Oddsmakers get into late-season groove, making NFL winners difficult to find


Photo by Getty Images | Andrew should be able to help the Colts keep up their ATS luck against Tennessee inside the friendly confines of Lucas Oil Stadium.

Matt’s Bankroll: $2,009

Last Week: 6-5 (+$170)

NFL Season: 36-30-1 (-$2,875)

College Football Season: 48-35 (+$1,118)

In February 2010, we gave Matt $7,000 to wager. When he loses it all, we’re going to replace him with a monkey.

Warning: We’ve entered that juncture of the year when antacid consumption, blood-pressure readings and profanity are on the rise while cash reserves are on the decline. No, I’m not referencing the pitfalls of the holiday season, but rather that point in the NFL campaign when the betting public is at the mercy of locked-in oddsmakers. Take a look at some of last week’s money-swinging shenanigans:

Patriots (-7½) vs. Dolphins: Trailing 23-13, Miami kicks a field goal with 31 seconds left (on second down!) to trim the deficit to seven and secure the backdoor cover.

Jets (-6½) vs. Cardinals: With Mark Sanchez chained to the bench and New York clinging to a 7-6 lead, Jets backup QB Greg McElroy engineers a 73-yard drive to the Arizona 1 … where he kneels down twice to end the game.

Bears (-3½) vs. Seahawks: A Seattle touchdown and a Chicago field goal in the final half-minute turn a 14-10 Bears lead into a 17-17 tie. The Seahawks get the first overtime possession and go 80 yards for the winning TD.

Lions (-7) vs. Colts: Indianapolis scores two TDs in the span of 2:39—the last one on the final play of the game—to turn a 33-21 deficit into a miraculous 35-33 victory. In doing so, the Colts give the sportsbooks—who opened the game Lions -4½—one of their biggest cash hauls of the year.

Cowboys (-10½) vs. Eagles: Trailing all night, Dallas gets two late TDs (including one on defense) to grab an 11-point lead. But with 31 seconds left, the Eagles return a punt 98 yards for a TD. Final score: 38-33.

There were plenty of other examples, but here’s the overriding point: You’ll have better luck finding an open bar at an Amish wedding than you will finding a chink in the oddsmakers’ armor down the stretch in the NFL. Which means the odds of me extending my five-week winning streak are slimmer than Kate Moss in a fun-house mirror. That said, on to this week’s selections (Note: all point spreads are as of Dec. 4) …

$330 on Redskins -2½ vs. Ravens: Of Baltimore’s dozen games, four were decided by exactly three points (including the last three in a row), and two others by a single point. Meanwhile, the Redskins are coming off an emotional one-point Monday-night victory over the hated Giants. Given those facts, I ordinarily wouldn’t touch this game. Except the Ravens just lost at home … to the Steelers … whose QB was a corpse named Charlie Batch. Now Baltimore travels down the highway to D.C. to face Robert Griffin III, who’s led Washington on a three-game winning streak (both straight-up and against the spread).

$110 on Bengals -3 vs. Cowboys: Cincinnati is riding a four-game SU and ATS winning streak (winning by an average of 17.8 points). Dallas (as noted above) was mere minutes away from losing to the free-falling Eagles as a double-digit home chalk. The Cowboys have been a decent road bet (4-2 ATS), but the Bengals own edges in talent (on both sides of the ball), momentum and coaching. (Speaking of, do you realize the Bengals in the last three weeks faced Romeo Crennel, Dennis Allen and Norv Turner, and now get Jason Garrett? That’s right: Marvin Lewis has been the superior coach in four straight games—uh-oh, maybe the Mayans are right!)

$110 on Colts -5½ vs. Titans: Tennessee is 4-8 SU and ATS (including six losses by double digits). Indianapolis is 8-4 SU and ATS, with four straight home wins and covers. The Colts have Andrew Luck at quarterback. The Titans have Jake Locker at quarterback. The Colts are playing for a head coach who’s battling leukemia. The Titans are playing for a head coach who will be unemployed in a month.

$110 on Saints +5½ at Giants: Last three meetings between these teams: Saints 127, Giants 58. Drew Brees’ numbers in the three Saints wins: 864 passing yards, nine TDs, no INTs. Eli Manning’s numbers: 658 yards (406 in one game), four TDs, three INTs. Hell yeah, I’ll take the points.

Best of the Rest: Lions +6½ at Packers ($66); 49ers -10 vs. Dolphins ($66); Vikings +3 vs. Bears ($55); Panthers-Falcons UNDER 47½ ($55); Cardinals +10½ at Seahawks ($44); Saints-Giants OVER 53 ($44).

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