On the opening Sunday of the NFL season, I walked into the Las Vegas Hilton sports book 75 minutes before the first set of games kicked off. Judging by the sea of humanity in the joint, you would’ve thought it was 75 minutes before the start of the Super Bowl—one endless line after another of NFL jersey-clad gamblers with their parlay cards in one hand and their cash in the other.
Fast forward to the fourth Sunday in October. I strolled into Sunset Station’s sports book an hour before kickoff of Week 7. Half the ticket writers sat idle, and what little crowd existed was about as lively as the dinner table at the Favre household. Twenty minutes later, things picked up to the point that the longest line was exactly two people deep.
Some might blame the economy, and that certainly is a factor. More likely, though, bettors are tired of the guys behind the counter channeling their inner Lawrence Taylor and blindsiding them every week. With underdogs cashing at an incredible rate, this has been one of the most unpredictable NFL seasons in recent memory. And nothing makes bookmakers happier than the word “unpredictable.”
The good news: We’re not even to the midpoint of the season, so there’s still plenty of time to turn things around.
The bad news: We’re not even to the midpoint of the season, so there’s still plenty of time to end up in the poorhouse.
Speaking of good news-bad news, I went 4-6 last week, but cleared $283 as I won my two big plays (Falcons over the Bengals; Patriots over the Chargers). I’m now 21-15 in October and have recouped $880 to push my bankroll back up to $4,531, and I’m determined to close out the month on a positive note.
$550 (to win $500) on DOLPHINS (+2½) at Bengals: OK, so maybe I was a little premature last week in engraving Carson Palmer’s NFL headstone (he threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns at Atlanta). But the Bengals did fall 39-32, and the game wasn’t even that close. That’s now three consecutive losses and noncovers for Cincinnati. The Dolphins have dropped three of four themselves, but all three defeats were at home against playoff-caliber foes (Jets, Patriots and Steelers). Take the Fish out of South Beach and they’re a perfect 3-0 straight up (SU) and against the spread (ATS), including impressive wins in Minnesota and Green Bay. Miami has won six of nine on the road, going 8-1 ATS.
$220 (to win $200) on LIONS (-2) vs. Redskins: One of the Redskins must be playing with a horseshoe up his backside. Washington’s four wins: 13-7 over the Cowboys, whose seemingly game-winning TD was nullified by a holding penalty on the final play; 17-12 over the Eagles, who lost Michael Vick to injury early in the game; 16-13 over the Packers in OT when Green Bay’s kicker clanked a would-be game-winning field goal off the goal post at the end of regulation; and 17-14 over the Bears last week when Jay Cutler threw four picks to DeAngelo Hall. Well, the luck runs out this week. Detroit is coming off a bye and gets QB Matthew Stafford back from injury, and the last time the Lions played at home they drilled the Rams 44-6 … the same Rams that throttled Washington 30-16.
$110 (to win $100) on PATRIOTS (-6) vs. Vikings: Fact: The Patriots’ victories the last two weeks were by identical 23-20 scores. Fact: If you take away an interception returned for a touchdown in the waning moments of a 29-20 loss at the Jets, the Vikings’ four defeats have been by five, four, two and four points. Fact: New England QB Tom Brady is having an MVP-type season. Fact: Minnesota QB Brett Favre is having an AARP-type season. And if Favre (ankle injury) actually does sit out a game for the first time since becoming a starter in 1992, we’ll have ourselves a Tarvaris Jackson sighting. Giddy-up!
BEST OF THE REST: Stanford (-7½) at Washington ($66); Nebraska (-7½) vs. Missouri ($44); Titans (+3½) at Chargers ($44); Bills-Chiefs OVER 44½ ($33), Oregon (-7) at USC ($33); Washington State (+21) at Arizona State ($33).