Opening Line Report - WC
January 2, 2017

With the NFL playoffs upon us, here are the opening point spreads and totals for wild-card weekend, as well as insight from two prominent Las Vegas oddsmakers – John Avello at the Wynn and Chris Andrews at the South Point.

Numbers listed are the Vegas consensus as of about 5:00 p.m. ET on Monday, with differences among books and early moves also noted.

Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans (-3/-120, 36.5), Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET

Both teams are unsettled at quarterback five days before kickoff, and neither of their alternatives will make bettors comfortable. In Houston, Brock Osweiler is expected to start over the injured Tom Savage (concussion). Oakland’s preferred starter, Matt McGloin, injured his shoulder in Sunday’s loss at Denver, so the Raiders may be looking to rookie Connor Cook.

Early money was on the Texans. The South Point opened Houston -2.5 and was bet up to -3.5 on Monday. Other shops went from -3 even to -3 (-120).

The ‘under’ also drew early interest, bet from 37.5 to 36.5 at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

Andrews believes there is a significant difference between McGloin and Cook.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say there isn’t, but I think there is (a difference). It would be Cook’s very first start. I know (Houston is) not the toughest playoff opponent, but still it’s an NFL team with NFL coaches, and they’re going to throw a lot of stuff at the kid who’s never been on the field before.”

Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks (-7.5, 42.5), Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET

Bettors laid Seattle -7 at the South Point, where the line was moved to -7.5 during Monday wagering. Some shops opened 7.5 and moved to 8, and the Wynn opened at the higher number.

The total hovers between 42 and 43.

After a run of eight wins in nine games, the Lions stepped up in class for their last three, and it didn’t go well. They lost and failed to cover at the Giants, at the Cowboys and home Sunday night vs. the Packers. Now, they travel to Seattle to face a Seahawks team that is loaded with playoff pedigree and rarely loses at home.

“Detroit lost a game (Sunday) night that they were more prepared for than any game this year and it was at home and they didn’t get there,” Avello said. “Now they’ve gotta go on the road, and they haven’t won a playoff game in many years. Seattle has one loss at home this year, a handful of losses (there) over the last four or five years. It’s just a difficult spot for the Lions.”

Andrew suspects the injury to Matt Stafford’s finger is worse than the Lions are letting on, but he’s concerned about Seattle’s current form and gives Detroit a chance Saturday night.

“I don’t like the way Seattle is playing right now and they’re laying a big number,” Andrew said. “… I think (the Lions) can cover, and once you’re saying that, I think they have a decent shot at winning the game. As bad as Detroit’s been the last couple of weeks, they have a chance because Seattle’s not at their peak.”

If you’re on board with Andrews’ thinking, you may want to wait to place your bet.

“This number is going to go higher,” Avello said. “I think this number is going to go to 9 maybe. I don’t know who’s interested in the Lions right now.”

Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers (-10, 47), Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET

While multiple Vegas bet shops, including the South Point, opened Pittsburgh -9.5 and moved to -10, Andrews said it wasn’t big action that prompted him to change his number.

Both Andrews and Avello are anticipating teaser action on the Steelers.

“If they want to get down to the 3, I’m going to make them pay for it,” Andrews said.

Added Avello, “There could be some straight-bet action on Miami, but the bulk of the action on all bets will be on the Steelers.”

The Dolphins were seven-point underdogs at home against Pittsburgh back in Week 6, and they won straight-up, 30-15. Ryan Tannehill went 24-for-32 for 252 yards in that game but did not throw a touchdown pass. Jay Ajayi carried the load, rushing for 204 yards and two TDs.

Matt Moore has been decent in relief of the injured Tannehill, with an 8 TD/3 INT ratio in his three recent starts.

Besides the win over Pittsburgh, though, Avello isn’t impressed with the 10-6 Dolphins’ resume.

“They didn’t beat one good team this year, except for Pittsburgh,” Avello said.

New York Giants at Green Bay Packers (-4.5, 44.5), Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET

The spread on this game ranged from Green Bay -4 to -5 across Las Vegas on Monday, bet from 4.5 to 4 at the South Point.

Green Bay was a seven-point favorite against the Giants when these teams met at Lambeau Field on a Sunday night in early October, the game ending in a push, 23-16.

The Packers are rolling into the playoffs, closing the regular season with six straight wins, but the Giants are a formidable opponent.

“Green Bay is confident right now, but with all that confidence, they’re going against a team that knows the playoffs, that has performed very well as of late defensively,” Avello said.

The Eli Manning-led Giants have won two playoff games at Lambeau, in 2007 and 2011. They went on to win the Super Bowl both of those years.

This time around, the Giants have a factor the Packers didn’t have to worry about then.

“The Packers are going to have their hands full with Odell Beckham,” Avello said. “They weren’t able to cover the Lions receivers (Sunday), and they’re not going to cover Beckham. I think the Giants could have a big day...I think the game is close to the end, and maybe the last team with the ball wins the football game. “

Andrews sees this game as “strength against strength: the Giants defense, which has really been playing well, against the Packers offense, which is always going to be dangerous with Rodgers.

“I’m not sure who I like. I think 4 is probably a pretty decent number. I give the Packers a pretty good home-field advantage. But defense tends to travel better than offense, so I think they’re going to have their hands full...I think either team coming out of here is going to be pretty live the following week.”