Television has the Emmy. Music has the Grammy. Broadway has the Tony. Even the porn business has the Woody. And the sports-betting industry has the … well, nothing. Which always seemed perplexing, since the drama, comedy, suspense and occasional violence you see in a sports book on any given weekend rivals anything Hollywood could produce. (How the reality-TV geniuses haven’t cashed in on this yet is beyond me.)
Anyway, I figured if the television community can justify an annual awards show that for a quarter-century has inexcusably refused to honor the greatness that is Ed O’Neill—how is that John Lithgow has three Emmys for Best Actor in a Comedy yet Al Bundy has none?—I can invent my own gimmick. Here, then, are the “Bettys,” which recognize the good, the bad and the “you gotta be freakin’ kidding me!” moments from the first month of the college football and NFL betting seasons. (Rather than shiny gold statues, winners receive one of my many crumpled losing betting tickets.)
Best Comeback Performance. For the last decade, the only good thing you could say about football in Michigan was “Don’t worry, January is almost here.” Not anymore. The once-lowly Lions are 4-0 straight up and 3-0-1 against the spread (tied with San Francisco for the NFL’s best point-spread mark). On the college level, Michigan (5-0) and Michigan State (4-1) are rolling, while Western Michigan (3-2) and even Eastern Michigan (3-2 after going 5-31 the previous three seasons) are above .500. Most impressively, the four schools are 14-6 ATS. (See, there is money to be made in the Great Lakes State!)
Best Supporting Actors. Can you win a Super Bowl if your quarterback is named Alex Smith, Rex Grossman, Andy Dalton, Jason Campbell or Cam Newton? Probably not. Can you win some cash backing these five guys? Apparently so. Each has covered in three of his team’s four games (combined, they’re 15-3-2 ATS).
Best Coaching Brothers. Not only are Jim (49ers) and John (Ravens) Harbaugh sitting atop their respective divisions at 3-1, but their teams are 6-1-1 ATS. At the other end of the spectrum are the brash-and-beefy Ryan brothers; Rex (Jets head coach) and Rob (Cowboys defensive coordinator) are 2-5-1 ATS.
Best Blockbuster. The Lions and 49ers (combined 6-0-2 ATS) are the only NFL teams still unscathed in the point-spread department. Additionally, if you bet exclusively on Stanford, Rutgers, Georgia Tech and Wisconsin (combined 16-0-2 ATS), Mark Zuckerberg would be asking you for a loan.
Best Horror Film. Through four weeks, only two NFL teams—St. Louis and Miami—have failed to deliver a single return on investment (combined 0-8 ATS). Meanwhile, out of 120 major college football programs, the worst bet has been Penn State, which has missed the money in all five games this year and seven straight since last season. I guess now’s a good time to point out that Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno qualified for Social Security in 1988 (seriously).
On to this week’s picks …
$550 (to win $500) on Bills +3 vs. Eagles: Let’s see, we’ve got a team coming off three straight upset losses (during which it was outscored 36-0 in the fourth quarter) as a road favorite? Against an opponent that’s 3-1 (and minutes away from 4-0), is averaging 33.3 points per game and has rallied from double-digit halftime deficits in its first two home games?
Yeah, I know the Eagles would’ve been a 7½-point favorite if this game was played in Week 1. I also know the Eagles have covered just once in their last eight games as a favorite. Bottom line: The Bills are the better team right now.
$330 (to win $300) on Packers -5½ at Falcons: Going back to Dec. 26, Green Bay is riding a 10-game winning streak, including a 48-21 playoff victory in Atlanta (one of six straight wins away from home). In four victories this season, the Packers have scored 42, 30, 27 and 49 points. The Falcons have allowed 28 or more in three of their first four contests, and last week nearly blew a 24-7 lead to Seattle, eking out a 30-28 victory after surrendering 319 passing yards and three TDs to Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. Green Bay’s QB is Aaron Rodgers. Enough said.
BEST OF THE REST (NFL): Chargers -4 at Broncos ($110); Bengals-Jaguars UNDER 37 ($66); Eagles-Bills OVER 49½ ($55); Jets-Patriots OVER 49 ($55); Colts -2½ vs. Chiefs ($55).
BEST OF THE REST (COLLEGE): San Diego State +4 vs. TCU ($77); Arkansas -10 vs. Auburn ($66); Northwestern +7½ vs. Michigan ($44); Iowa-Penn State UNDER 44 ($44); South Carolina -21 vs. Kentucky ($44).
LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 9-5 (+$324); Bankroll $6,618.