Week 15 of the NFL season had a little bit of everything – fantastic finishes, upsets and most of all, revenge.
Eight divisional games had teams facing each other for the second time. Through Sunday, the team that lost the first time around had won 5 of 7 with the Vikings hoping to continue the trend Monday night.
There was also a nice mix of favorites (7-7) and underdogs covering, giving a little of something for everyone. However, the only down side of a fantastic NFL was key games the public most prominently played going down. Thus Vegas sports books either broke even or were small winners.
The Patriots-Packers Sunday nighter would ultimately decide the fate of the day for books and bettors. The uncertainty of Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers kept the game off the board until Saturday when most opened the Patriots -14 when Matt Flynn was announced the starter.
With Rodgers in, the early line had the Packers as 4½-point underdogs, a huge swing for a quarterback change. Despite the game being off all week, the action over the counter didn’t reflect it. The Patriots are back as being the public’s most reliable team after taking a couple years off. When the Packers covered, most sports books won for the day.
The combination of Texans, Cowboys, Saints, Bucs, Falcons and Raiders coming through would have been a dreadful parlay for the house to pay. However, the books were able to beat those games down as the 6 teams went a combined 2-4.
Had either the Falcons or Raiders game been lumped with the 10 early matchups, the books would have won much more. Because those two large favorites were keyed together in the get-back late games with equal action on the Steelers and Jets, it negated a lot of the win from the 10 a.m. games.
In Jets-Steelers, if the sports books had a choice it would have been Pittsburgh all the way due to some sharp play on the Jets that pushed the line from +6 to +3½ by kickoff. When that kickoff came, Brad Smith returned it all the way for a Jets TD and set the tone for the day of what had been a struggling N.Y. squad coming in.
The Eagles-Giants had the most betting action. Philadelphia WR DeSean Jackson became the first player in NFL history to return a punt for a winning TD to end a game. The public was shaded slightly towards the Eagles with parlays, but straight bets were relatively even. The Giants were favored by 3 to 2½ points all week, bouncing back and forth from -120 to even money.
The Sharps were on the Rams, pushing the I-70 battle with the Chiefs. St. Louis opened +1 to being a 3-point favorite by kickoff, Kansas City won 27-13 and kept the futile NFC West wide open. The Seahawks and 49ers both lost, paving the way for a chase to the playoffs for all three. Seattle and St. Louis lead at 6-8. A major piece of that puzzle will be unveiled when the 49ers travel to St. Louis this week.
Despite an 8-6 record, Tampa Bay hadn’t beaten a team with a winning record which helped the public decide easily who to choose in the match with the Lions. Sharp money actually came in on Detroit and pushed the number from +6 to +4. Some even had +3½. The Sharps were right as the Lions won in OT, 23-20 – the first road win for Detroit in 26 games.
One of the rematches was the Texans-Titans. Houston won 20-0 in Week 12 that saw Titans DB Cortland Finnegan get a fat lip. Because the Titans had been so bad in losing 6 in a row, the public was all over the Texans for the most one sided action of the day. Wouldn’t you know, the Titans jumped out 21-0 in the first and it was never a contest.
Almost as weighted by public opinion was Redskins-Cowboys. Dallas opened up a 6-point favorite moved to -8 by kickoff thanks to bettors believing the “Bad” Rex Grossman would show up. For a while that looked to be the case, but he quickly became “Good Rex.” Grossman threw for a career high 4 TD’s making Mike Shanahan’s move to bench Donovan McNabb not such a crazy idea. The Redskins still lost 33-30, but got the money and helped the sports books.
Rookie QB Tim Tebow got the nod for the Broncos because of Kyle Orton’s bruised ribs – or at least that’s what the team said. Tebow did fairly well early on with a 40-yard TD run and 33-yard TD pass in a 39-23 loss to the Raiders giving Oakland 98 points against Denver. Surprisingly, the line didn’t move much upon rumors Tebow would start. The line sat at 6½ until moving to Raiders -8 by kickoff.
Atlanta again did nothing fancy in looking like one of the best teams in an easy win at Seattle. This week the Falcons can close the door on the division by beating the Saints who lost by 6 at Baltimore. Atlanta is a short 3-point favorite vs. New Orleans, which has feasted on beating bad teams. Only Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh had winning records among the Saints’ 10 victories.
Bad Beat of the Week: Those betting Jaguars +5 at Indianapolis. Down 27-24 with less than two minutes to go, it appeared Jacksonville may have back-doored the Colts. When the on-side kick came, most Jags bettors just wanted the game to end, but it went straight to LB Tyjuan Hagler, who sprinted 41 yards for the TD, sealing the game and a gift cover for Colts backers.