The Vegas Report: Week 15

NFL Network offers up another spectacular Thursday night game, as the 4-9 Jacksonville Jaguars once again find themselves in a prime-time showdown, this week against the Atlanta Falcons.

Am I crazy to ask how Jacksonville landed three prime-time games in 2011?  Nobody is interested in watching this football team and I’d be willing to bet that the same thing could be said even if the Jags were 10-3.

After opening as a 10.5-point favorite, the home Falcons were bet up to -12 for Thursday night, as 62% of the early action has come in on Matty Ice and Atlanta.

The Jags came out of nowhere to blow out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last weekend, possibly as a tribute to former head coach Jack Del Rio, who was finally shown the door after a mediocre tenure in Jacksonville that most felt should have ended sooner.

The Jaguars are 1-5-1 in their last seven games as a road underdog, while the Falcons are fighting for a playoff spot and are 7-2 ATS in their last nine December games.

Throwing down some money on this one is just about the only way to make it interesting.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-3, 5-2 road) at DENVER BRONCOS (8-5, 3-3 home)

Time: 4:15 p.m. ET
Opening line: New England -4.5
Current line: New England -6.5
Current betting trends: 83% of the public is currently backing the Patriots.

New England: 7-6 against the spread in 13 games played this season.
Denver: 7-6 against the spread in 13 games played this season.

Interesting trends: The Patriots are 27-13 ATS in their last 40 games as a favorite of 3.5-10.0, while the Broncos are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games after allowing less than 15 points in the previous game.

Analysis: It’s hard to say that there’s anything more exciting in the NFL at the current moment than watching the fourth quarter of a Denver Broncos game. Tim Tebow and company have ripped off six straight wins and have covered the number in five of their last six outings. If you’ve been on the train, I’d imagine your bank account looks flush heading into Week 15.

But here’s where this situation starts to get a bit dicey. Denver’s last six wins have come against Carson Palmer, Matt Cassel, Mark Sanchez, Philip Rivers, Christian Ponder and Caleb Hanie. With the possible exception of Rivers (when he’s not turning the ball over five times a game), none of those guys would ever be mentioned in the same breath as future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. So can the Broncos hang with a high-flying offense like the Patriots?

The early money says no, as no NFL line has garnered more action and movement in Week 15 than this one. Bookmakers sent this game out at NE -4.5 and were immediately bet up to NE -6.5.

The Patriots are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 road games, 9-4 ATS in their last 13 matchups against AFC opponents and 27-13 ATS in their last 40 outings as a favorite of 3.5-10.0. In addition, New England is averaging 32.3 points per game on the road this year, having scored 31 or more in six of seven away contests.

Books will be hesitant to move this line anymore towards New England, as that would open up a middle opportunity for early bettors. It’s interesting to see how little love is coming in on a team that has won six straight games and has covered the number in five of their last six outings, but the thought process around Vegas is that Tim Tebow and the Broncos might be poised for a fall. Five of their last six wins have featured a grand total of 30 or fewer points between the two teams.

Meanwhile, New England has won five straight games, four of which have seen the total amount of points scored eclipse 52.

TENNESSEE TITANS (7-6, 3-3 road) at INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (0-13, 0-6 home)

Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
Opening line: Tennessee -7
Current line: Tennessee -6.5
Current betting trends: 90% of the public is currently backing the Titans.

Tennessee: 7-6 against the spread in 13 games played this season.
Indianapolis: 4-9 against the spread in 13 games played this season.

Interesting trends: The Titans are 1-4 ATS in their last five games as a road favorite, while the Colts are 14-5-2 ATS in their last 21 games against teams with a winning record.

Analysis: At 0-13, we all know how bad the Indianapolis Colts have been this season. Just make sure that you take into account the fact that after failing to cover the spread in seven straight games, the Colts benched quarterback Curtis Painter in favor of Dan Orlovsky (more likely due to the losing and not the spread covering). Since making that move, Indy has covered two straight games, against the Patriots and Ravens, respectively.

Also take note of the fact that despite a staggering 90% of the early action coming in on Tennessee, this line has moved a half point towards the Colts, indicating that some big-money early bettors believe Orlovsky has the ability to make it three covers in a row.

In addition to Orlovsky’s recent run of spread-covering success, another tidbit that could favor the Colts in this one comes by way of the injury report, as veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck suffered a calf sprain in Week 14 and was held out of Wednesday’s practice as a result. If Hass is unable to go, rookie first-round pick Jake Locker will make his first career NFL start.

The Titans are 1-4 ATS in their last five games as a road favorite and 7-19 ATS in their last 26 games after amassing 250 or more passing yards in their previous contest.

The total for this game opened at 40.5 and was bet up to 41, despite the fact that the under is 11-2 in the last 13 meetings between these two teams.

It’s hard to imagine the Colts finally putting a notch in the win column, but it wouldn’t come as a complete shock to see them keep this thing close enough to cover.

BALTIMORE RAVENS (10-3, 3-3 road) at SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (6-7, 4-3 home)

Time: 8:20 p.m. ET (Sunday night)
Opening line: Baltimore -1
Current line: Baltimore -2.5
Current betting trends: 80% of the public is currently backing the Ravens.

Baltimore: 7-5-1 against the spread in 13 games played this season.
San Diego: 4-9 against the spread in 13 games played this season.

Interesting trends: The Ravens are 1-4 ATS in their last five games against teams with a losing record, while the Chargers are 4-1 ATS in their last five games played in the month of December.

Analysis: In my opinion, this is the most interesting game that Vegas has to offer this weekend. When breaking down this matchup, ask yourself this:  If the Bolts were 9-4 right now, what would the books have opened this game at?

Yes, San Diego has once again failed to live up to expectations, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’ve caught fire as of late, having won and covered in two straight while outscoring their opponents 75-24.

Another reason for the Bolts’ recent run of success is quarterback Philip Rivers’ newfound ability to protect the football. After throwing two or more interceptions in four of five games, Rivers has been pick-free over his last three outings.

Baltimore is coming off an ATS loss against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 14 and is 1-4 ATS in their last five games against teams with a losing record. In their only other trip to the west coast in 2011, the Ravens laid an egg at Seattle and got beat 22-17. Be advised that the home team is 6-2 ATS in the last eight meetings between these two franchises.

The early action and initial line movement both favor Baltimore in this one, as the Ravens are 4-0 ATS in their last four games as a favorite of 0.5-3.0. Still, I can’t help but feel like betting Baltimore could be the rough equivalent of walking into a bear trap in the woods when the only reason why you were out there was to pound a couple of beers.

Remember, San Diego is 17-2 outright in the month of December since Norv Turner took over in 2007.

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