Early NFL bets fall in favor of players

Sep 15, 2009 5:06 PM
NFL Notebook by Micah Roberts |

The players came out firing for week one of pro football – and they were more right than wrong.

After months of handicapping and waiting for the season to start, their patience and handicapping skills came to fruition as the majority of the public games came through for the players.

"In the morning games, it seemed like everyone had the combination of Dallas, Philly, Minnesota and Baltimore in their parlays," said Lucky’s Sports Book Director Jimmy Vaccaro. "We got some buy-back on Carolina when we went to +3, and the same with Cleveland at +5, but not enough to offset the overall risk in the morning."

At the end of the first wave of nine games Sunday, Vaccaro said his books were about even, but the real risk was yet to come.

"We got smart money on the Rams and 49ers late games pushing those lines down, but we had far more risk on the other side," he said.

During the late games, Vaccaro said he was put into the position of rooting with the sharp players, who moved the line because there was more upside for the house. The combination late of Seattle, New York, Arizona and Green Bay tied up in existing parlays were a worst-case scenario, despite all the large wagers taken on the other side.

That demonstrates how powerful the parlay can be. Sports books live and die with it. On a rare losing day for the house in pro football, seldom will it ever be the wise guy that’s doing the damage.

Instead, a rough day for the books is generally when a majority of the Sunday games cover for the parlay bettors – paying off at odds of 20-, 40-, and 80-to-1! Those are numbers a book just can’t catch up to.

Each week, usually there are about six to seven games that are just buried with one-sided action, often as part of parlay bets.

One of the games Vaccaro was fortunate didn’t come through for the bettors was the Bengals versus the Broncos.

"That was our best game of the day, not only because the Bengals were a public team, but also because of the smart money," Vaccaro said. "We opened that game at pick originally and the line just ran all the way up to Bengals -4 ½."

Denver won the game outright, making it a big score for the sports books.

Usually, it’s worse when the underdog wins outright because of the "plus" money paid out – odds greater than even money, rather than less than 1-to-1. But that didn’t happen in the Lucky’s sports books, Vaccaro said. "No one wanted the Broncos, not with the money line, points, or teasers," he said.

The "deadest" game of the day – the one with the least betting action – was also the longest. There didn’t seem to be much interest for the Lions-Saints marathon, in which the first overall draft choice, Matt Stafford, made his NFL debut with the Lions. But the Saints’ Drew Brees tossed six touchdown passes in a rout that still gave the few New Orleans bettors who laid the 14 points a scare, as the Saints only won by 18, 45-27.

Big Score of the Day

Chris Cooley’s score in the final minutes for the Redskins covered the +6.5 against the Giants, making the score 17-23 and pushing the game over the total of 37.

Week 1 Score Card: Sharps vs. Sports Books

The Eagles opened -1 at the Las Vegas Hilton and was bet to -2.5 by Saturday, where it closed. Jake Delhomme picked up right where he left off in the playoffs and tossed four more interceptions. Winner: Sharps

The Bengals opened a pick months ago and was bet systematically to -4.5, partly a result of all the Mile High drama in Denver. The Broncos played great defense, enough to cover, and caught a Hail-Mary to win straight up. Winner: Sports Books

Colts opened -7.5 and bet down to 6.5 and the Jaguars made a game of it covering, and nearly winning. Maurice Jones-Drew was stellar and the Jags Defense played very physical creating key turnovers. Winner: Sharps

The Cowboys opened at -6 and was bet down to -5 by Sunday morning. Tony Romo showed his two ex-teammates that he’s just fine without them. He launched long bombs throughout the day, with all connecting against a good secondary. Winner: Sports Books

Arizona opened -6.5 and was bet down to -4.5 close to game time. The poor pre-season by the Cardinals continued. Winner: Sharps

Seahawks opened -8.5 and was bet down to -7.5. The "logic" must have been that the Seahawks couldn’t be a TD better than the Rams. There’s no mystery left on this one; there’s nothing good to say about the Rams. Winner: Sports Books

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Micah Roberts