Wednesday, October 7, 2009

NFL Notebook: Las Vegas Books Small Winner in Week 4

by Micah Roberts
Gaming Today

The sports books struggled on Saturday with a lot key favored teams covering, making it their least profitable Saturday of the season after five weeks.

In pro football, the books had gone 1-2 vs. the public through the first three weeks, but week four started out great. Sports books cashed in big when the highly-favored Bengals failed to cover the spread against Cleveland.

"We did really well in the early games with teams like the Titans and Ravens not doing well," said MGM-MIRAGE Race and Sports Director Jay Rood. "But in the late games with favorites like Saints and 49ers coming through, we gave some of it back."

The encouraging note for the books is that the two teams that had been a virtual bet-against all season, the Browns and Buccaneers, covered their spreads despite losing.

The downside is that a team like the Saints continues to roll much to the delight of the betting public, who throw the Saints on just about every parlay ticket because it has been a given that they’ll win and cover no matter what the spread is.

"Right now, we’re over-inflating the pro lines to start the week," said Lucky’s Sports Book Director Jimmy Vaccaro. "With the favorites coming in like they have and the small money (public) coming on the favorites regardless, we’re looking to see if we can tempt the smarts a little early and watch every game very closely throughout the week."

The Colts are like the Saints, who have become one those public teams that are bet regardless of how high the line is. After not covering week one, they have rolled to three straight covers including Sunday’s no sweat game against the Seahawks that allowed bettors to kick back and relax by halftime.

This week the Colts are -4 at the winless Titans, a tough game, but nevertheless, one that will still be bet by most of the public. The Saints have a bye week, so the public will have to look elsewhere for making their easy money this week.

NFL Matchup of the Week

The pro football matchup of the week has the 3-1 New England Patriots visiting the 4-0 Denver Broncos. The matchup’s underlying theme has rookie head coach Josh McDaniels facing his mentor, Bill Belichik – both are sure to wear their matching gray hoodies.

Despite Denver’s impressive win over the favored Cowboys last week, the Patriots still come in as a -3.5 point favorite. Both teams answered a lot of up in the air questions that were asked prior to their matches.

The Patriots moved the ball effectively on offense, yet still not to their own expectations, or their fans who are still waiting for the 2007 version of the Pats to return. Their greatest accomplishment may have been slowing down the Ravens high powered offense that had run and thrown on everyone all season.

The Broncos 17-10 win over Dallas proved that their stingy defense against the likes of Cincinnati, Cleveland and Oakland may have been more about them just being good, rather than citing the faults of their opponents.

Dallas still managed 317 total yards, well below their season average, but holding the Cowboys scoreless for the final three quarters was the most impressive feat. Denver still ranks No. 1 in total defense and points allowed with only 26 through four games, and is the only team in the NFL to have not allowed a touchdown pass.

The underdog role will be Denver’s for at least their next four games, which have them on the road at San Diego and Baltimore and then at home against the Steelers. Depending on how they do in those games, and if Washington’s offense shows up anytime soon, will determine whether or not they’re favored in their Nov. 15 matchup at the Redskins.

Parlays of the Week

Despite the Saints being off this week, the majority of public plays will have the following teams linked: Minnesota -11 at St. Louis, Philly -13 vs. Tampa Bay, Indianapolis -4 at Tennessee and the Giants -15.5 vs. Oakland.

Should all four of those large favorites get there, the books will be in for a rough week five.

You can see some of the inflated prices that Vaccaro discussed earlier, but it’s likely the lines will go higher just because all four of the teams’ opponents are winless on the season.

In the case of teams like Kansas City, St. Louis, and Oakland, there’s no telling when these teams will put some offense into their attack, while at the same time playing a little defense. I really sympathize with the books trying to combat against those dregs on a weekly basis because it doesn’t look like they’ll get anything going for some time.

Week Four Game Balls

Jacksonville’s David Garrard continued the league’s assault on the Titans pass defense with 323 yards passing and three touchdowns in the Jaguars’ 37-17 win. Pittsburgh’s Rashard Mendenhall finally lived up to his first round draft pick billing as he stepped in for an injured Willie Parker and ran for 165 yards and two touchdowns vs. the Chargers.

Smart Call of the Week

I’m Cowboys Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett near the goal line and down by 7 with no timeouts left, time running out, and it’s third down. My supposed star receiver, Roy Williams is out with an injury, but I still have All-Pro tight-end Jason Witten. Rather than throw to Witten on any of the last two downs, I use him as a decoy in blocking assignments.

I have two receivers flanked left and one to the right. One of my guys on the left is the lanky leaper, Miles Austin, covered by 5’10” journeyman cornerback Andre Goodman. On the right, I have little used Sam Hurd, who has 28 catches in his four year career, going against arguably the best cornerback in football in Champ Bailey.

So guess who I’m going to? That’s right, I’m going right at the All-Pro because I‘m crafty that way. I zig when they zag, because their thinking I’m going to go with my best at their weakest player, so I’m going to outsmart them.

For two straight plays, good Tony Romo passes on slants to Hurd were batted down by Bailey which ended the game and led to Denver’s victory formation in their 17-10 win. Jerry Jones is sure to let his feelings be known about that final sequence.

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