Behind the Betting Lines 12/23/2004

by T.B
Courtesy of SportsInsights.com
12/23/2004 3:15 PM EST

Behind The Lines Vol. 17

Before we get into the meat and potatoes here at Behind the Lines, I just wanted to wish everybody a merry Christmas. Hope you have a safe, profitable and happy holiday. The NFL is into the spirit of giving this season as they not only give us Saturday and Sunday games, but also a Friday afternoon tustle as well. Talk about an early present for us football freaks. And like just about every other game on the schedule, especially in the NFC, the game has major playoff implications. Who isn’t out of the NFC race?

One announcement to make: the columns for the upcoming weeks will have an added bonus because I’ll be spending time in Curacao. As most of you know Curacao is home to some of the biggest offshore sportsbooks in the world, including Sports Insights member books Oasis, Gameday and Pinnacle. I’m looking forward to getting back in the trenches and spending some quality time with the guys who sweat out the decisions week after week, game by game. It’ll be interesting to get their take on the so-far disappointing NFL season and how things are shaping up for the college bowls.

Like Stallone in the Rocky movies, the books have gotten clobbered on NFL action this season. But now they’re pulling a patented Hulk Hogan-like revival: the choke hold was applied, but now they’ve got the one hand in the air, clenching that fist and letting the world know they’re not dead yet. The books picked themselves up off the canvas even more with a nice Saturday through Monday stretch last weekend.

Sunday was good from start to finish. The biggest moving game on the board, as far as going against the action, was one that made no sense to me. San Diego was on the road and opened as a 10 pt. favorite over the lowly Browns. They were getting 87% of the Straight bets and yet by Friday’s column they had dropped to -9.5. On Sunday, right before kickoff, they were still getting 69% of the action and yet the line had dropped further. There were 9′s, 8.5′s and even an 8 out there.

While that game didn’t go the books way, there was still plenty to cheer about including the Patriots inexplicable collapse in Miami on Monday night. I guess they were due for one of those, but it was still strange to see. I guess the ghosts from the Orange Bowl made their way over to Pro Player Stadium. We’ll stick with New England for our first game in a week where there is a lot of 2-sided action.

New England @ New York Jets – Sun. 4:05 (CBS)

What exactly did we witness last Monday night? New England needed that game to keep pace with Pittsburgh in the race for home field advantage thoughout the AFC playoffs. A 10 pt. lead with under 4 minutes to go against a team that had two wins on the season and they couldn’t hold on. Most surprising of all, it was wonderboy QB Tom Brady who basically gave the game away.

So in a matchup with the Jets, New England opened as a 2 point favorite. In the first meeting New York had a last minute drive that would have won the game, snuffed out with under a minute to go when they were inside the 20 yard line. Now they’re playing at home and their fans will be going ballistic, especially Fireman Ed who’s good buddies with Mikey the Face Biter.

The number is still at 2 and it’s a number that makes no sense to me. The public is riding New England so far with 73% of the Straight bets. If the line was -3, you’d probably see close to 50-50 action. But why would the oddsmakers want to do that, since that’s only the whole point of the line. Should be a war, but look for New England to sneak out with a tough W.

San Diego @ Houston – Sun. 1:00 (CBS)

There are 7 games this week that have bet percentages right around 50% this week. No other week has come close to having this kind of balanced action. That tells us two things. First, the players are wary after taking it in the teeth the last couple of weeks. The mentality had gotten to the point of, “Hey, I’m gonna just clean out my sportsbook every week.” Now indecision sets in. Secondly, this is going to be a huge ‘break up teaser’ weekend. The men behind the boards will be cheering for blowouts.

This game is one of the most evenly bet of the week. Indy opened -7 and they’re getting 54% of the Straights and 51% of the Teasers and Parlays. Doesn’t get much closer than that and as a result the number still sits at 7 and there’s a 99.9% chance that’s where it will be at gametime. A couple factors for the even action here. People are finally starting to believe in the Chargers and I think they were a little surprised the Colts could only manage 20 points last week, even though it was against a tough Ravens D. Both teams are looking to make a statement heading into the playoffs.

Teaser Of The Week

Last week we offered 2 plays. The so-called stiffs came up big as Miami won outright and San Fran made their number with the extra points. In the elite teaser, Philly barely managed a cover over Dallas and the best Pittsburgh could offer was a push. So one win, one no action.

I usually use ‘bet against’ logic in these teasers and this week is no different. I love the way Jacksonville plays, I had them on the Moneyline last week against Green Bay. However, they DO NOT blow teams out. Houston comes to play every week, so they’ll be the first leg getting bumped up to + 14. Denver is in a tailspin, having lost 3 of 4 and 6 of their last 8. They’re spotting 4 on the road to Tennessee. They are not winning this game by more than 10 points, so the Titans getting + 11 will be the second leg. Enjoy the games this weekend … T.B.