Upon further review,
comes knowledge

Dec 12, 2006 5:02 AM

Sports handicappers will point out that the real truth is in details.

size="3">One who expects to be successful had better learn to read between the lines to determine how or why teams are winning and losing. This is a venture that goes far beyond statistics and one that can often be quite misleading.

Some handicappers may say that turnovers are the key that keeps bad teams from winning and covering the Las Vegas line. There is certainly substance in this, as turnovers can be a huge factor in a team winning or losing both straight up and against the spread. However, one factor doesn’t always tell the whole story so it’s important to expand your thinking when analyzing games.

For example, if a 2-point favorite won or lost by 40 points, at first glance you might think oddsmakers made a very bad number. Don’t jump to this conclusion.

The smart handicapper will take a close look at the game. More often than not, you will find in the statistical data the things that caused the outcome. Many aspects aren’t always reflected in the final score. It could be fumbles, interceptions, the loss of a key player early in the game, or even the weather.

The reasons for a game unfolding the way it did are often more important to the handicapper than the final score. Two weeks ago, the Bears beat the Vikings 23-13 as a 9-point favorite. At first it appears the oddsmakers made a great number. However, a closer look shows the Bears offense was horrendous, gaining just 107 total yards and just 24 passing!

QB Rex Grossman was 6-of-19 for 24 yards, no TDs and three interceptions as the Vikings outgained the Bears 348-107. The astute handicapper asks: "How the heck did the Bears win and cover?"

Certainly the cold weather conditions were something to consider, but the performance also gave Grossman 14 interceptions in the previous seven games. He had thrown just three in the first five starts. Details like that tell far more about the state of the Chicago offense than overall offensive numbers, or a fortunate double-digit win.

Also, a team that gains 80 percent of its offense through the air might get beat against a lesser opponent if the game were played in high winds. Sometimes a team might not be very good statistically over an entire season, but turn into a very strong team down the stretch.

The Steelers started 7-5 last year, but won 8 in a row (7-1 ATS) and eventually captured the Super Bowl over Seattle. During that eight-game win streak, QB Ben Roethlisberger got healthy, the coaching staff opened up the offense, and the defense yielded more than 20 points only once.

In the 2002 Super Bowl, New England came into that game against the Rams ranked 19 in total offense and 25 in defense. However, the Pats ball-hawking defense had held eight straight opponents to 17 points or less. They then limited the Rams to 17 as a +14 dog in a three-point upset win. The Pats went 10-1-1 ATS their final 12 games!

So remember, there is a story behind every final score. Stats and boxscores provide a lot of information, but successful handicappers read between the lines to unearth the gold.