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.

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