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NFL, college football betting market watch

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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

Denver Broncos at Cleveland Browns (Thursday)

Last week’s look-ahead line: Browns -6, 44.5
Sunday opener: Browns -5, 44
Wednesday: Browns -2, 41
Spread action: 57% of the bets are on the Browns, but 93% of the money wagered is on the Broncos.
Total action: 61% of the bets are on the over, but 71% of the money wagered is on the under.

Note: Cleveland QB Baker Mayfield (shoulder) was ruled out Wednesday. Backup Case Keenum will get the start for the Broncos. The line dropped from -3.5 to -2 after the Mayfield news. If the line holds with Cleveland as the favorite, this will be first time this season that Denver will be an underdog. Caesars Sportsbook reported a $500,000 bet on the Broncos +4, leading to the lopsided betting splits.

Carolina Panthers at New York Giants

Last week’s look-ahead line: Panthers -3, 44.5
Sunday opener: Panthers -2.5, 44
Wednesday: Panthers -3 (even), 43
Spread action: 87% of the bets and 88% of the money wagered is on Panthers.
Total action: 56% of the bets are on the over, but 97% of the money wagered is on the under.

Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins

Last week’s look-ahead line: Dolphins -2.5, 47.5
Sunday opener: Pick ’em, 48
Wednesday: Falcons -2.5, 48
Spread action: 56% of the bets and 76% of the money wagered is on the Falcons.
Total action: 58% of the bets are on the under, but 76% of the money wagered is on the over.

New York Jets at New England Patriots

Last week’s look-ahead line: Patriots -7, 43.5
Sunday opener: Patriots -6.5, 43
Wednesday: Patriots -7, 42.5
Spread action: 92% of the bets and 97% of the money wagered is on the Patriots.
Total action: 56% of the bets is on the over, but 57% of the money wagered is on the under.

Note: The Patriots are shaping up as a major liability for sportsbooks this week. At BetRivers sportsbooks, more bets have been placed on New England minus the points than have been placed on any other team. The action is similarly lopsided at DraftKings.

Washington Football Team at Green Bay Packers

Last week’s look-ahead line: Packers -7.5, 50
Sunday opener: Packers -10, 49
Wednesday: Packers -9, 49
Spread action: 74% of the bets and 61% of the money wagered is on the Packers.
Total action: 50% of the bets and 55% of the money wagered in on the over.

Note: Bettors were laying the big money line price on the Packers (-420) at BetRivers sportsbooks, where Green Bay had attracted more money line bets than any other team.

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens

Last week’s look-ahead line: Ravens -6, 48.5
Sunday opener: Ravens -6.5, 47.5
Wednesday: Ravens -6, 47
Spread action: 71% of the bets are on the Ravens, but 52% of the money wagered is on the Bengals.
Total action: 88% of bets and 90% of money wagered is on the over.

Kansas City Chiefs at Tennessee Titans

Last week’s look-ahead line: Chiefs -3, 56.5
Sunday opener: Chiefs -4.5, 56.5
Wednesday: Chiefs -5.5, 57
Spread action: 55% of the bets and 74% of the money wagered is on the Chiefs.
Total action: 71% of the bets and 87% of the money wagered is on the over.

Note: The Chiefs and Buccaneers are the only two teams that have been favored in every game

Detroit Lions at Los Angeles Rams

Last week’s look-ahead line: Rams -13.5, 49.5
Sunday opener: Rams -15.5, 50
Wednesday: Rams -15, 50
Spread action: 75% of the bets and 50% of the money wagered is on the Rams.
Total action: 55% of the bets are on the under, but 53% is on the over.

Philadelphia Eagles at Las Vegas Raiders

Last week’s look-ahead line: Raiders -2.5, 48
Sunday opener: Raiders -3, 48
Wednesday: Raiders -3, 49
Spread action: 74% of the bets and 94% of the money wagered is on the Raiders.
Total action: 68% of the bets and 98% of the money wagered is on the over.

Houston Texans at Arizona Cardinals

Last week’s look-ahead line: Cardinals -14, 49.5
Sunday opener: Cardinals -17, 48
Wednesday: Cardinals -18.5, 47.5
Spread action: 68% of the bets and 99% of the money wagered is on the Cardinals.
Total action: 69% of the bets are on the over, but 61% of the money wagered is on the under.

Note: Caesars Sportsbook reported taking a $520,000 bet on the Cardinals -17, factoring into the lopsided money splits.

Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Last week’s look-ahead line: Buccaneers -10, 48.5
Sunday opener: Buccaneers -12.5, 48
Wednesday: Buccaneers -12, 47
Spread action: 61% of the bets are on the Buccaneers, but 97% of the money wagered is on the Bears.
Total action: 61% of the bets are on the over, and 91% of the money is on the under.

Note: Caesars Sportsbook reported taking a $520,000 bet on the Bears +13, leading to the lopsided money on the Bears.

Indianapolis Colts at San Francisco 49ers

Last week’s look-ahead line: 49ers -5, 44.5
Sunday opener: 49ers -4, 44.5
Wednesday: 49ers -4, 44
Spread action: 68% of the bets are on the Colts, but 57% of the money wagered is on the 49ers.
Total action: 70% of the bets are on the over, but 97% of the money wagered is on the under.

New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks (Monday)

Last week’s look-ahead line: Saints -3, 43.5
Sunday opener: Saints -3.5, 44
Wednesday: Saints -5, 42.5
Spread action: 56% of the bets and 91% of the money wagered is on the Saints.
Total action: 54% of the bets are on the over, but 98% of the money is on the under.


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.

Illinois-Penn State line movement

Metcalf says his opening line of Penn State -17 reflected, in his opinion, Nittany Lions QB Sean Clifford playing this week against Illinois. Clifford’s status remained uncertain early in the week with an undisclosed injury that knocked him out of Penn State’s loss to Illinois. Bettors disagreed with the number and backed Penn State all the way up to -24 in the hours after Metcalf posted the opening line on Sunday.

“I think we just underestimated how much [bettors] are anti-Illinois,” Metcalf said.

‘The game I don’t understand is NC State-Miami’

Metcalf believed he had NC State properly rated when he opened the Wolfpack as 2-point road underdogs at Miami. However, limit bets came in on NC State, moving the Wolfpack to a 4-point favorite.

“Obviously, the market does not like Miami,” Metcalf said. “That was a weird game because the total also moved like eight points (61.5 down to 51.5 as of Wednesday), so we thought we missed an injury to Miami’s quarterback or something. We were way off on the side and total on that game, which doesn’t happen like that very often, without us missing an injury. I’m still surprised how that’s moved.”

Alabama-Georgia potential

Metcalf would currently have Georgia as a 1-point favorite against Alabama.

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Las Vegas Raiders running back Kenyan Drake’s right ankle injury ‘a little bit of an issue’

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LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas Raiders running back Kenyan Drake was carted off the Allegiant Stadium field with a right ankle injury midway through the second quarter of a 17-15 loss Sunday to the Washington Football Team.

Drake, who joined the Raiders this offseason after signing a two-year contract worth up to $14.5 million with $11 million guaranteed, was tackled awkwardly as he was pulled down by Daniel Wise from behind while being hit from the front by Deshazor Everett and Jamin Davis.

The Raiders were down to two running backs in starter Josh Jacobs and Peyton Barber, as Jalen Richard was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list earlier in the day. Drake was officially ruled out at halftime.

Raiders interim coach Rich Bisaccia said, after the loss, that Drake’s injury is “a little bit of an issue” and would have an update on Monday. And Jacobs said Drake told him, “It’s broke,” before the trainers arrived on the field.

“I know he’s had significant injuries in the past,” said Jacobs, who was a bit choked up. “So, I’m just praying for him right now and praying for his family. His whole family was here at the game.”

Drake, 27, has rushed for 254 yards and two touchdowns on 63 carries and caught 29 passes for 283 yards and a score as a change-of-pace back, often spelling Jacobs. He also has returned 10 kickoffs for 192 yards.

The Raiders’ rushing attack clearly suffered without Drake. They ran for just 76 yards in the loss, on 16 carries, and even though it was a tight game throughout, Las Vegas relied on its passing attack.

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Follow live: Chiefs in search of 12th straight win over Broncos

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Buccaneers’ Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski move into 2nd all-time in regular-season TD connections

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ATLANTA — Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski hooked up for their 89th and 90th touchdowns in a 30-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, moving them into second all-time for most regular-season touchdowns by a pair of players.

Also, wide receiver Chris Godwin set a franchise record with 15 catches, the most by any player in a game this season, as the Bucs improved to 9-3.

Brady and Gronkowski sit behind only Pro Football Hall of Famers Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, who have 112 regular-season touchdowns, while Godwin moved ahead of running backs James Wilder (Sept. 15, 1985) and Earnest Graham (Oct. 21, 2007), who each had 13 catches in a game.

“Having Gronk back for the last few weeks is huge in our offense, those two guys controlling the inside of the field,” coach Bruce Arians said of the pair, adding that this was especially problematic when the Falcons (or any team) have played man defense.

Gronkowski’s first touchdown, in the second quarter, came on a catch-and-run on a crossing route working against safety Jaylinn Hawkins for a 27-yard TD. Then Brady called an audible in the third quarter and slipped the ball past safety Erik Harris to Gronkowski on a fade route — a play they spent nine years perfecting when they were with the New England Patriots and won three Super Bowls together — for an 11-yard score.

“That second touchdown definitely brought us back to the heyday — the fade,” Gronkowski said.” I wasn’t supposed to have a fade but he saw and just reminds me of the heyday for us.”

With their 90th regular-season TD connection, Brady and Gronkowski moved into sole possession of second place all-time, passing Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates.

Gronkowski now has 20 career games with multiple receiving touchdowns, one away from Gates for the most by a tight end.

“I think when you play that long together — I mean, like Gronk said the other day, Tom knows what he’s thinking before he does,” Arians said. “And it’s obvious out there a couple of times Tom’s thrown a couple balls and even Gronk wasn’t quite ready because he knew where he was going. It’s great chemistry they have.”

“He kind of makes it easy on any quarterback,” said Brady, who improved to 10-0 all-time against the Falcons. “He’s just so big, so quick, great hands. Just does an amazing job. A great catch-and-run that he had and then I threw the fade for a touchdown, which was really cool — he makes those pretty easy, too. I obviously love being out there with him.

“It was good to see him make those plays. He was out for quite a while this year, you know? Just seeing him back, playing great, really enjoying it — it’s really fun for me. That’s the best part.”

Will the two continue playing long enough to break Manning and Harrison’s record?

“I hope we do. I look for him down there — he is a really big target most of the game,” Brady said. “I think what makes him so amazing is to do what he does in the run game and block defensive ends. Some of the biggest and strongest guys in the world. To run routes and catch balls and be so athletic. Along with the endurance he has, it is just really amazing.”

As far as Godwin goes, he was on the receiving end of five of Brady’s 13 pass attempts on the opening drive — the most attempts on a single drive in his career and the most by a quarterback since at least 2000, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, as the Bucs wanted to go up-tempo from the jump.

“That was a lot of passes, man,” Godwin joked. “I think we should do that some more.”

Part of this was because the Falcons loaded the box to try and stop running back Leonard Fournette, who was coming off a four-touchdown performance last week against the Indianapolis Colts. They also felt very good about Brady’s protection, forcing the Falcons into some blitzes that created some one-on-ones. Brady praised Godwin’s work ethic and called him “an unbelievable player.”

“That’s dope, to be able to set a record, especially when you have a guy like Mike [Evans] who’s been dominant here for so long,” said Godwin, who had 143 receiving yards on the day. “I think the biggest thing is getting a [win].

“I really had no idea until we were like walking off the field. I thought I was probably at like 10 or so. I think some of those little like quick-hitters you kind of forget about — getting bounced around and you’re like a little pinball.”

“He has the ability to play outside also, but he is lethal inside,” Arians said of Godwin, who made the move into the slot from the outside when Arians came to Tampa in 2019. “Obviously, the way he blocks is huge and gives you so much in between the numbers.”

Gronkowski has been most impressed by what Godwin does when the ball doesn’t go in his direction. His downfield blocking helped seal off Fournette’s game-winning, 28-yard touchdown last week.

“Chris is a beast. An unbelievable player,” Gronkowski said. “What’s so special about him is yeah, he makes some catches, but he always in the dirt in the run game too, to help out the running backs, to spring whoever has the ball for some extra yards. I’m not surprised. That’s CG for you. I think he deserves a veteran’s day off this week. Those 15 touches — just how many times you get hit when you catch it 15 times.”

When asked if Godwin could be even considered a ‘veteran’ given that he’s still in just his fifth year and has not signed a second contract (he’s currently playing under the franchise tag) Gronkowski said, “He’s kind of like a vet rookie, I guess. Like a veteran but on his first contract, I guess. We’ll consider him a vet because he’s that good of a player.”

Godwin laughed.

“I think if Gronk says it, I think he might have a little bit of pull for me. So I’m gonna have to talk to him a little more about that.”

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