Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Underdogs Roll in Week 12 of the NFL

By Micah Roberts

After having a losing Thanksgiving day where the preferred public sides and totals went 4-2 between the three NFL games, the Las Vegas sports books were all thinking “here we go again” because they all know how the story typically ends where the mounting risk of those games carry over into Friday and Saturday’s college action and the explode like a powder keg on Sunday with the remaining pro games.

But it didn’t happen this year, the year of the underdog. The sports books did lose as usual on Thanksgiving with Saints saving horrendous losses by getting hooked as a 3 ½-point favorite, but the losses stopped there with games going the books way throughout the remaining three days with a final outcome of a large winning day on Sunday.

Many thought the tide had turned and that the cream was rising to the top after a few weeks seeing the favorites cover and play well, but week 12 showed us that this season is still the season of the dogs where favorites went 5-10 for the week and 3-9 on Sunday. For the season, NFL favorites are now 74-93-6 which has equated to 10 winning weeks for the house with only one loss and a push.

To show how good Sunday was for the sports books, the only game the public had a weighted opinion on that won was the Texans 20-0 win over the Titans as 6 ½-point favorites, but Sharp money came in on the Titans late dropping the game to -5 by kickoff. By the end of the day when the remaining public teams lost, even the Texans game turned out to be a winner.

When combining the other public teams like the Steelers, Eagles, Raiders, Ravens, Browns and Giants, who all didn’t cover, it’s easy to see how the sports books raked in all the chips this week. The Steelers led the way as the most lopsided public bet team in ticket counts as a 6 ½-point favorite who took overtime to beat the Bills 19-16 after being comfortably up 13-0 at halftime.

The only other favorites who covered along with the Texans were the Chiefs and Falcons, both games of which were bet with split opinions by the public.

The one area that bettors did fare well with on their favorites were with teasers, but not enough to make a big dent on the sports books overall day. The top teasers plays of the day were with the Giants, Steelers and Ravens.

The Ravens were favored by 7 ½-points and were rolling with a 17-3 lead mid way through the fourth quarter, but with 3 minutes left in the game, the Buccaneers got a back door touchdown and extra point. Another bad beat for the favorite bettor in straight bets and parlays, but a winner on teasers.

The biggest moves of the week were both wins for the Sharp money with the Vikings and Panthers. The Redskins had opened as a 3-point home favorite against the Vikings and quickly dropped after Brad Childress was fired, By Saturday night, the Redskins were still favored by -1, but by Sunday morning the Vikings had closed as the 2-point favorite and won 17-13.

The Browns had opened as an 11-point home favorite against the Panthers, but the combination of Brian St.Pierre not starting for the Panthers and Jake Delhomme starting for the Browns had the number drop to -10 and eventually was pushed by money down to -7 ½ by kickoff. The Browns nearly lost straight up thanks to some Delhomme gift wrapped picks to his former team, but were able to hold on for a 24-23 win after John Kasay missed a field goal as time ran out.

The final game of the day, one that looked to be one of the better matchups, between the Chargers and Colts had no real bearing on the days outcome. The only thing the sports books were hoping for was the game to stay under 52 points, which happened as the Chargers befuddled Peyton Manning once again in winning 36-14. Between no outstanding liability from the weekend of games and the public each liking a side equally, this game meant very little, and just slightly more than the irrelevant outcome from Monday night’s Cardinals-49ers game.

I wish I could be optimistic and say the tide is turning for the favorites, but the writing is on the wall. There looked to be a little momentum gained the last two weeks, but it came to a screeching halt in week 12. The only real continuous momentum currently going has been the totals going over the number. Last week was only 8-7, but the trend has been a winner the last few weeks in a row. This week, teams like the Chiefs and Broncos figure to light it up the scoreboard. If Todd Haley has a chance to run it up on Josh McDaniels, he will.

The New Refrigerator
He only weighs 325 pounds, but Chiefs defensive lineman Shaun Smith did go to South Carolina, the same state that produced William Perry, and on Sunday he accomplished a feat that no one had since Perry in 1985 by recording a sack and a rushing touchdown in the same game.

Bears Growl
I’m not sure what was more impressive, the big plays the usual anemic offense of the Bears made against the Eagles, or how the defense bottled up Michael Vick. The Bears did everything right in their home 31-26 win Sunday with a score that isn’t close to indicating the type of dominant effort put forth. Who would have ever thought Chicago would be in first place at this late stage of the season, only one game back for the conference lead.

Spygate 2
Denver coach Josh McDaniels and the Broncos were each fined $50,000 by the league for taping a 49ers practice session in London. Although McDaniels didn’t watch the tape (he should of because it might have helped in their embarrassing loss), the story becomes larger because he was the offensive coordinator when the Patriots had their own famous incidents. When McDaniels explained to his coaching staff the differences between the two matters, he revealed key information that wasn’t released during the Patriots scandal, information that Bill Belichick is sure to not be happy about which could put a strain on their relationship. Once McDaniels is fired from Denver, he will need Belichick’s support and hope that he doesn’t get the cold should like another Belichcik disciple, Eric Mangini.

Speaking of Belichick’s disciple’s, he’s not exactly produced a tree of prosperity under his reign like Bill Walsh did when he won his three Super Bowls. In fact, they have all been busts when you look at McDaniels 5-16 record over his last 21 games, Mangini’s 23-25 record with the Jets and 9-18 with Browns, Romeo Crennel’s 24-40 record with the Browns and Charlie Weis going 35-27 at Norte Dame with only three bowl games (1-2) in five seasons.

Johnson-Finnegan Bout
Cortland Finnegan is the best in the league at taking players out of their game and for the second straight year, he got Andre Johnson out of his, and this time out of the game and likely a league suspension. Finnegan is the leader of a defensive team perceived dirty, while some just call them smart. Jeff Fisher teams have always been the first to gouge and poke in piles while the retaliating team gets the penalty. Even though Finnegan didn’t throw any blows like Johnson did, he too could face some league punishment because of an on going deal with him regarding similar situations.

Monday, November 29, 2010

College Betting Notes From Las Vegas: TCU Getting No Respect After Boise State Loss

By Micah Roberts

When Boise State lost at Nevada last Friday night, It did more than knock their own team out of a major bowl and losing millions in revenue for the school and their soon to be departed conference, it also changed the perception of how many feel about TCU. In two swift missed chip shots by Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman, the entire nation is reanalyzing how they feel about TCU as if the two teams in their quest for respect in the BCS grand scheme of things were a package deal.

True, they each stood up for each other when the likes of ESPN’s Mark May downplayed their abilities or Ohio State’s President Gordon Gee questioned who they played, but really, what does one losing have to do with the other. They are separate schools in separate small conferences who both play good football, but now the experts would like to have you believe that they don’t belong and that the Boise State loss proves it. They’d like us all to believe now that one loss teams from the Big-10 and Pac-10 deserve more respect than an undefeated team from the Mountain West.

I know from the experts point of view, it’s just good spin and makes good television. But what else do they have to gain by standing on their pulpits bad mouthing a college football team. Why would some of these experts be so adamant about their stance on a bunch of impressionable collegiate athletes who are trying to finish their season undefeated, and yet are be told they aren't good enough and shouldn’t be allowed to prove it on the field. Is this how they reward their own affiliation with the major universities they played for or went to?

For Mark May, who went to Pittsburgh, why isn’t he campaigning for justice in the BCS system where his own conference -- the Big East -- gets an automatic bid when they have only West Virginia (No. 24) in the top-25 BCS rankings. That seems like a more righteous cause than spewing reasons why TCU and Boise State don’t belong. Let’s be real, the Big East should have been reanalyzed as an automatic qualifier after heavyweight Miami left the conference and Utah went undefeated and beat the BCS out of Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl.

This years Big East representative in the BCS Fiesta Bowl will likely be 7-4 Connecticut, a team who was 3-4 at one stage of the season losing to the likes of Temple and Big East bottom feeders like Rutgers and Louisville. Meanwhile, Boise State will be shuffled off to some awful bowl because of their one loss on then No. 18 Nevada’s home field.

What also is surprisingly lost in this entire debate is that everyone has gotten away from the real injustice of not having a playoff system like every other sport. Even NASCAR has some sort of playoff system in place. Division 1-AA football just began their own playoffs last week to end their season and crown a true champion, but the big boys can‘t do it.

Maybe Gordon Gee is is plain and simply right when he made the following comments before Boise State's loss:."I don't know enough about the X's and O's of college football, but I do know, having been both a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president, that it's like murderers' row every week for these schools. Until a university runs that gantlet, then there's some reason to believe that they may not be the best teams to [be] in the big ballgame."

Or, maybe he's simply right that he doesn't know enough about college football.

TCU still has an outside chance at making the title game should Auburn lose this weeks SEC Championship game against South Carolina or Oregon lose the civil war at Oregon State, but the experts would have you believe if that either of those teams lose that either No. 4 Stanford or No. 5 Wisconsin would be a more proper choice for the Championship game.

I was actually hoping that Ohio State would somehow pass Wisconsin in the BCS rankings to give us the classic Rose Bowl matchup against TCU, but TCU will now look to handle their business against a Wisconsin team who recently skated through the "gantlet" of their conference with beat downs on Indiana and a quarterback-less Northwestern.

Side Note: TCU announced that they have accepted an offer to join the Big East conference beginning in 2012 leaving the MWC in bad shape for future BCS considerations. With Utah, BYU and TCU gone, the MWC may as well just rename themselves the WAC. TCU apparently got tired of playing the game and seeing how one loss buried Boise State's bowl financial hopes, they figured they better get on board rather than being left out in the future.

Here’s a look at the potential BCS Bowls with lines from Kenny White:
BCS Title Game - Auburn (-1.5) vs. Oregon
Rose Bowl - TCU (-3) vs. Wisconsin
Sugar Bowl - Ohio State (-3) vs. Arkansas
Orange Bowl - Virginia Tech vs. Stanford (-1)
Fiesta Bowl - Connecticut vs. Oklahoma (-7.5)

Sports Books Win
Despite having the possibility of mounting risk and liability with three straight days of action of college football over the holiday weekend, the sports books were able to beat down the public games enough to have a nice weekend. Upsets like Ohio losing to Kent State started Friday off nice for the house and was capped by Oregon and Boise State not covering. Oregon had opened as 18 ½-point favorites, but closed at -20, where Oregon ultimately won by 19. The -18 ½ and -19 spreads weren’t there very long so the middle opportunities were very limited with most of the public laying a higher number than the outcome.

Saturday’s games turned out just as good for the sports books as Oklahoma and Notre Dame had upset wins late that shifted the balance in favor of the house.

College Basketball Notes

Teams on the Rise
Notre Dame (7-0): Of all the Big East Heavyweights, Notre Dame may get lost in the shuffle. Their unranked as of now, but that could change soon after a couple of impressive win against a ranked Georgia squad, stomping Cal and then beating Wisconsin Sunday.

UNLV (6-0): The Rebels won the 76 classic in Anaheim by beating a Virginia Tech team who was ranked two weeks ago and was projected by many to compete for the ACC title. Lon Kruger has this team playing great team defense, hustling and playing smart basketball with quality shot selections.

Texas A&M (5-1): Their week started out with a 67-65 Thanksgiving loss to Boston College, but ended with wins over Manhattan and then beating No. 20 Temple 54-51. They should pad their record with three easy wins until a big match against Washington in two weeks.

Teams Falling:
Washington (3-2) & Pac-10: The Huskies were previously ranked No. 11 in the nation, but were exposed in losses to Kentucky and Michigan State. The entire conference is under the microscope as they look to prove that their collective troubles last year was just an anomaly. Last years champions, Cal, can’t score and thus far the conference is 1-5 against ranked teams.

Temple (3-2): They were ranked No. 20 last week, but losses to Cal and Texas A&M really showed their weakness, which is overall shooting…from anywhere. They haven’t found anyone to take over the void left by last years leading scorer Ryan Brooks. It won’t get any easier as the Owls play at Maryland and then have a home game against Georgetown over the next two weeks.

North Carolina (4-2): Somehow the Tar Heels remained ranked after losing to Vanderbilt and Minnesota two weeks ago, but their struggle at home Sunday against Charleston just shouldn’t happen. They rallied to win 74-69 and avoided being beaten by the Cougars for the second straight year. We’ll quickly find out what this team is truly made of this week as they’ll face the ranked teams of Illinois and Kentucky. It would be shocking if there were able to get a split.

Game of the Week
Michigan State (5-1) at Duke (6-0)
Wednesday, December 1 - 6:30 pm (PDT)
The No. 1 team in the nation gets tested early with one of the nation's best in the Spartans and then have to face Butler on Saturday. So far, Duke is hitting on all cylinders as they are shooting 50% from the field and 44 % from the three-point line. They are deep on the bench and have five players currently averaging double-digits in points led by Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler at 16 ppg each.

Michigan State’s only loss came due to the hot shooting of Connecticut’s Kemba Walker, but their own trio of stars could give Duke a major scare at Cameron Indoor Arena. Senior guard Kalin Lucas has elevated his game to new heights this season and will have to come up big in this one like he did against Washington when he put 29 points that including 4-of-5 from beyond the arch. Durrell Summers and Draymond Green have already picked up the slack left by the departed Raymar Morgan.

The Spartans have the talent and senior leadership to pull off an upset win at a tough place like this, but as hard as it may be to believe, this Duke team may be even better than last years title winning team. I’ll take Duke to win in a high scoring game, 92-83.

College Football Week 14 - Conference Championship Matchups


MAC Championship from Detroit, MI (ESPN2, 7:30 p.m.) - History
Miami, Ohio (8-4 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. Northern Illinois (10-2 SU, 9-2-1 ATS)
Quick Hits: Dating back to 2002, Northern Illinois has won five straight against Miami but four of the contests were decided by seven points or less and the last three saw outcomes of three, four and five points. The Redhawks covered all three of those tight affairs. Miami, Ohio has made two trips to Ford Field and the school has walked away with one championship (2003), when QB Ben Roethlisberger stood behind center for the ‘Hawks. Northern Illinois only made one appearance in the MAC title game and they came up short to Akron (30-31) as a heavy favorite (13.5). To no surprise, the Huskies are laying wood (-14) again this week.
CUSA Championship from Orlando, FL (ESPN, 12:00 p.m.) - History
SMU (7-5, 6-5-1 ATS) vs. Central Florida (9-3 SU, 9-3 ATS)
Quick Hits: Central Florida has won its only two meetings against SMU and both of them came by double digits, 49-20 and 31-17. Surprisingly, both of those games went ‘under’ too. UCF has made two trips to the title game, losing to Tulsa (27-44) in 2005 but getting revenge on the Golden Hurricane two years later in a romp (44-25). This will be SMU’s first rodeo in the CUSA Championship. The Golden Knights opened as eight-point favorites.

Click here to find out more!
SEC Championship from Atlanta, GA (CBS, 4:00 p.m.) - History
Auburn (12-0 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs. South Carolina (9-3 SU, 7-5 ATS)
Quick Notes: The Tigers have won five straight against the Gamecocks, including a 35-27 victory this season on Sept. 25. Auburn trailed by six (21-27) entering the fourth quarter but outscored South Carolina 14-0 in the final 15 minutes. QB Cam Newton had 334 yards of offense and five touchdowns in the victory for Auburn. The Tigers have been to the SEC title game three times and have only won once, with the victory happening in 2004 against Tennessee (38-28). South Carolina has never played for the conference championship. Auburn has opened as a five-point favorite.
ACC Championship from Charlotte, NC (ESPN, 7:45 p.m.) - History
Florida State (9-3 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. Virginia Tech (10-2 SU, 9-3 ATS)
Quick Hits: This encounter will be a rematch of the first ACC Championship in 2005 when Florida State upset Virginia Tech 27-22 as a 14-point underdog. Since that meeting, the two teams have squared off twice with each school winning and covering at home. The ‘over’ has cashed in all three of the last meetings. This will be third conference title game for the Hokies, who have won in the other two instances, both coming against Boston College in 2007 and ’08. Virginia Tech has ripped off 10 straight wins after starting 0-2, which is part of the reason why Frank Beamer’s team has opened as 4 ½-point favorites against the ‘Noles.
Big 12 Championship from Arlington, TX (ABC, 8:00 p.m.) - History
Nebraska (10-2 SU, 5-6-1 ATS) vs. Oklahoma (10-2 SU, 7-5 ATS)
Quick Hits: Nebraska and Oklahoma didn’t meet on the gridiron this year, but the Cornhuskers did knock off the Sooners 10-3 during their 2009 campaign. In that same season, Nebraska won the Big 12 North but came up short to Texas (12-13) in the conference championship. Even though the ‘Huskers currently hold braggin’ rights, the Sooners won the previous four meetings and three of those were by double digits. Oklahoma is also very familiar with this stage, making seven appearances in the Big 12 Championship. In those games, the Sooners are 6-1 both SU and ATS.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Roberts Week 12 NFL Selections: Texans and Seahawks Are the Top Plays

Here are my NFL bets for week 12:
Texans -6 ½ vs. Titans
Eagles -3 (-120) @ Chicago
Packers +2 ½ @ Atlanta
Seahawks +2 ½ vs. Chiefs
Broncos -3 ½ vs. Rams
Chargers + 3 (-120) @ Colts    

My Selections in the LVRJ NFL Challenge                  

Fantasy Football Week 12: Chargers Jackson Back Just in Time

By Micah Roberts
Las Vegas Review-Journal

Better late than never.

That's the sentiment of the San Diego Chargers as they welcome back All-Pro wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who missed the first 10 games of the season. And the timing couldn't be better.
Even though the Chargers have the NFL's top-ranked passing offense, they've had to deal with a multitude of injuries in their receiving corps, which makes what quarterback Philip Rivers has accomplished even more impressive.

Rivers began the season without his top receiver in Jackson because of a contract dispute, All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates has missed time because of a torn plantar fascia, and San Diego has gone through a series of backup receivers getting hurt and sitting out. Yet Rivers led the NFL in yardage and touchdown passes through Week 11.

Because Patrick Crayton suffered a wrist injury Monday night, the timing of Jackson's return was perfect. Jackson might be a little rusty from his layoff, but all indications from practice this week suggest he's in top shape and will be counted on to make big plays against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

The Chargers are a great offensive team without the 6-foot-5-inch Jackson, who led the NFL the past two seasons with an average of more than 17 yards per catch. But he makes them even more dangerous.

Wise fantasy owners who recently picked up Jackson might be wary of starting him his first time out, perhaps choosing to see what his role will be after such a long layoff. But it will be painful watching him do what he does best -- making big plays -- while he's on your bench.
Because of the Chargers' desperation for receivers, their tradition of great performances in the second half of the season and a key game against the 20th-ranked defense of the Colts, Jackson is a must start this week.

Another Pro Bowl wide receiver in a similar situation is Minnesota's Sidney Rice, who made his season debut in Week 11. Fantasy owners should have been cautious with Rice in Week 11 because he was questionable coming back from a hip injury.

But after Rice had three catches and a team-leading 56 yards on a team-best 10 targets against the Green Bay Packers, it's safe to start Brett Favre's favorite receiver and expect big numbers against the Washington Redskins.

With Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young out for the remainder of the season and Kerry Collins still nursing a strained calf for at least one more week, owners of key Titans offensive players should be worried as their fate will be in the hands of rookie Rusty Smith.

Because of the uncertainty of what Smith will bring, wide receivers Nate Washington and Randy Moss should be played only as a last resort.

For those patient owners who have kept New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs on their benches, the move has paid off as Giants coach Tom Coughlin made Jacobs the starting back after Ahmad Bradshaw's six fumbles this season.

Jacobs has been somewhat productive this season, with five touchdowns in limited play but now should be ready to rumble for big yardage the remainder of the season.

The Giants' passing game took an injury-related blow for the second consecutive week when it lost leading receiver Hakeem Nicks for up to three weeks. This comes one week after the Giants lost their other starting wideout, Steve Smith.

Mario Manningham becomes the featured guy, making him a must pickup and start for New York's Week 12 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Because of the injuries, Derek Hagan also becomes a starter and a viable option if you're desperate for receivers.

A player to pick up and tuck away on the bench is quarterback Tony Romo. His return has no definitive timetable, but with the Dallas Cowboys looking for a respectable finish to a dreadful season, their final games are meaningful. Romo might be a player who could produce big numbers late in the fantasy playoffs. It's a gamble worth taking.

■ NOTES -- Anyone notice what Kansas City Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe has been doing lately? He's scored a touchdown in six straight games with 10 overall during that span. ... The Carolina Panthers' Mike Goodson has rushed for more than 100 yards in two straight games and is available in many leagues. ... With Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis back on injured reserve, Keiland Williams doesn't have to share carries with anyone.

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas sports book director who covers all sports for multiple publications. He can be reached at MM.Roberts7@gmail.com.

Las Vegas Betting Moves: Thanksgiving Weekend Always Bad For The Sports Books

By Micah Roberts

We’ve got some fantastic matchups this week in the NFL that will play a huge factor in the fate of several teams playoff chances. In a matter of three hours into Sunday‘s games, both the Giants and Redskins could be tied at 6-5 behind the Eagles in the NFC East, while Green Bay’s performance in Atlanta could determine where they play their postseason games. Even though the Bears have looked weak, they have the same record as the Eagles with a defense that feels confident in stopping Michael Vick.

As crazy as it sounds, the loser of the Chargers-Colts game could be in jeopardy of not making the playoffs while the Chiefs-Seahawks game is one of three involving all first place teams.

Because of the occurrences from Thanksgiving Day -- where the sportsbooks got beat up with the public sides going 5-2 -- there is sure to be some extended value Sunday if looking to play a few underdogs in the late games. The four-day weekend is always one of the least anticipated of the year for the sportsbooks just because of the continual mounting risk. Yes, they love the action, it’s busier than ever, and love the possibility that maybe the four days will net a major profit from that action, but it rarely turns out that way.

With the Thursday games counting as loss, the books now roll into Friday’s college action where they have to sweat out Ohio, who everyone is on which moved from the opener of -3 ½ to -5, against Kent State as they look to clinch their birth into the MAC Championship game. Along the same lines, small money also has Northern Illinois, bumping them up from 23-point favorites to -24 against Eastern Michigan.

As the day goes on, the sportsbooks will have little issues with Alabama as 4-point favorites over Auburn because that is the most balanced game of the day. The only small risk from that game is if Auburn wins outright which pays +155 on the money line.

The danger zone is Friday night where the two-team parlay of Oregon and Boise State will be crippling as the final posted games of the day. Should both the teams cover, the public will enjoy the second consecutive day of Thanksgiving with the book’s doing the giving. Each of their opponents is ranked and should give a good game of, or at least that’s what the books hope. Oregon opened as 18 ½-point favorites to Arizona and is up to -19 ½ while Boise State is -14 at Nevada. There were a few Sharp bets early in the week on Nevada at +14 pushing the game to 13 ½, but the public money dwarfed those plays and the line is currently at -14 again.

The books hopes will rest with Saturday’s full schedule of games to knock out some of the extended parlay risk that is alive from Thursday and Friday. Although there are a lot of key matchups from a historical sense, there aren’t many games, or sides, that the public absolutely loves.

The largest moves of the week came on Marshall laying 8-points all the way up to -10 against Tulane because of Tulane’s quarterback issues. Duke got some support as a 10-point home underdog against North Carolina where the game currently rests at +8. Idaho also got some play this week for their game at Fresno State. Idaho was getting 12-points and has been dropped to +10 ½. Kansas State is on the added board this week playing at North Texas as a 16-point favorite, a game that has dropped to -14.

After three days of action, the books are likely to be 2-1 with a small win on Saturday, but the monster liability is still lingering from Thursday. The majority of football bettors -- the small player who bets parlays -- stick to pro football exclusively. Despite the notion that Saturday may have wiped out much of the risk from the previous few days, there will be huge payouts in store for Sunday.

A traditional Thanksgiving bet from the small bettor is to bet all the favorites together with a couple of totals, then downsize it to some three-teamers and then bet one or two games linked to Sunday’s game. Unlike a normal Sunday, when they post early games that are usually linked with just each other, these games will have a boost of high octane from leftovers. The early NFL games now become a powder keg ready to explode and if the favorite trend from the last two weeks continue, the wrong question to ask any bookmaker is how their Thanksgiving went.

When those first wave of six NFL games end, there will be value on the later games because of that risk and it gets even greater for the Sunday and Monday night games. A meaningless battle of 3-7 scrubs between the 49ers and Cardinals will ultimately decide the fate of the books overall weekend which will be either losing a little or losing a lot. Some books will ride it out and not give anything away by booking the game straight, but others will try and eliminate as much risk as they can by selling off great prices which is where your value comes in.

The biggest move of the week was the Vikings dropping from 3-point underdogs to +1 at Washington. The Jaguars saw some support getting +8 ½ at the Giants, some of it action from the bettors, but at least a half-point move on air as wide receiver Hakeem Nicks will be out leaving the Giants with two backup receivers to start.

The Browns have dropped from 11-point favorites to -10 because they’ll be starting Jake Delhomme at quarterback this week while the Panthers put Brian St. Pierre on the bench in favor of Jimmy Clausen behind center. It’s hard to support the Panthers, but Colt McCoy has been pretty efficient as the Browns leader while on their run. His mobility will be missed in this one.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend; somehow, I already know you have.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Roberts Week 13 College Football Plays; Ohio State and Purdue Top Bets

Here are my College Football Bet for Friday and Saturday

Auburn +4 @ Alabama
Oregon -19 vs. Arizona
Nevada +14 vs. Boise State

Ohio State -17 vs. Michigan
Purdue -3 vs. Indiana
Florida State -2 vs. Florida
Missouri -25 vs. Kansas
Oklahoma +2 ½ @ Oklahoma State
LSU + 3 ½ @ Arkansas
USC -4 vs. Notre Dame

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Roberts Thanksgiving Football Day Plays

I have three plays for Thanksgiving day, one college side, an NFL side and an NFL total, even though I should have went all out and just played all the NFL favorite and cashed in like most of the folks do every year on Thanksgiving. If I had to choose, I would be right there with all the small money and play all three NFL favorites.

Saints -3 ½ @ Dallas
NY Jets/Bengals Total OVER 43
Texas A&M -3 @ Texas

Have a great Holiday!

NFL Betting Notes From Las Vegas: Bettors Bury The Sports Books

By Micah Roberts

Shopping on Black Friday just got a major boost for retailers around Nevada because there was a sudden increase in funds from people all over the state thanks to the NFL and the tide finally turning for the little guy. Sports bettors held their ground in support of their favorite teams after being pummeled by underdogs in nine of the 10 weeks, but week 11 was theirs to own.

“Sunday was the worst day of the season,” said Las Vegas Hilton Super Book Executive Director Jay Kornegay, “I guess we were due.”

Due, they were, and their persistence paid off by not wavering from their strategies and waiting for the favorites to come back.

“We haven’t had that many popular teams come together all at once this season covering the spread,” explained Kornegay. “Through the season thus far, when one of the popular teams would win, then the others would lose or not cover. We kind of had the perfect storm hit us all at once this week.”

The bettors had a tough time this year with some of those perennial favorites, but it’s obvious by the results from week 11 that they hung in there with them, and it paid off.

The Eagles game was the final nail in the coffin for the sports books. The combination of seeing Michael Vick dazzle America last Monday Night and the Giants losing so badly to Dallas had bettors loving Philly. As if the Eagles game wouldn’t be bad enough alone by itself, the sports books had to look at the mounting risk from the previous 13 games on the day with all the accelerated parlay risk magnified at 10 to 1 odds and higher for several tickets.

Overall, the favorites ended up 9-5 for the day, not exactly the type of results you’d expect to bring the house down. However, it was the key games that all got there; the one sided bet games by all the regulars who laid 7-points with Pittsburgh, 13-points with the Ravens, 3-points with the Falcons and 12-points with the Saints. Throw in the Cowboys, Jaguars and Chiefs, and it truly was a perfect storm. You have to wonder what we would have called it had the Jets covered.

“It wasn’t just the sides of our most weighted games that beat us,” Kornegay added, “It was the combination of several of those teams getting there in addition to the totals going OVER. Getting lost in the shuffle the last few weeks has been how strong the OVER has been in the NFL just because the popular teams haven’t been covering."

The total went OVER in 10 of the 13 games in week 10. Week 11 saw only eight games fly over the number, but they were all pivotal games linked to the popular sides creating more jeopardy for the house. Because of this type of risk, local sports books fared much worse than strip properties where there isn’t that constant parlay card action.

The majority of the folks that struck gold this week were those people who bet a few times a week at the same time, same place, every week; the heart and soul of Las Vegas who work at positions throughout various Las Vegas casinos. These are the people who have been struggling all year to wet their beak and it’s finally nice to see those lost gratuities from the first few weeks find their way back into their home pockets.

Congrats, and keep going strong, because it's only going to get better.

Happy Thanksgiving!
After week 11, the sports books are not looking forward to the isolated three games of Thanksgiving where the three-team parlay of the Patriots, Saints and Jets will crush the them. When mixing in the totals, the possibility of paying out odds at 44 to 1 or higher on six-teamers with no out, and a large looming risk for the next three days of games makes sports book Directors a little worried on Turkey day when most of the attention should be focused on family.

The Sports Books would be happy with a split, going 3-3 for the day, which should kill most combinations and alleviate risk. However, I can’t remember the sports books ever making a killing on these Thursday games. It’s always been like the football and turkey gods have always joined and looked upon the bettor to make this weekend plentiful to where the bettor always says, “Thanks for giving us some money” to the books.

Titanic Issues
The Titans will be in trouble this week after quarterback Vince Young basically walked out on the team during their 19-16 home loss to the Redskins. After being pulled late in the game because of aggravating a torn ligament in his thumb, head coach Jeff Fisher pulled him because he didn’t think Young had control of his passes due to the injury. With Kerry Collins out due to a strained calf, Fisher’s choice was to go with Rusty Smith, the rookie from Florida Atlantic. Young got so upset that he threw his jersey and shoulder pads into the crowd, another example in a long line of immature acts by Young over his NFL career.

This week it is doubtful that Young will play against the Texans and Collins is expected to not be available either leaving the way for Smith to make his NFL debut. The difference between the two quarterbacks is about 3-points. For the sake of the fans, and maybe Fisher’s job, the smart move is to play Young if able. At the end of the season, then you dump him.

Betting Keeps the NFL Games Interesting
The Seahawks moved the ball almost at will at New Orleans, but were put into a bad situation by repeated mistakes from Marshawn Lynch who dropped two key passes and fumbled twice. The Saints were winning quite easily throughout, but the Seahawks wouldn’t go away and were on the verge of covering the 12-point spread. With just over 5 minutes to go in the game, down by 18, ball on the Saints 2-yard line, the Seahawks elected to kick a field goal instead of going for it. The spread was in question up until the final ticks of the game until the Saints eventually won 34-19, and covered. This is a further example of what fans love about the NFL, which the league doesn’t acknowledge. An otherwise meaningless game turns out to being gripping until the end, only because of the point spread.

UFL Championship Game
The Las Vegas Hilton opened their UFL Championship game odds Sunday with the Florida Tuskers a 3 ½-point favorite over the Las Vegas Locomotives. The game is scheduled for Saturday with a 9:00 am (PDT) kickoff on Versus TV.

Congrats to Zack!
Palace Station’s Race and Sports Book Manager Zack Goldberg will be moving from the property, but staying within the Station Casinos family, as he has accepted a promotion to become Director of Casino Operations for Wildfire Lanes in Henderson. The Syracuse graduate will be greatly missed by all his fellow team members and guests over at Palace Station, but will be welcomed with open arms with his new team. Goldberg’s leadership skills, intelligence and ability to keep everyone happy with his good natured attitude which were qualities that were obviously noticed by upper management. Those were also the initial qualities that got him hired at Sunset Station five years ago, where it didn’t take long for him to advance there. Three years later, Stations VP of Race and Sports Art Manteris gave him the manager job at Palace Station. The sky is the limit Mr. Goldberg, make the most of it, and congratulations!

College Betting Notes From Las Vegas

By Micah Roberts

College Football Notes

After what seemed to be sort of a week off in College Football, we get back to BCS business with the top two ranked teams getting stiff tests. No. 1 Oregon welcomes No. 22 Arizona where the Ducks are 17 ½-point favorites while No. 2 Auburn travels to No. 11 Alabama for the Iron Bowl as four-point underdogs. Their BCS rankings are so close that even if Oregon were to win by a lofty score, should Auburn win in Tuscaloosa, they would surely pass Oregon in the rankings.

Much further down the BCS rating average we have No. 3 TCU and No. 4 Boise State, both of whom are hoping for Oregon and Auburn to be upset. The distance between the two outcasts -- who are without automatic bids -- in the ratings average is a mere .0135. That difference can be made up easily by Boise State with a win at No. 19 Nevada regardless of how large of a pounding TCU puts on New Mexico. The Horned Frogs are favored by 43-points. Because it is TCU’s last chance to impress, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see a score run up in this one like we haven’t seen since the Big-8 conference existed, and they would be justified in doing so because of the current system in place.

Those games are just the icing on the cake for the weekend. Elsewhere, we have classic rivalries that garner attention whatever their records are. For the last time, we get to see Colorado and Nebraska play as both depart from the Big-12 after this year. Michigan and Ohio State meet up in the Horseshoe for another chapter in that great saga. Other rivalries include Florida-Florida State, South Carolina-Clemson, Texas-Texas A&M, Kansas-Missouri, Georgia Tech-Georgia, Oklahoma-Oklahoma State, BYU-Utah and Notre Dame-USC. It is, perhaps, the greatest week in college football.

Week 12 Action
As great as this week sounds, college football conversely had probably the least exciting week of the season with the top three ranked teams having the week off and no major upsets. The were two mild upsets with East Carolina losing 62-38 as a 7 ½-point favorite to Rice and Buffalo losing 21-17 as a 7-point favorite to Eastern Michigan. Of the five other favorites that were upset, none were larger than 4-point favorites.

Not only was the live action on TV mild, but action over the counter was brisk as well. Generally we see six to eight games move by at least 1 ½-points through Thursday before Saturday’s games, but last week there were only two, Duke and Michigan. The Sharp plays did eventually come Friday and Saturday with eight other games. For the week, the house held the edge on all games that moved 1 ½-point or higher, going 6-4. The largest move got there with Duke who went from +13 to +10 by kicking against Georgia Tech. Tech won the game by 10 points, 30-20.

Sports Books Get Beat Saturday
The combination of not a lot of upsets and key games down the stretch not going the sports books way caused Saturday’s games to be one of the worst of the college season. Most bettors pushed on the marquee game of Ohio State-Iowa leaving all those bets live carried into the remaining games. The combination of Arkansas covering in overtime at Mississippi State and Utah storming back to win and cover at San Diego State were the worst just because they kept everyone alive, or made them a winner. For anyone who lost on the day, their get-back game got them back with Hawaii rolling easily as a 29 ½-point favorite.

USC quarterback Matt Barkley will be out against Notre Dame this week opening the door for Mitch Mustain, a senior, who transferred from Arkansas following the 2006 season with big hopes of being the next big man on campus, but it never happened. Miami QB Jacory Harris has missed the last two games, but is expected to start against South Florida. Iowa RB Adam Robinson is doubtful, again, this week against Minnesota. Wisconsin RB John Clay is expected to return in their game against Northwestern. UCLA QB Richard Brehaut is likely to be out with a concussion forcing the Bruins to use either Clayton Tunney or Darius Bell, listed third and fourth on the Bruins depth chart, at Arizona State.

College Basketball Notes
I was talking with a bettor in a sports book last week who plays limits on college basketball totals and he was going on a rant on how chicken the Vegas books were in regards to posting their totals, while also stating how good he is. He said most books in the city wait until much later to post the totals after the line has already been out and some books only post totals on the TV games, all of which may be true to a degree, although I know the Hilton and M books consistently offer totals on most games very early.

I had to rationalize with him and take it from a point of view of the sports book while stroking his ego, asking him first of all why the limits are the lowest of any betting proposition, to which he replied, “Because the books are afraid of my action.” I then told him he was right and that with so many teams in college basketball, it is impossible for a book to put up proper ratings on every game without having themselves exposed to huge middle opportunities, sometimes as high as 10-points, where the book loses both sides.

The TV games are higher profile teams where the ratings figure to be closer to be true as opposed to a James Madison-Citadel game where the opinions of paid services from the book may not be as strong. It appeases the masses that want to bet their TV games and the books feel comfortable with the number.

Remember, this is a business where the books analyze every statistical category for all sports and when there is a negative consistently in one area, that proposition is either going to be eliminated or offered with such vanilla flavor that it will hopefully get that category back to an edge for the house.

For some books, they don’t want that type of action where they are at the mercy of players they know are better in a small segment of their posted numbers. If it were a bunch of small bettors crying foul on the totals, the book might take notice, but not the Sharp who brags about being so good about winning on them and proves it at the counter. That’s a bad proposition for the house where the goal is to be profitable at the end of the day, while also offering fair lines.

If the total action wasn’t so weighted by large straight bets and had a higher percentage of parlays involved, there might be some re-tooling of the strategy some books use, but as of now, 90% of the cash taken on college totals are from Sharps with limit plays on straight bets, and the books usually are at the short end. You may call it chicken, but in reality, it’s just smart business. Just like a bettor, if you can’t win consistently at a sport or an angle, you eliminate it and move on to another strategy, unless it’s pro football, of course.

College Basketball Player Of the Week
A case can be made for several players beginning with U-Conn’s Kenba Walker who put 42 points on the board against Vermont last Wednesday, but he loses votes just because it was Vermont. It came down to two players, Billy White of San Diego State and Donald Simms of Appalachian State. Simms scored 40 points in a 76-74 loss at Mississippi State as an 8 ½-point underdog. He hit 7-of-13 three-point shots with 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals. Starkville is a tough place to play, but the nod had to go to former Green Valley High School star Billy White for leading San Diego State to a 79-76 win at then No. 12 Gonzaga as 6 ½-point underdogs. White scored 30 points on an efficient 14-of-18 shooting effort and pulled down 9 boards. Perhaps the votes may have been swayed with a little hometown cooking.

Hit the Tobacco Road
Just when we thought the genius of Roy Williams would have his Tar Heels back in contention after an embarrassing 2009 season, No. 8 North Carolina laid two consecutive eggs against unranked Minnesota and Vanderbilt. Granted, it’s early, and both games lost were on neutral sites, but it‘s still alarming. This week Carolina heads back home to supposedly beat up on UNC-Asheville and the College of Charleston. If you remember, it was last season that the then ranked No. 9 Tar Heels were exposed -- for what we would realize later on -- when they lost at Charleston.

Mountain West Off to Good Start
I know it’s early, but when invitations start coming out in March for the Big Dance, these early November and December non-conference games will be the ones referred to that decide the fate of some teams because of their conference affiliation. San Diego State taking down Gonzaga on the road is a huge feather in the conference’s cap to go along with UNLV’s 68-65 win at home against then No. 25 Wisconsin. True, the Rebels didn’t cover, but fortunately, that’s not part of the equation.

Kenny White's Week 13 College Football Las Vegas Oddsmakers Rankings

RankSchoolRatingLast WeekBCS Rank
1Texas Christian119.813
1Boise State119.824
4Ohio State117.848
9Virginia Tech115.41216
14Oklahoma State114.2169
15South Carolina114.11418
16Texas A&M113.21917
18Michigan State112.31710
20Florida State111.82022
25Mississippi State109.62525
28West Virginia108.437NR
29Penn State108.129NR
30North Carolina State107.53323
Next Ten: Pittsburgh, Connecticut, South Florida, Ohio, Syracuse, Northern Illinois, Maryland, Baylor, Southern California, Tulsa
Droped Out: Pittsburgh (#25) and Southern California (#29)