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NFL Week 8 lines that make you go hmmm...

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Longtime Las Vegas oddsmaker Peter Korner sizes up this week’s NFL schedule and picks out some of the lines making him go “hmmm...” in Week 8.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Cleveland Browns (+9.5, 37.5)

Being on neutral ground, the offshore opener of Minnesota -7.5 was quickly devoured by those sharp bettors who were expecting higher, like myself. I made this at least -10.5 bordering -11 from the get-go.

Minnesota has quickly become a defensive force in the league allowing 17, 14, 17, 10 and 16 points in its last five games. That stop unit going against a Cleveland offense that is struggling mightily, scoring 7, 14, 17 and nine points in the past four weeks, appears to be good reason that the difference between these two will easily cover any betting number out there up and including the closing line. The Vikings’ point total has improved in three straight weeks. The Browns are losing by an average of over 16 points per game in their last four weeks and nearly by 9.5 for the season.

If you were hedging like most of us early in the betting, taking the Vikings now, instead of later, would be the wise move. Cleveland backers, all two of you, would best benefit by waiting this one out and checking back later to grab a potential double-digit number to your liking. Being that the perception that a difference of 10 is a key number (which it really isn’t), I don’t see this getting maximum play on Minnesota too consistently once it gets that high. Chances of this going over 10 points are minimal.

My strategy here also involves the fact that this is a “special” game, we might not see a letdown by the favored Vikings in a spot like this. Now at 5-2, the last thing Minnesota needs is a closely-fought game in which I am sure they have marked as a notch in the win column. If Cleveland had any talent, particularly at the quarterback position, they could surprise and stay close. But this is certainly not the case.

Oakland Raiders at Buffalo Bills (-2.5, 45.5)

Oakland comes to Buffalo for what has become quite a shootout whenever these two teams’ cross paths. I absolutely agreed with the offshore opener of the Bills -3, but early betting has been on the Raiders, partly due to the stunning (and home field advantage) victory over the Chiefs this past week.

Before that, the Raiders were slipping into an abyss that was quickly putting an end to their season. I made this around Buffalo -3 (-120), looking at how the Bills are performing at home this season. In fact, home field has been a huge play between these two as the home team has won six straight times.

Before this past week, Oakland’s offense had scored a mere 53 points in the previous four games. Buffalo has had one of the best “points against” defenses in the NFL all year long. The Bills are playing well, playing better at home, and are feeding off their underdog status. They seem to have the emotional edge in this game.

As an oddsmaker, where my suggestions to bookmakers with parlay cards were under the microscope, I have always deemed the early movement downward to be a set-up for the casinos to print up their cards south of the key 3. A little money early in the week will turn out to be much larger the other way come kickoff. If you like Buffalo, don’t expect this number to drop off much more. The early money did its job. If you like Oakland, I firmly believe you will see 3’s hit the board again come game day so you might want to sit this out until the weekend to play.

Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5, 44)

I made this game more of a toss-up, closer to Tampa Bay either a pick or -1 at best. I understand Carolina’s awful play against the Bears in Chicago this past weekend, but the Panthers were coming off a tough three-game stretch against some quality opponents and when they found themselves down by two touchdowns off turnovers.

The Bears were able to crank up the defense in a position of power and keep the Carolina offense at bay. The fact that the Bears mustered just three points of offense all day themselves has me thinking that we need to throw that game out and look at this matchup with new eyes.

Tampa Bay has lost four of the last five games. It’s given up just under 30 points per game during that span. Though Tampa Bay did score 27 points off a monster day by QB Jameis Winston, it came against a Bills secondary that was hit with multiple injuries to their cornerbacks during the game.

Tampa Bay doesn’t look to be too strong of a force the rest of the way while Carolina, currently in second place, needs this game to not only to wipe away the unpleasant taste of last week’s results, but firmly entrench themselves in the NFC playoff picture. At this point, there’s a huge difference between 5-3 and 4-4.

I don’t see this number heading up any time soon during the course of this week. I see a strong play on the dog where bettors are planning to see a bounce back game by the Panthers in a totally winnable game. Grab as many points as you can if you’re backing the Panthers. Wait until game day if you like the Buccaneers and be prepared to only lay a point or two max at that time.

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Peter Korner is a long-time Las Vegas oddsmaker and analyst, working at the Las Vegas Sports Consultants and operating his own odds service, The Sports Club. Find out more about Pete and his storied career in the sports betting industry here.

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NFL Week 8 lines that make you go hmmm...
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