Linesmakers ‘spreading’ Patriots thin

January 15, 2008 4:02 AM
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This NFL season has been rather historic for a number of different reasons, most having to do with the New England Patriots and their rewriting of the offensive record books.

For sports books in the Silver State, Bill Belichick’s boys brought a new reality — point spreads so high they could make your head spin.

The Patriots covered their first eight games against the spread — four of which saw lines of -14½ and up. The success made September and October a profitable time for those who like to wager on professional football. The Pats forced the linesmakers and the bookmakers to make some serious adjustments.

Eric St. Clair, Director of Race and Sports at The Rampart and Cannery Casino, said New England forced him and other bookies to make some changes.

"In October, there were a lot of games that seemed to stand out (to the gambling public betting on New England)," St. Clair said. "And whenever that happens, you usually have a bad line.

"And some books actually took the total of the Patriots game down (off the board). You would never, before this, take a total off an NFL game or not even book one. But when you have over a 20-point favorite and a 42 or 43 point total, it became quite easy (for the gambling public) to take the Patriots and OVER.

"Some places didn’t even put up a total on the Patriots so you couldn’t parlay it. You just couldn’t put up a number high enough. And if you made the number too high, the wise guys bet you on the UNDER and you end up losing on that. So it’s just one of those scenarios where you just take it down and say ”˜I’m sorry.’"

St. Clair said after that eight-game run in September and October where the Pats were undefeated against the spread and 7-1 OVER the total, some falling back to that statistical mean occurred.

"Everybody caught up with the Patriots and the numbers got so high that the value really became with the other side (the Patriots opponents)," he said. "November was better (because the Patriots weren’t covering every game.)"

Making this season one for the record books from the linesmakers’ point of view were four of the highest point spreads in NFL history in November and December.The Patriots failed to cover any of the four.

The chart shows some of the highest point spreads in NFL history and reveals that betting on favorites of near 20 or more has not been a very profitable proposition, going just 1-9 (90 percent).

Should the Patriots continue their magical roll this season, don’t expect them to set a record for the highest point spread ever in a Super Bowl.

The AFC-NFC early line prop has now settled in on AFC -13½ at the Hilton, up from 11 last week.

In 1995, the 49ers set that record as a 19-point favorite over the Chargers in the game won and covered by San Francisco, 49-26.