NFL bets lined up in Vegas 

July, 22, 2011

I think it's appropriate, when it's so hot outside tree bark is wilting, that the owners and the players are making us sweat the end of the NFL lockout. (With a tentative deal now in place, I feel much better than I did a few days ago).

Earlier this week, I began reporting this NFL-specific column. I wanted to know where the money was starting to flow in Vegas with a resolution in sight and where wiseguys think there might be extra value as soon as bookmakers post season win totals. Even though we might still be days away, I'm writing the column anyway.

That's because the flow has begun. I spoke with John Avello of the Wynn on Thursday night, and he said his book had seen more action than in the previous few days (with the most tickets for Super Bowl winner coming in on Detroit, Tampa Bay and Houston). I know the Hilton is buckling down for the free agency frenzy so it can get its season win totals up as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, analysts and handicappers whose lives center on action on The Strip are in a race to finish their preliminary predictions. I promise you that, quicker than Paris Hilton can walk out of an interview, wiseguys will be ready to bet the second the players accept a deal. Season win totals go up, they'll get hit. Week 1 lines get posted worldwide (not just in a few spots), and they'll get batted around like a wiffle ball (football metaphor lockout remains in effect). You, meanwhile, as the great Fezzik says, "Will pay a premium to make the same bets we do because recreational bettors wait. They have jobs and lives and families and won't think about the games until the Friday or Saturday before. It's always amazing to me that fantasy leaguers will spend hours thinking about their rosters for a $20 league but will make a $100 bet at the last minute."

He's right. One of these days I am going to write a list of wiseguy rules we all should follow. At the top of it would be, "Don't wait 'til Saturday if you have an opinion on Monday." If you are not playing to get the best of the number, you are not making sound investments -- you're just gambling.

Anyway, I'm actually glad the players are going to drag this thing out, because it gives me a chance to tell you exactly what you should be looking for. Many moons ago I wrote about how the sharpest sharps are playing Week 1 unders wherever they can find them. The longer this lockout lasts, the less chemistry NFL offenses have time to build and the more they will look like Goldie Hawn's Wildcats that opening week. When I spoke with Fezzik on Thursday afternoon, I asked him about his thoughts on season win totals. He didn't hesitate. "I have them all done already, ask me about any team."

"All 32?" I asked.

"No, I can't give away everything. Do five."