So many great storylines this weekend, we’ll pick the Bengals for starters.
Cincinnati hasn’t won a playoff game since 1990. They are 6½-point home favorites over the Chargers. My first thought takes me back to 1982 when the high powered Chargers offense was slowed by the sub-zero temperatures in Cincinnati, where I still believe the better team didn’t win.
In this case, the Bengals are the better team, especially at home where they have won and covered all eight of their games. The Bengals have won by a 34-16 average, but it’s their road games that bring doubt for finally winning a playoff game. They went 3-5 (2-5-1 ATS) on the road this season. One of the road wins came at San Diego last month, 17-10, as a 2½-point favorite.
Dalton threw four interceptions last week in their 34-17 win over the Ravens, but still managed to set a team record for TD passes (33) in a season. He should be playing in New England next week. Also, the Bengals have covered their past four meetings against the Chargers.
Indianapolis beat the Chiefs 23-7 at Arrowhead three weeks ago as 7½-point underdogs and now laying 2½ against them Saturday at Indy. The Chiefs have lost 5 of 7, but in their two wins over that span – both on the road consecutively – they posted 101 points. The defense has allowed only 20 combined points over their last three games, covering the number and staying UNDER.
Philadelphia is -2½ at home against the Saints, a number that is probably a little high and deserves to be closer to a pick. The inflated number rests entirely with the Saints woes on the road, where they have gone 3-5 and covered the number only once.
The good news for the Saints is they finally got their offense on track last week at home against the Bucs in a 42-17 win. It was their first OVER in their last seven games. The value in this game still rests with the Saints.
San Francisco has won and covered their last three meetings with the Packers, including last season in the playoffs where the world was introduced to Colin Kaepernick in a 45-31 win. Aaron Rodgers is back, and shook off some rust last week at Chicago, showing enough that has this game deserving to be around a pick ‘em. Instead, the 49ers are 2½-point road favorites. Most of the reason rests with Green Bay’s awful defense that allows 26 point per game, while the 49ers come in with a six game winning streak.
The 49ers have also been amazing on the road (7-1 ATS), which decreases some of the Packers home field edge. It’s an inflated number, but laying it with the better team looks to be the way to go, and the 49ers are definitely better.
Week 17 worst for books: Good things come to those who wait and for 16 Sundays of the NFL season, bettors were about to stick a fork in that theory. But with a full slate of Week 17 games to choose from, their patience was rewarded.
“It was our worst week of the year,” said Station Casinos sports book director Jason McCormick. “We ended up winning only two games, Atlanta (+6 vs. Carolina) and the Jets (+7 at Miami), and then lost all seven of the afternoon games.”
The South Point sports book’s Jimmy Vaccaro was in the same boat, also saying “It was the worst day of the year.”
“We had plenty of (large) sharp money on the sides that lost,” Vaccaro said. “That money could do nothing to balance out the parlays that hit. We had a $100 10-team parlay hit for $80,000 and another payout at $60,000, with all kinds of smaller parlays cashing in, and several waiting to cash with the Eagles as well.”
The Steelers and Bengals started the snowball rolling during the eight early games. Pittsburgh needed all kinds of help to make the playoffs (they didn’t get it), and the small and large money were behind them as they pushed the number from an opener of -6 up to -9 by kickoff and ended up getting the 20-7 win and cover over the visiting Browns.
The Bengals had covered all seven of their previous home games and laying six at home to Baltimore seemed simple enough. The number was pushed to -7. The 34-17 win was the only early game to go OVER the total.
The real damage was done in the afternoon when the most popular betting teams for the past two seasons – Packers, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers, Seahawks, Saints – all came flying in and covered the number.
The Bills got some sharp support at New England, which dropped the Patriots from -8½ to -7, but an estimated 75 percent of all tickets written on the game were on the favorite, and they won, 34-20.
The side that truly embodies of the spirit of public sticking to their guns was the Saints 42-17 home win over the Buccaneers. The public came strong with the Saints (-10½) to the OVER (47) parlay combination. The Saints were one of the most one sided bets in parlays on the day, along with Denver.
“They (public) got us on just about everything today,” said LVH Super Book VP Jay Kornegay. “Teasers, parlays off the board, parlay cards, you name it, they did very well, but I’m not going to complain because it was an outstanding season, maybe one of the best.”
“No tears here,” said Vaccaro.
Station Casinos may have been hit the hardest of all because they do more parlay action than any chain of books in the state. Also, they live and die by the sword that is the bulk of their action.
“We know that weeks like this are going to happen occasionally, because it always does,” said McCormick. “But overall, it’s been a great season, and we aren’t complaining. It’s just part of the business.”
And for bettors that have been getting sand kicked in their face all season, consistently missing that one game in their 6-team parlay, congratulations for sticking with it. Sometimes patience does pay off.
Is FSU battle tested enough? Next Monday’s BCS Championship game between Auburn and Florida State is an intriguing hook-up just because all these teams did throughout the season was churn money for bettors. They both went 11-1 ATS.
Auburn has covered their past 10 games, a streak that began with their only loss of the season at LSU. The Seminoles – listed as 8-point favorites at the Wynn – enter the game with an undefeated record and look to halt the SEC’s seven year run as BCS Champs.
I find the Pac-12 gauntlet to be just as rough as the SEC, but it’s the minority view. The SEC hardware probably makes the best point.
The Seminoles had only one game this season (at Clemson) where they were less double digit favorites, and they rolled 51-14. In their last six games, they have been favored by 21 or more and covered them all.
FSU quarterback Jameis Winston is fresh off winning the Heisman Trophy, but we have to remember he is still a freshman.
I would like to see another conference win other than the SEC again, but it’s hard to pass up +8½ or higher with Auburn. I’d be happy with FSU winning by a field goal.
One last note: the Seminoles have gone 8-0-1 ATS in their last nine bowl games.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].