Three weeks ago in the NFL’s wild-card round, my top play was the Steelers as an 8-point road favorite at Denver. Result: Tim Tebow did his best Steve Young impersonation and shredded the Steelers defense—which through 16 regular-season games was the best in the league in terms of points and passing yards allowed—and the Broncos won 29-23 in overtime. Even though I went 3-1 with my remaining NFL playoff selections, I ended up in the red.
The following week, my top play was the Broncos as a 13½-point underdog in New England. Result: Tebow did his best JaMarcus Russell impersonation, going 9-for-26 against an awful Patriots secondary, while Tom Brady tied a playoff record with six TD passes and threw for 363 yards in a 45-10 rout. Even though I went 5-2 with my remaining NFL playoff selections, I ended up in the red.
Then last week, my top play was the Patriots-Ravens “over” 50 points, with two secondary plays on New England minus-7 and the first half “over” 25½ points. Result: Brady had two interceptions and—for the first time in 36 games overall and 18 straight playoff games—no TD passes. Even though there were nine scoring plays, five were field goals, as the Pats led 13-10 at halftime and prevailed, 23-20. Even though I went 3-0 in the NFC title game—hitting the Giants (game), Giants (first half) and the “under”—I ended up in the red.
And now you know why I’d rather hug a cactus … then dive onto a bed of nails … then jump in a pool of rubbing alcohol … before making a pick for Super Bowl XLVI. Clearly, I need the full two weeks (and then some) to analyze this Giants-Patriots showdown. So for now, I’m turning over the Super Bowl predictions to four of Las Vegas’ leading oddsmakers, and one handicapper who knows a lot more than I do:
Jay Kornegay, vice president of race and sports for LVH (former Las Vegas Hilton): “First, this is a great matchup for the sports books and the city of Las Vegas. The Patriots will have the ‘revenge’ factor in this game, but the Giants look too good right now. In addition, the Patriots’ top weapon—tight end Rob Gronkowski—might not be at full strength. We expect another close, hard-fought game with New York coming out on top when the smoke all clears. Giants win a close one, 24-23.”
Jay Rood, vice president of race and sports for MGM Resorts International: “I am always a fan of the ‘under’ in the big game, and with these two playing at New England [on Nov. 6], they didn’t score any points until the third quarter and then exploded for 31 in the fourth. So if you look at it logically, you would have to consider the fourth quarter an anomaly and expect the scoring to be hard to come by. Play under 55½.”
Jason McCormick, director of race and sports for Station Casinos: “In this, the ‘Year of the Quarterback,’ I’ll take the ‘over.’ Record books, beware: 41-38 final in overtime. The winner is a mystery to me.”
Jimmy Vaccaro, director of sports operations and public relations for Lucky’s: “It’s a great matchup for Vegas. It will drive great betting volume for sure. As a New Yorker and a Giants fan, I’m taking the G-Men as another dog.”
Vegas Seven monkey: (See tagline at bottom) “There’s only one way to play the Super Bowl: Whatever that moron Jacob picks, bet the opposite!”
AROUND THE RIM: With the NFL on the sidelines this week, most of the betting attention turns to college basketball. Since we’re well past the midpoint of the season—in fact, the NCAA tournament tips off in less than two months—now is a good time to look at which teams have offered a solid return on investment so far … and which have sent bettors to the poorhouse. (All against-the-spread statistics courtesy of Covers.com as of Jan. 23):
Middle Tennessee State (15-4 ATS) leads the way, followed by Nevada (12-3) and Manhattan (14-5). Among marquee programs, third-ranked Syracuse not only opened its season with 20 straight wins, but it is 14-7 ATS. Right behind the Orange are second-ranked Missouri (10-4) and No. 25 Wisconsin (12-6).
At the opposite end, Kentucky may top both Top 25 polls this week, but out of 294 teams on the betting board, the Wildcats are dead last at 4-14-1 ATS. As for the local team, UNLV (18-3 overall) has had an incredible season on the court, but at the window the Rebels are a mediocre 9-8 ATS, covering in six of nine lined games at the Thomas & Mack Center.
LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 3-3 (-$326); Bankroll: $6,440.