We are entering the penultimate week of NFL regular season football. There are no Thursday or Saturday games this week, so we have to wait until Sunday to get our NFL fix. The league took a major step on Tuesday by lowering the required isolation period to five days following a positive test result. This news has shifted which players could be available this weekend and therefore has had an impact on the betting market. Which games entering Week 17 have seen significant line movement?
The Carson Wentz situation
Yesterday, we were informed that Carson Wentz entered COVID protocols. As an unvaccinated player, we all assumed he was out for at least 10 days and that he was certainly out for this weekend's game against the Raiders. The betting market reacted.
Indianapolis opened as a 7.5-point favorite over the Raiders, and after news of Wentz's positive test, the line dropped significantly. The Colts were only 1.5-point favorites on Tuesday afternoon.
However, shortly after the Wentz news dropped, the league amended their protocols, which opened the possibility for Wentz to play should he be asymptomatic.
Based on the market reaction, it appears likely that Wentz will play. The Colts are now 6.5-point favorites over the Raiders on Sunday. One could assume that the one-point downgrade from the original number is because we aren't positive that Wentz will play. However, the line movement makes it feel pretty certain.
Trey Lance season?
The San Francisco 49ers opened as hefty 15.5-point favorites over the Houston Texans. I'm guessing oddsmakers didn't take much away from Houston's upset win over the Chargers last week.
However, the 49ers announced that Jimmy Garoppolo has a thumb injury and his status for this game is uncertain. The team will likely hand over the controls to rookie third overall pick Trey Lance.
While the online community loves to rip on Garoppolo and is enamored by the potential of Lance, it seems like the betting market doesn't exactly agree. They downgraded the 49ers three points based on the news of a switch from Garoppolo to Lance.
Currently, the 49ers are just 12.5-point favorites over the Texans. While the 49ers should be fine with Lance in this game, it's certainly a situation worth monitoring as this team looks poised to make the playoffs and Garoppolo is out long term.
Kansas City back in the good graces of bettors
Heading back to last season and through the first half of this season, fading the Kansas City Chiefs against the spread was basically free money. The team was elite, but overvalued by the betting market. They covered the spread just two times in their first nine games of this season.
Then, the general public began to doubt the Chiefs and the betting market responded, no longer massively inflating their spreads. Now, with the Chiefs looking like they've hit their groove on both sides of the ball, they're back to covering the number. Kansas City has covered six straight games.
Currently, the Chiefs are a 5.5-point favorite on the road over the Cincinnati Bengals. The line opened with the Chiefs laying just four points but it seems like bettors are back to believing in the Chiefs, causing this line to spike. Kansas City should get Travis Kelce back in this matchup, after he missed last week's game due to COVID protocols.
Fans of the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens will certainly be rooting for the Chiefs on Sunday as an upset win by the Bengals would clinch the AFC North for Cincinnati.
Key number watch
Not every line movement is equal. In the NFL, scores often fall on key margin of victories such as 3, 7, and 14. Movement around these numbers is often more influential than bigger movement around non key numbers. We've seen five games on this week's schedule fluctuate around a key number:
The Buffalo Bills opened as 13.5-point favorites over the Atlanta Falcons, but the Bills are now laying more than two touchdowns at home. The current line has the Bills favored by 14.5 points over the Falcons.
The Detroit Lions are now just 7-point underdogs against the Seattle Seahawks after the line opened with Seattle laying 7.5 points. Yahoo's Frank Schwab outlined that the Lions have been an awesome team to bet on this season despite their poor record.
After opening as a 3-point road underdog, the Rams are now laying 3.5 points in Baltimore on Sunday. There's still uncertainty about who will start at quarterback for the Ravens.
The Green Bay Packers might be the best team in the league, but Green Bay is now just 6.5-point home favorites against the Vikings after opening as a full touchdown favorite. Green Bay's last two games against the Ravens and Browns came down to the bitter end. Green Bay failed to cover both games.
Speaking of the Browns, they're currently 3-point favorites over the Steelers on Monday night. The line opened at 3 points, but it has sat at 3.5 points for most of the week. If you want to lay three points with the Browns, you'd need to lay -115 juice. This is potentially Ben Roethlisberger's last home game ever with the Steelers. Depending on how things go on Sunday, this game could either have massive playoff implications for both teams or this game could be completely meaningless. We shall see.