Behind the Betting Lines 11/26/2004

by T.B
Courtesy of
11/26/2004 1:19PM EST

Behind The Lines Vol. 13

And the hits just keep on coming. Yep, last week was yet another bloodbath for the hardworking folks who take the action.  This time it was losses of historical proportions.  In fact, every contact I spoke to this week said it was the worst Sunday in their company’s history.  I said last week the primetime games were shaping up to be monsters and if the books didn’t win at least won it was going to be ugly.  And I was right.

The Sunday night game, which ended up in a push as Green Bay won 16-13, didn’t stem the bleeding.  All it did was cause more teasers to come in for the gamblers because every big early decision went the wrong way.  As one longtime stalwart in the industry told me Monday morning, “9-team teasers were hitting like slot machines.”

The teaser phenomenon is something this space talked about in the very first column for Sports Insights this year.  The teaser has become THE betting choice for a lot of the weekend warriors.  It’s supposed to be a bookie’s friend, right alongside the parlay.  But then a week like last week comes along and damn, with friends like that …

The Seattle decision was another game that should have been a big win for the books that turned into disaster.  If the game goes into OT, even if Seattle wins by a field goal, it will help stop the bleeding.  But it wasn’t to be.  Even the straight bet losses were heartbreakers.  Cincinnati giving up a safety with less than 2 minutes to go to give Pittsburgh the cover?  It was enough to make you want to pull the covers up real tight and stay home Monday morning.

Monday provided no relief either, as EVERY SINGLE teaser combination hit on the Patriots-Chiefs game.  But alas, as my man Hyman Roth said in Godfather Part II, “This is the business we’ve chosen.”  Nobody’s got a gun to anyone’s head here.  You can either let your fortunes fall and rise with the outcome of a silly sporting event, or you can throw on the tie and loafers and take your chances in the Rat Race.

So another week brings new hope.  There’s still six weeks left of regular season NFL action. While it won’t be enough time to make it a monster season for the shops, at least they can gain some momentum heading into the basketball season.  Small consolation, but it’s what they’re hanging their hopes on now.

Looking at the weekend ahead I know from experience the nerves of the sportsbooks are on overdrive.  They’re coming off their worst weekend ever, yesterday’s Thanksgiving games did nothing to help, and there are already some monster decisions for Sunday.

Tennessee @ Houston – Sun. 1:00 (CBS)

Taking a look at our bet percentages we see there hasn’t been much line movement on the games so far.  This one stands out because there has been a small move against the bets.  Houston opened as a 1 pt. underdog at home and they’re getting 2/3 of the action: 64% of the Straights and 66% of the Junk.  But most shops have gone to +1.5 and some are even at +2.  With Steve McNair always being one hit away from the sidelines, I don’t know how aggressively you bet this one.

On a side note, one book that must be feeling the sting a little less this season is Sports Interaction.  On most lopsided games they’re usually a full point to a point-and-a-half higher on the favorite.  In seasons past that might have cost them some profit, but this year scaring favorite players away has been a wise decision.

Jacksonville @ Minnesota Sun. 1:00 (CBS)

This is the second game that is showing a small move against the grain.  Minnesota opened up a 6 pt. favorite and they are attracting a LOT of action, a whopping 84% of the Straights so far.  And yet we see a couple places have come off the hard 6 and dropped down to 5.5.

Byron Leftwich is expected to start this one for the Jags so that could be the attraction for some of the smart money.  The bookies sure hope so because this is already one of eight games that are showing bet percentages of higher than 70% on the favorite.  If it’s a repeat of last week’s results you might be lucky to get somebody to answer the phone at your offshore out next week.

Teaser Of The Week

I’m not fooling around this time around.  Last week I backed the Bengals, who despite giving up that crucial safety, did manage to cover the teaser play.  However, I went with the Bad News Cowboys on the road against the Ravens and they got pasted.  I know they came back with a home win against the Bears on Turkey Day, but they looked like a Pop Warner team last week.

So this week I’m going with what I feel is the cream of the crop in each conference.  New England just doesn’t lose at home, period.  And with Jamal Lewis missing this game for the Ravens, the chance of an upset this week just went from slim to none.  Taking the Pats down to -1 will be the first leg.

The Giants were plucky last week, the Giants were resilient last week, but the Giants still lost last week.  With them going against the best team in the NFC this Sunday, that isn’t going to change.  We’ll also take the Eagles down to -1 to complete the teaser.  Enjoy the games this weekend … T.B.