12/27/2012 4:29PM

Dave Tuley: NFL playoff scenarios figure to impact betting lines


LAS VEGAS – If you’ve been watching or reading any NFL coverage this week, you’re probably well versed in the playoff implications of all the games.

The Falcons have the No. 1 seed in the NFC all wrapped up, with the Packers and 49ers left to battle for the second bye while the Cowboys visit the Redskins in the Sunday night game for the NFC East title and the other home wild-card game. The Seahawks have clinched at least a wild card, while their only shot at a home wild-card game or possible first-round bye would be if the 49ers lose to the Cardinals as a 16-point favorite. The pecking order for the last NFC wild-card spot is Vikings, Bears, and Giants.

The AFC is clearer with the Texans, Broncos, and Patriots still vying for the top two seeds and first-round byes. The Ravens also are a division winner and get to host a wild-card game, The Ravens’ only chance to move up to the No. 3 seed would be if the Patriots lose as 10-point favorites over the Dolphins. The wild cards are in place with the Colts and Bengals.

The oddsmakers obviously know all this as well, and the NFL has made it even easier for them by having all division games in Week 17 and moving games whose results could impact the competitive nature of other games to be played at the same time.

That’s why we have the Bears and Giants (both of whom need a Vikings loss to have any prayer at the postseason) playing at their regularly scheduled 1 p.m. Eastern kickoff, while the Packers-Vikings game has been moved to 4:25 p.m. Eastern (that also puts the Packers at same time as 49ers).

In the AFC, the Patriots’ game was moved to the late afternoon to coincide with the Broncos’ game, though both will know if the No. 1 seed is still up for grabs based on the Texans result in their early game.

As we discussed in this space last week, there are adjustments that the oddsmakers have to make (either based on their own opinions or just anticipating which way the public is going to bet) with teams in “must-win situations” or the perception that the also-rans will be tanking for better draft picks.

As always, it’s a cat-and-mouse game and hopefully bettors can get the cheese.

Back to the NFL betting board

I went 2-1 last week with wins on the Jaguars covering the 14.5-point spread in a 23-16 loss to the Patriots and the Bengals beating the Steelers outright, 13-10, as a 4-point underdog. The loss was on the Browns losing 34-12 as a 13.5-point underdog to the Broncos. That gets me back to .500 but still losing with the vig. Hopefully, I can close strongly heading into the playoffs:

Dolphins +10 vs. Patriots

The Patriots want to win to try and get a first-round bye, but let the bettor beware: the Patriots haven’t been as adept at covering big numbers as they have been in the past. And we’re not just talking about last week’s non-covering 23-16 win over the Jaguars. The Patriots also have failed to cover in three of their last four home games (against the Jets, Bills, and 49ers while only stepping up and blowing out the Texans), plus the Dolphins covered the 7.5-point spread in their first meeting in Miami in another 23-16 game. The Dolphins have quietly covered four of their last five games, including being the last team to beat the Seahawks and their only non-cover was a 14-point loss to the 49ers as an 11-point dog. I see no reason why they can’t stay within single digits of the Patriots again.

PLAY: Dolphins for 1 unit.

Vikings +3.5 vs. Packers

Aha . . . I wonder if anyone out there read the “get the cheese” line as a foreshadowing of a play on the Packers, but it was a red herring (regular readers wouldn’t have been fooled as the Packers are the favorite, and they know I’m allergic to chalk). Both teams have something to play for with the Packers trying to get a first-round bye and the Vikings needing the win to get in the playoffs. The Packers won (and covered) the first meeting 23-14 at Lambeau, despite Adrian Peterson running for 210 yards. He needs 208 to break Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record. The Vikings play better at home (6-1 SU, 4-2-1 ATS) and even better when they are home dogs (3-0 SU and ATS over the Lions, 49ers, and Bears – oh my!).

PLAY: Vikings for 1 unit.

Rams +10.5 vs. Seahawks

The Seahawks are the hottest team in football, but we’re starting to see the oddsmakers having to overadjust the line to get action against them. This line was 7.5 last week on the advance line at the LVH SuperBook, but now it’s a full field goal higher. But even though the Seahawks are tied with the Redskins for the best spread record at 11-4, the Rams are no slouch at 10-5 ATS. The Rams might not have the biggest incentive to finish .500, but I’m not convinced the Seahawks have any reason to play their starters beyond the first half unless the 49ers are losing to the Cardinals. But in addition to the Rams’ performances against the 49ers, the fact they beat the Seahawks earlier this year tells me they match up well enough to keep it close regardless.

PLAY: Rams for 1 unit.

Last week: 2-1 for a net profit of 0.9 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). NFL season record: 23-23 for a net loss of 2.3 units.