Sports books flourish as NFL dogs knock off favorites

Nov 10, 2009 5:08 PM
NFL Notebook by Micah Roberts |

Pro football Sunday couldn’t have started out any better for the Sports Books when six of the first seven games saw the underdog cover with three of them winning outright. It only took nine weeks for some of these bad teams to come around, a little longer than the books would have liked, but it’s better late than never.

The previously winless Buccaneers were victorious over the Packers as 10-point dogs and ended up winning by 10, knocking out a lot of risk on the day for the books.

"The Green Bay game was the key to our whole day," said Coast Resorts Director of Race and Sports Bob Scucci, "That was the one game that had the most one sided parlay and teaser action of the day."

Big favorites like the Patriots and Colts both got wins, but fell short of covering the spread, further eliminating outstanding future risk for the day.

"We did well with the Patriots game, but not as much as you might think with the Colts," said Scucci. "We had wise guy money on the Texans as well as public action weighted to that side because of how well Houston has played lately. News of the injured Colts secondary also contributed to swaying the public opinion in the belief that the Texans offense could expose them.

By the time the 1 p.m. games rolled around it was almost as if the entire day’s risk had been wiped clean with a restart button hit on the late games as the players tried to get back all the money they lost early.

Despite being little liability remaining with the parlays and teasers, the win wasn’t as good as last week because the "sharps" did well.

"We did really well in all parlay and teaser categories, but didn’t fare well on the straight bets," said Scucci. "The wise guys were on games like the Cardinals, Texans and Bengals, as opposed to last week when we did well in just about every category."

The Saints have been one of the favorite public teams all season, but it’s apparent that even the public can smell a bad line. The Saints were bet down by the Sharps from a 14-point favorite all the way down to 11½ by kickoff, but the normal public ratio on the Saints dropped considerably from weeks past.

"I think it’s a matter of most people seeing what happened last week with the inflated line in the Falcons game with the Saints and also watching the ground attack of the Panthers control the game at Arizona," said Scucci. "This week was the lowest ratio of wagers on the Saints side out of any of their games this season. It was a pretty evenly balanced between the two."

It should be noted that not all is perfect for the remainder of the season. Yes, the Lions, Chiefs and Bucs played well, but the books did have the benefit of having the three lost souls of the Raiders, Rams and Browns off on a bye, which ultimately forced the public to choose other games on the wagering menu rather than the easy, "I’ll take a 5-game parlay with whoever those guys are playing against."

It should also be noted that the books did a great job in going against their own, and recommended, numbers in inflating their spreads to ease against the crush of play on certain teams.

In the case of the Patriots against a good Miami team, the true number was around 9, but not above 10. The game was opened Patriots 10½ and moved up to 11 and landed 10 meaning the books got most of the chips in that one and put a notion of doubt in a few players minds about laying the big spreads.

It’s likely after we see the three bad teams that had byes this week play competitively and cover a few themselves that we’ll see the spreads cycle back around to the true numbers before the sharps take advantage as they did this week with the Colts line.

All it takes for many of the regular players is to see a few wins on the ATS (against the spread) stat line of a team to make them consider playing some of these bad teams. Losing in weeks prior betting against them also helps change a philosophy.

Bad Beats

The Giants had good action from the public and sharps against the Chargers because of the perception that the G-men couldn’t lose four straight games, along with the difficulty of a west coast team traveling to play on the east coast. The line opened New York -4½ and closed at -5½.

With just over two minutes to go the Giants kicked a field goal putting them ahead 20-14 and more importantly, covering the spread. Philip Rivers and San Diego drove right down the field using almost all of the clock and scored a touchdown in the final seconds giving the Chargers the upset win and provoking lots of expletives from the Sports Books crowds.

We can’t call what happened late in the Lions-Seahawks a bad beat because no one bet the Lions. It was a good-beat, but unfortunately many of the public’s late parlays were wiped out by what had just happened with the Giants game minutes before.

Some may have taken solace in the fact that the Giants lost because their tickets were ruined anyway by the Lions covering. The 11-point dog Lions were down 20-25 with less than a minute to play and driving down field looking to go for the game-winning score, and that’s when pick-six happened.

The Seahawks answered the prayers of several bettors around the world by intercepting a Matt Stafford pass and taking it 61 yards for the score making it 32-20 with only a few seconds left. This time around it was the Boss-Bookies with expletives who were looking to close out a great afternoon of winning football for the house.

Dog Day Afternoon

It was another winner for the books, despite numbers not so good on straight bets. Only two favorites covered among the first 11 games, and five of the underdogs won outright.

If given the choice, the Books probably would choose a ratio of 5 favorites and 6 dogs just to keep even with the Sharps who generally take the points rather than lay. That type of mix also has enough upsets to make it tougher for the parlay combinations to hit which keep the Books ahead of the public. An extreme one way or the other doesn’t turn out so well for the house.

Wake Up Lovie!

The Bears are 4-4 thus far and it can be attributed to Smith not taking control of his team and doing what they do best which is running the football and taking time off the clock. For Papa Bear’s sake, give your defense a chance Lovie. The more Smith lets Cutler throw incomplete passes, the more time his defense is going to be on the field and made to look worse than they are.

In Sunday’s 41-21 blasting by the Cardinals, Matt Forte ran 5 times and Cutler threw 47 times. That pace was dictated by Cutler early, thanks to some nifty audibles which happened to call for his number time and again, and when they got behind Cutler got his wish to put up some great personal stats. Through it all, the team got beat allowing over 40 for the second time in three games.

Lovie still has the Super Bowl creditability with the city which will last for a few more years, but Cutler’s true agenda is being exposed by many and if he keeps it up he may be given the Milton Bradley treatment soon.

Welcome To The Show

Rookie Josh Freeman’s debut as the Buccaneers’ starting QB was a smashing success. Despite a swift wind swirling in Tampa, the kid led the team to their first win of the season by throwing 3 TD’s showing the type of leadership and command of the offense that made him the Bucs first round draft choice.

Head Coach Raheem Morris’ faith in Freeman in the draft raised many eyebrows, but of all people, Morris should know something about Freeman since he used to be an assistant at Kansas State while Freeman was there.


Of all the owners in football, you have to love Bud Adams for his approach three weeks ago when he suggested that he might like to see how Vince Young could do since the other guy isn’t doing so well. Adams is a class owner who has never played the power moves like some of the other teams representing ego. Since the move, The Titans are 2-0 and haven’t committed a turnover.

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

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