williams or Rattler will start, elected to go with the lower number.

“I didn’t want to commit all the way to getting that Oklahoma team that we saw in the second half,” Metcalf said. “If they did play Rattler, I think the number still works.”

The line had grown to Oklahoma -14 by Wednesday

Reading ahead of the market on Clemson-Syracuse

Learning information on injuries can force Circa Sports oddsmakers into a guessing game of trying to figure out whether bettors have read the same information. This week, it happened when Metcalf and his team were formulating the point spread on the Clemson-Syracuse game. Metcalf had read that key Syracuse starting offensive linemen missed last week’s game against Wake Forest with injuries and thought that Clemson’s defensive front would have the advantage. Plus, with Clemson coming off a bye week, he felt like this was a good spot for the Tigers.

The consensus line among Circa’s oddsmakers was Clemson -15, but they ended up opening the Tigers as 17-point favorites.

“The thought was that Clemson, with a bigger, stronger defensive front, would give [Syracuse] a lot of trouble, so we kind of tacked on some points there,” Metcalf said.

The early money came in on Syracuse, driving the number to as low as Clemson -13.5, and the guessing game began. “I don’t know whether people are telling us that they don’t agree with it or they just didn’t read it yet,” Metcalf said. “Sometimes, if we read ahead of the market on injuries, it doesn’t really pay in a sense because we’ll sit there and take a lot of bets”

Metcalf couldn’t stomach leaving the point spread at any less than Clemson -14, where it has sat for the first half of the week.

“I think Clemson is the side I would look to need as a bookie,” Metcalf added, “because it feels like a good spot for them.”

Cursing the early action on Navy-Memphis

Metcalf opened Memphis as 9-point favorites over Navy but was cursing himself three hours after putting the number on the board; not because he was wrong, but because he was right.

The first limit bets were on Navy. Metcalf moved the number aggressively toward the underdog, through the key number of 7 and down to 6.5. “I don’t really like Memphis,” he said, “and I struggle with if Navy has improved.”

At that point, the next several max bets were on Memphis and the lower number, pushing the number back to around the opening line of Tigers -9.

“I kind of doubted my number too much, and I was wrong, and they bet it back up,” Metcalf said. “So, I’m sitting on my opener but have two limits bets high on Memphis. I trusted the market over my number in the beginning. And our number was better than I thought it was.”

Memphis was a 10.5-point favorite as of Wednesday afternoon.

Public, sharps agree on Cincinnati

Metcalf believes Cincinnati is probably a two-touchdown underdog to the elite teams like Georgia and Alabama, and around 10 points to Ohio State.

“But it’s obvious that everyone is behind that team,” Metcalf said. “We took a ton of action on them last week against Temple. The public and the sharp guys definitely like them.”

Metcalf opened Cincinnati as 16-point favorites over UCF this week and attracted immediate action on the Bearcats. The line had settled at Cincinnati -21 as of Wednesday.

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Arizona Cardinals’ J.J. Watt says he’s won’t be facing same Texans ‘I remember’ on Sunday

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TEMPE, Ariz. — When Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman J.J. Watt looks across the line of scrimmage this Sunday and sees the Houston Texans‘ uniforms and helmets, he’ll be reminded of the memories made during 10 seasons with his former team, the playoff games won and AFC South division banners hanging inside NRG Stadium.

But that’s where the emotion of facing the only team he played for until this season will end.

“There’s obviously something more to it,” Watt said Thursday. “I don’t think that it’s what people may think it is because, I mean, you look at the roster and you look at the guys that are there, I mean it’s been so massively turned over that there’s only a handful of guys that are even there from last year that I played with.

“So, it’s not like, I’m like, ‘Oh, I want to go and beat my old team’ or ‘Oh, I can’t wait to face this guy,’ because it’s not the same team. It’s not the same organization that I remember and that I was a part of.”

That’s a large part of why Watt asked for his release from Houston back in February, he told the Houston media during a conference call Thursday morning. Watt said he expected Houston’s roster to be turned over like it has as well as the lack of success that’s resulted from it.

He barely recognizes the roster anymore, he said.

“There’s so many guys I don’t know,” Watt said.

After 10 seasons, four division championships, helping the franchise win its first playoff game all while winning three Defensive Player of the Year awards and being named the 2017 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year, it pains Watt to see the Texans in this current state of disrepair.

“That’s why it hurts me to see where it is now, because I believe those fans deserve to be living those high times and to be experiencing those great moments and it hurts to know that they’re not, and to know that they’re struggling,” Watt said. “So, I hope that they get back there at some point and I hope that they get to do that because I know firsthand it’s an unbelievable place to play when you’re rolling.”

Watt said once the game starts Sunday, it’ll be just like any other game as the Cardinals look to improve on their 6-0 record with a short week coming up before hosting the Green Bay Packers on “Thursday Night Football.”

Watt hasn’t parted ways with all his “thousands of pieces” of Texans gear, and it sounds like he probably won’t. However, he estimated, with a smile, that about half of Pewaukee, Wisconsin, his hometown, may be dressed in Texans clothing. That’s starting to change to Cardinals red, he added.

“I mean there’s 10 years of my life and there’s 10 years of relationships,” Watt said, “so it’s not like I just chucked all my Houston stuff.”

And, yes, Watt said he has “a couple of big friends” who fit into his clothes.

Seeing the Texans’ blue, white and red uniform across from him Sunday at State Farm Stadium will be different, Watt said — just like studying film all week has been.

“When I turn on the film this week and I watch the games and you’re looking at NRG Stadium, for 10 years, I’ve looked at that film and I’ve been watching the team in blue and white,” Watt said. “And now I’m watching it from the other perspective and I’m studying those guys, so it is, it’s definitely different. “But I don’t think I’m going to forget which guy I’m supposed to tackle, if that’s what you’re asking.”

ESPN Texans reporter Sarah Barshop contributed to this report.

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Joe Judge accepts blame for New York Giants’ struggles, says ‘the fish stinks from the head down’

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants coach Joe Judge isn’t putting the blame elsewhere for his team’s 1-5 start — he’s looking right in the mirror.

“There’s your answer. I’m the head coach. It’s my responsibility, point blank,” Judge said Thursday. “Every player on this field, every position group, the execution, it all comes down to me. The fish stinks from the head down.

“I’ve been taught that from great guys who I worked for, played for. There are no excuses, no exceptions. You demand it from your coaches to make sure that the player are playing the right way. You demand it of the players to know what to do and then go out there to do it.

“But it starts with me and ends with me.”

The Giants have dropped their last two games and are coming off a 38-11 demolition last Sunday at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams. They’ve lost all three of their home games this season by a combined score of 82-38.

Judge, who is 7-15 since taking over as head coach, insists he’s not feeling the pressure.

“To me, the only time you really feel any kind of pressure and nerves is when you’re unprepared,” he said. “If you’re prepared and you go through the tasks and process at hand and you’re consistent with it, then you go in with confidence.

“That is what we preach to our guys. We come out here and practice every week, prepare a certain way every week. We have to go out there better and execute better to have the results that we want.”

Judge has vowed that the Giants, who spent big in free agency to upgrade the roster this offseason, will turn it around.

“This is definitely going to get better, so there you go,” Judge said earlier this week. “I don’t know what kind of guarantee [the fans] want, but I can assure everyone out there that’s a Giants fan and they want to know when it’s going to turn, I can tell them right now we’re working tirelessly to make sure we get this thing turned around in the right direction, not just for short-term results, but for long-term success.”

Turning around their season will not be easy for the banged-up Giants heading into their home matchup Sunday with the Carolina Panthers. Star running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) and wide receivers Kenny Golladay (knee) and Kadarius Toney (ankle) were not at practice again Thursday, while starting left tackle Andrew Thomas (foot/ankle) went on injured reserve earlier this week.

Judge said Barkley, Golladay and Toney “all made progress” on Wednesday, and the team would see if they can get on the field by Friday. It still seems highly unlikely any of Barkley, Golladay or Toney would play against the Panthers. Sources told ESPN earlier in the week it was “doubtful” that Barkley and Golladay, who both were out against the Rams, would be return this week.

Judge has refused to use the injuries as an excuse and has been adamant about focusing on the process and daily grind. It seems to have been well-received in the building.

“Joe’s our leader. We all look to our leader for strength. He’s done a hell of a job I think of keeping the team moving forward,” special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey said.

McGaughey later added: “Joe is a tough guy. Joe is mentally tough and he’s doing a great job with our team as far as the leadership part of it. Keeps expressing to focus on the task at hand, and that is to win today. You don’t have a chance on Sunday if you don’t win today. So we’re focusing on right now being where our feet are.”

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Cleveland Browns activate WR Jarvis Landry from IR ahead of game vs. Denver Broncos

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CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns have activated Jarvis Landry off injured reserve, clearing the way for the Pro Bowl wide receiver to return for Thursday night’s game against the Denver Broncos.

Landry missed the last three games with an MCL sprain in his left knee. He suffered the injury on Sept. 19 on the opening drive against the Houston Texans.

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