Books rally

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The New Year started out great for bettors as everything they played on New Year’s Day turned to gold.

The bowl games went well with all six going the public’s way, including five favorites. One of those winners, Florida, got a gift wrapped pick-6 with 55 seconds to go in a 30-24 game that Penn State was covering the 7½-points. Later it was the one underdog the public liked, Wisconsin +3, missing the two-point conversion with two minutes to go keeping the game at 21-19 and a gift cover.

Stuff like that rarely happens in a season, let alone one single day. However, once NFL Sunday arrived, it was apparent this wasn’t really a new year or age dawning on bettors across the state. It was the same unpredictable season from 2010 that had seen only two profitable weeks from the first 16.

In perhaps one of the most strenuous NFL weeks of the year for the bookmaker, all the attention to detail, rumors, coaching plans and player status paid off. The books showed a small win for the week where the favorites went 8-8. Many of the Week 17 lines were weak with not a lot of confidence put into them, making many of last week’s spreads as strong as an Arena Football line.

After the early games (favorites went 5-3), it looked like the weak lines would favor the bettors. The Patriots had everything sewn up in the AFC and were expected to rest Tom Brady and many key players after a few series, which was why the line was only -4. Had the game been played in Week 10, the Patriots would have been a -7½. Brady did eventually come out of the game, but not until the third quarter when the Pats already had a comfortable 31-0 lead.

Two games that had some meaning went quite easily for the favorites as the Steelers and Falcons crushed their opponents – much to the bettors’ delight. The Jets didn’t have much to play for, pulled Mark Sanchez very early and didn’t use their running back tandem. Yet they cruised to an easy 38-8 win over the Bills as a 1-point favorite.

Those four were weighted public games that showed a mounting risk for the late contests that included all the liability from the previous day’s bowl games. The books needed a little help in the late games and they got it.

After the Falcons wrapped up the NFC with an early win, the Bears had nothing to play for. That expectation had the line built in where the Packers were an 11-point favorite. Without the scenarios and implications in place, the Packers may have been -4½. With nothing to gain from the win, it was expected that Lovie Smith would rest his players.

However, Smith used all his key players throughout with hopes of knocking the hated Packers out of the playoffs. The Bears made a game of it and lost in the final seconds with a Jay Cutler interception, but covered the spread with a final score of 10-3.

Another popular play was the Giants laying 4 at Washington. The Giants were hoping for the Bears to play well and knock the Packers out so they could get into the playoffs. There was no doubt they were scoreboard watching, losing that zip in their step when seeing the Packers up 10-3 and subsequently gave up a late long bomb, back door cover, to Rex Grossman.

A popular two team parlay had the Texans hooked up to the Colts. Had the Jaguars beat the Texans and the Colts lost, Jacksonville would be in. All the Colts had to do was win. With the Jaguars starting quarterback and running back out, laying up to 5-points with Houston seemed like a great deal. And it was one of the few late winners for the public.

However, the Colts got into a battle with Tennessee as 9-point favorites and were never in any situation to cover as they barely won 23-20 on a late field goal. The win on the day became collectively confirmed by the sports books when the Seahawks beat the Rams in the Sunday night game.

Seattle’s backup QB Charlie Whitehurst – the reason many bet the Rams – played a very conservative, but effective game in getting a 16-6 win. Matt Hasselbeck is expected to start next week’s home game against the Saints, a game where New Orleans is a 10-point favorite. Can’t say I’ve ever seen a road favorite like that before.

We can finally wash our hands clean of the regular season and focus on the playoffs where the favorites tend to be stronger. For the bookmakers, congratulations on having your best season ever.

Hopefully there will be rewards with bonuses in store from the big bosses for your major contributions to the casino’s bottom line in the last quarter. While bonuses spurred by bettors’ losses don’t make the public feel too well, just know that this season was an anomaly. For all the accolades the Sports Book Directors received from their bosses in 2010, the next losing day will have the bosses asking “How could we lose” with 2010 long gone in the rearview mirror.

Good luck to the bettors out there in getting the bosses to fret a little bit in the future. Have a happy, winning New Year!

So What With 7-9!

Never have we seen mediocrity rewarded so much in the NFL as we have with the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks making the playoffs. Gaylord Focker – and his ninth place ribbons – is even ashamed of the Seahawks’ accomplishments. However, everyone knew the game and how to play it and Seattle took care of business.

So while the Giants and Buccaneers sit at home for the playoffs with 10 wins a piece, let us not be upset with the Seahawks. Rather, we should wonder why the other teams couldn’t handle their business when they knew the situation. The Giants had every opportunity to control their own destiny the last two weeks, while Tampa Bay blew a golden opportunity by losing a pivotal home game to Detroit.

The Messiah returns:

The Broncos have won only one playoff game since the John Elway era ended, so they’ve decided to start a new Elway era by bringing him back into the organization as Vice President of Operations. The Hall of Fame quarterback will head all matters for the team and his first duty will be getting a new a new head coach.

First on the list is his alma mater’s current head coach, Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh. Should Harbaugh turn down the offer, look for Elway to bring in his back-up from his playing days, Gary Kubiak, who is likely to be let go by the Texans. He’ll also be in charge of the Broncos draft where this year they will be picking second overall.

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