Updated on 09/16/2011 9:54AM

Even bettors lighten up for holidays


LAS VEGAS - The week before Christmas is traditionally one of the slowest times of the year in Las Vegas, and that trend continued on Monday at the Stardust lottery, where the opening football lines are posted for the week.

Only seven bettors signed up to take the first crack at the opening numbers that went up at 8:15 a.m., and then they only bet enough to move the lines on five NFL games this weekend. In fact, there were twice as many line moves (10) in that day's basketball and hockey action before the Stardust opened the windows to the general public.

Three college basketball games and one hockey game were bet before the first NFL line move on the Seahawks, bet from +4 1/2 to +3 1/2 against the Chargers. As noted in the accompanying chart, the wise guys have won with the Seahawks each of the past two weeks, backing them in their outright upset of the Falcons two weeks ago and then betting them from an underdog to favoritism last week vs. the Rams.

The other four NFL line moves were on home teams as the professional bettors drove up the price on the favored Raiders, Redskins, and Broncos, while siding with the Lions as a home dog vs. the Vikings.

Bankroll reverses form

Sports betting will humble you in a hurry. Two weeks ago, I went 7-1 in the NFL and had a profit of 8.9 units. This past weekend, I followed that up with a 2-8 showing and a loss of 7.9 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1). Easy come, easy go. The winners were on the Eagles-Cowboys under and the Bengals +7 vs. the Saints (an outright winner). Losses were on the Dolphins-Vikings over, the 49ers, the Bills, Bills-Packers over, the Jaguars (for 2 units), the Texans, the Rams, and the Broncos. For the season, the NFL bankroll drops to 60-67-4 for a net loss of 11.2 units.

The college bankroll was much better last week, winning with Marshall on a 2-unit play. Plays earlier this week were on Texas Tech -5 1/2 in Monday's Tangerine Bowl, New Mexico +10 1/2 in Wednesday's Las Vegas Bowl, and Hawaii -12 1/2 in Wednesday's Hawaii Bowl. Here are Thursday's two bowl games.

Motor City Bowl

Toledo (+4) vs. Boston College

Toledo was strong down the stretch, winning and covering four straight games before losing 49-45 to Marshall in the MAC Championship. That shootout was just for the league title, however, as both Marshall and Toledo had committed to their respective bowls before the game. Regardless, Toledo was certainly flattered by Marshall's rout of Louisville in the GMAC Bowl and, after facing Byron Leftwich & Company, it can be argued that the Rockets are taking a step down in class against the Boston College offense. Though the Boston College offense is very balanced and potent in its own right, it's certainly not as explosive as Marshall's. The difference in this game for me comes down to who can run the ball better and who can defend the run better - that's Toledo in both cases. The Rockets average 222 yards a game on the ground while Boston College gives up 173; Boston College averages 173 yards rushing while the stingy Toledo defense allows only 151. Add in the fact that Toledo will probably enjoy a home-away-from-home advantage with more fans in the stands, and I see value in taking the points. This game opened with Boston College as a 5 1/2-point favorite, but even though it's been bet down to 5, I don't believe the value is gone because 5 is a pretty dead number in football wagering.

PLAY: Toledo for 1 unit.

Insight.com Bowl

Pittsburgh (+2) vs. Oregon State

This is just as much a play against Oregon State as it is on Pittsburgh. As good as Oregon State was at home this year (5-1 both straight up and against the spread), the Beavers were 1-4 against the spread on the road, including dropping their last four. Pittsburgh traveled much better. In their last four road games they beat Syracuse 48-24 as a road dog, they lost 14-6 at Notre Dame as a 6 1/2-point dog (after trailing 7-6 for most of the game), upset Virginia Tech 28-21 as a 12 1/2-point dog, and covered in a 28-21 loss vs. top-ranked Miami-Florida as a 19-point dog. The Panthers showed they can play with anyone, while Oregon State was 1-4 both straight up and against the spread vs. bowl-bound teams. OSU's defense was ranked 10th in the nation and Pittsburgh's was 11th, so this should be a tight, low-scoring game (the total is 45 1/2). The difference could come down to Pittsburgh's passer-receiver combination of Rod Rutherford and Larry Fitzgerald.

PLAY: Pittsburgh for 1 unit.

Bowl record: 1-0 for a profit of 2 units. Season record: 29-30 for net loss of 3.2 units.