Updated on 09/16/2011 8:56AM

NFL playoff spreads too hard to hammer


LAS VEGAS - Professional sports bettors make their living by finding loose lines and hammering the bookmaker in soft spots, especially when they can set up a middle.

It also can be assumed that the oddsmakers have a strong grasp on NFL teams by the time the playoffs roll around and they set very tight lines.

So it was no surprise Monday morning when the Stardust posted the opening numbers for this weekend's NFL playoff games and only five professional bettors signed up for the lottery.

"They didn't bet the NFL games at all," said Joe Lupo, who continues to aid in the transition of his successor, Bob Scucci, as director of race and sports. "The bettors only wanted to bet college basketball."

That's a shame as the early wagering last week was a good indicator. The sharp bettors went 4-0 in the NFL (not counting the Redskins-Cowboys game, which fell on the opening number of 6) and finished the regular season with a record of 60-51 (54.1 percent).

The inactivity this week simply tells you that the playoff numbers are tight, tight, tight.

In Saturday's games, the Jets opened as a 5 1/2-point favorite over the Colts with a total of 42 1/2 and the Packers were favored by 6 1/2 over the Falcons with a total of 42.

On Sunday, the Stardust made the Steelers a 7-point favorite over the Browns with a -125 money line (bet $1.25 to win $1) attached to it, and +105 (bet $1 to win $1.05) on the Browns and a total of 42. With the 49ers playing Monday night, the Stardust didn't post numbers on the 49ers-Giants matchup, but Lupo said it would be right around the 49ers -4 and a total of 42 barring any major injuries.

The Stardust also updated its Super Bowl futures for the 12 remaining teams. The Raiders and Eagles, the teams with home field throughout the conference playoffs, are the 5-2 co-favorites. The underlay on the board is the Packers, who lost their chance at home field and now have to play an extra game this weekend, at 4-1, ahead of the other teams with first-round byes, the Buccaneers (9-2) and Titans (6-1).

The Steelers, with quarterback Tommy Maddox trying to go from a renegade league (XFL) to a Super Bowl title, like Kurt Warner (Arena Football League) did three years ago, are next at 7-1, followed by the 49ers at 10-1, the Jets (who have made a late run like the Patriots did last year, with Chad Pennington in the role of Tom Brady) at 18-1, and the Giants, Colts, Falcons, and Browns all at 20-1.

Lupo said the Stardust is sitting in pretty good shape with its future book.

"We've received pretty balanced action across the board," Lupo said. "The Browns would hurt us, but that's not likely with them having to go on the road three times to even get to the Super Bowl."

Over at the Imperial Palace, they've had a change of favorite in their AFC vs. NFC Super Bowl line. Last week, the NFC was favored by 2 1/2, but (because of the Raiders' strong finish and partly because of money flowing in) it has been moved to the AFC -1. The total is 46.