If acting were as easy as Tom Hanks and Robert De Niro make it look, we’d all be in Hollywood right now (and nobody would have ever had to suffer through a single Jim Carrey or Drew Barrymore flick).
If the only requirement to graduate from medical school were to watch a complete season of Grey’s Anatomy and take a multiple-choice test, the world would have an abundance of brain surgeons and cancer researchers (and far fewer lawyers).
And if playing guitar were a breeze, there’d be a billion Eddie Van Halens roaming the planet (and three times as many fired lead singers).
My point is this: Many occupations require a rare mixture of extreme aptitude, dedication and smarts. And I’ve always believed “successful professional sports bettor” was such a vocation—at least I did until this week, when it became crystal clear that a blindfolded monkey could make a lucrative living betting football.
Consider what’s happened the last two weeks: The top 10 college teams in the country have played a combined 18 games … and covered the spread 16 times. And lest you think this is just a two-week anomaly, think again. There are 10 undefeated Division I-A teams remaining, and according to Covers.com (a sports-wagering information site), those schools have a combined 50-12-1 point-spread record, good for a 79 percent win rate! And out of 120 teams on the betting board, the unbeatens are among the top 20 in the point-spread rankings, with Stanford, Wisconsin, Alabama and Clemson combining to go an astonishing 23-2-1 against the spread (ATS).
To put this in practical terms, if you had wagered $110 on each of the 53 games those 10 unbeaten teams have played to date, you’d be up $3,680.
Even more shocking is the fact that the “just ride the best teams” phenomenon has extended to the NFL. One team (Green Bay) has a perfect record, while five others—San Francisco, Baltimore, Detroit, New England and San Diego—each have just one loss. Take out the Chargers, who are 2-3 ATS, and the remaining five squads are cashing at an insane 78 percent clip (22-5-1 ATS). And two of those teams (the Lions and 49ers) squared off last week.
Now, logic tells me that at some point—and soon—the bubble is going to burst and the oddsmakers are going to catch up to these spread-covering juggernauts. But logic also told me to back Rex Grossman over the Eagles last week (he tossed four picks in three quarters) and Indiana plus-39½ against Wisconsin (the Hoosiers got dumped 59-7, and it could’ve been 89-7).
In fact, last week I gave out three college games involving Top 10 teams (Indiana over Wisconsin; Maryland over Clemson; Oregon over Arizona State), and I backed the Lions over the 49ers. Yup, 0-for-4.
You know what else is crystal clear to me now? Why beer was invented.
On to this week’s picks …
$440 (to win $400) on Wisconsin -8½ at Michigan State: I’m aware of all the red flags: Wisconsin is overdue for a point-spread slip-up, is playing its first true road game against a Top 15 opponent with a stingy defense and has lost three straight games in East Lansing. Thing is, I’m also aware that the Badgers (6-0) are outscoring opponents by 40.5 points per game (tops in the country). They’ve also got a veteran quarterback who won’t panic in the spotlight, a mauling offensive line that’s unlike anything Michigan State has seen so far and the revenge angle (the Spartans dealt Wisconsin its only regular-season loss last year).
Since that 34-24 defeat, the Badgers are 12-1-1 ATS, cashing in their last eight conference games. Make it nine straight with a 37-14 rout.
$220 (to win $200) on Jets +2 vs. Chargers: As noted above, the Chargers are 4-1 but just 2-3 ATS. The cumulative record of the four opponents they’ve beaten (Vikings, Chiefs, Dolphins and Broncos): 4-17. Average margin of victory: 6.3 points (and three of those games were at home). Overall touchdown-to-field-goal ratio: 12-12. The only time San Diego has ventured east this year: a 35-21 loss at New England. The Chargers’ record against the Jets in this millennium: 2-4 (1-5 ATS).
New York got its swagger back with Monday night’s 24-6 rout of Miami, and it will improve to 4-0 at home with a 24-20 win.
BEST OF THE REST (NFL): Raiders -3½ vs. Chiefs ($66); Lions -3½ vs. Falcons ($55); Saints -14 vs. Colts ($55); Broncos +2 at Dolphins ($44); Steelers-Cardinals OVER 42 ($44).
BEST OF THE REST (COLLEGE): Notre Dame -9 vs. USC ($110); Utah +3 at Cal ($66); Vanderbilt -10 vs. Army ($55); Northwestern +4 vs. Penn State ($44); Virginia Tech -21 vs. Boston College ($44).
LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 5-7 (-$256); Bankroll $7,260.